Why The A-10 Warthog Is Absolutely Invincible

The A-10 Warthog can achieve air superiority, bomb anything, and provide close air support for ground troops, making it a multi-mission aircraft that is almost totally invincible.

November 1983- Soviet T-74s roll across the Fulda Gap into West Germany. The West German army is retreating and nothing seems to be able to stop the full might of the Warsaw Pact’s tank brigades. Suddenly the sky is filled with the roar of jet engines and the buzz of a 30 mm Gatling gun as the A-10 Warthog lays waste to the almost unstoppable T-74s. 

Soviet T-74s roll across the Fulda Gap into West Germany.

Could A-10 Warthog destroy everything

What if there was a virtually invincible plane that also could decimate tanks, armored vehicles, and troops in a single fly-by? What if pigs could fly? Well, there’s a pig that flies. Technically, it’s known as a Warthog, and it is one of the most powerful planes in the United States military arsenal, officially called the A-10 Thunderbolt. The A-10 Thunderbolt is also known as the Tankbuster, an almost invincible plane designed to destroy ground targets with exceptional precision.

The A-10 Thunderbolt is also known as a Tankbuster

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FL, UNITED STATES 03.20.2013 Photo by Samuel King Jr.

The A-10 Thunderbolt is considered a flying gun and is one of those planes that when you need it, you want it and when you don’t need it, you still wish you had it. The plane most feared by tankers around the world has been in operation for decades and is the most survivable, versatile aircraft to take to the sky, popular with pilots because of its power and ability to defeat the enemy through massive destruction and direct fire air to ground bombardment.

The History of A-10 Thunderbolt (also known as A-10 Warthog)

First introduced in 1977 to the United States Air Force, the A-10 Thunderbolt was put into the role of Close Air Support (CAS). It’s been instrumental in several American conflicts including  Grenada, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the fight against the Islamic State in the Middle East during the War on Terror.

The mission of the A-10 is to decimate tanks, armored vehicles, and installations in support of enemy ops. It’s suitable for makeshift environments with short or even improvised landing strips due to its short landing capability and oversized, rugged wheels, and reinforced landing gear assembly. This makes it the premier choice for frontline combat, though it still boasts a range of 800 miles (1,287 km).  

A-10 Warthog is a tank that flies

The maneuverability of the plane allows it to fly low and slow, being able to effectively target enemies of all shapes and sizes and decimate them. Flown by one pilot, the plane is basically an armored tank that flies. While powerful, the A-10 Thunderbolt is painfully slow, typically cruising at around 365 knots- or about 420 miles per hour.

GRAYLING, MI, UNITED STATES 08.06.2016 Photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Heaton  Michigan National Guard 

In relation, a typical commercial passenger jet flies at a speed of about 400 – 500 knots or 460 – 575 miles per hour.  However, it usually flies most missions at around 300 knots or less, or around 345 miles per hour or less. Since the plane is not intended to compete with fighter jets like the F-35, speed is not its main purpose.

The A-10 is a simple airplane, made to be flown despite serious damage; a key feature to increase survivability is the fact that its landing gear is only partly retractable. Half of each mainwheel protrudes from its fairing in flight, a feature instituted because it allows the wings to remain free of wheel wells, making construction simple, straightforward, and strong. It also allows the aircraft to land in case of landing gear failure. 

What’s the inside like?

The cockpit- also known as the titanium tub- is made with 3.8-centimeter thick titanium armor plating that surrounds it, which is not forged but instead, several plates of titanium bolted together. The A-10 also has a huge bulletproof bubble canopy, which gives the pilot all-around good vision and makes it easy for them to target.  This makes the A-10 a powerful flying armored machine.

In addition, the A-10’s cockpit is equipped with a heads-up display targeting system, radio communication, and tactical air navigation (TACAN) system. It can also carry 11 pylons for external loads, including extra fuel, rockets, and everything it needs to be a tank in the sky. However, the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon has become the A-10’s best-known weapon. 

The 30 mm GAU-8 is a hydraulically driven seven-barrel rotary cannon invented to beat tanks and other armored vehicles. The Thunderbolt’s 30mm gun is one of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever made, and fires large armor-piercing shells. The armor-piercing rounds contain depleted-uranium cores, which are extremely dense and thus, have enormous impact power. The rounds are also “self-sharpening,” meaning the projectile doesn’t flatten as it pierces armor but fractures and remains relatively pointed causing maximum damage upon impact. The A-10’s 30mm gun is fired in bursts of roughly 60 to 65 rounds per second that obliterates anything it hits. 

Are the myths about A-10 Thunderbolt true?

A popular myth has it that firing the gun results in recoil so severe that it is possible to stall the airplane. It is true that the gun’s recoil is indeed strong enough that had the GAU-8 been installed off-center, the resulting yaw would cause the firing pattern of the gun to become erratic rather than precise.  For this reason, the GAU-8 rotating-barrel cannon is mounted exactly on the A-10’s centerline, resulting in the plane’s unique stance, with its nose-gear strut mounted to ensure it clears the barrel.

A-10 enthusiasts argue that the Warthog is cheap to fly, is extremely survivable, and can put steel on target reliably. An A-10 can put ordnance as close as 20 feet away from ground troops without putting them in danger.

The plane has electronic guidance and laser support. Its armament includes surface-to-air missiles as well as warheads of different kinds including Sidewinder missiles to take out enemy choppers. Enemy fighters that get past an A-10s Enemy Counter Air escort, or ‘leakers’, may be surprised to find that the A-10 may not be easy prey after all in a dogfight.  The big plane has a much tighter turning radius than most fighters, allowing it to outturn an enemy and bring its nose towards its target faster- at this point, it’s all clear to fire away with it sidewinders.  Even its 30mm cannon has a much greater range than most fighter’s 20mm cannons.  

What makes the A-10 Thunderbolt powerful? It is the non-afterburning turbofan engines supplied by General Electric that provide over 9000 pounds of thrust.  The location of these engines on the plane allows it to fly even if one engine has been completely destroyed or is not operating.  The positioning also helps protect the engines from sucking up dust and debris when flying off improvised airfields.  

The A-10 Thunderbolt also has some of the best visibility to aid with both precision-guided and unguided munitions than any other plane in the United States military. It can do way more than any plane and it only needs one pilot to fly.

In addition, the A-10 Thunderbolt has redundant primary structural sections, which makes it much more survivable than any other aircraft in any military’s arsenal. That means that if it takes direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles it will still be able to fly. The tankbuster features redundant control systems on opposite sides of the plane and a self-healing fuel tank that can automatically plug punctures.  It’s basically a tank that flies. And who wouldn’t want that in the air? Well, the enemy. 

The Warthog is a mission-capable machine that has changed modern warfare, saved countless lives, and become feared by the enemies of the United States. The A-10 can achieve air superiority, bomb anything, and provide close air support for ground troops, making it a multi-mission aircraft that is almost totally invincible. So now you know pigs can fly and that pig is the A-10 Warthog.