The Military’s Love-Hate Relationship With the A-10 Warthog

Officially, it is called the A-10 Thunderbolt II, but that is not what pilots call it. People who know the A-10 understand why its unofficial name is the Warthog. In a world of modern, sleek, and stealthy fighter jets, the Warthog stands out as an ugly yet undeniably attractive aircraft.

A-10 Thunderbolt II flying in Arizona. U.S. Air Force Photo

A-10 Thunderbolt II flying in Arizona. U.S. Air Force Photo

The A-10 may be old, but it is still used in combat missions. The U.S. military just sent twelve of these Warthogs form an air base in Arizona to Germany. Tension in the Ukraine and Europe is growing once again, and the U.S. is showing its support for NATO forces. In an email to Military.com, Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said,

Units will conduct training alongside our NATO allies to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe.

When it comes to a show of force, few military weapons stand up to the A-10. Take a look at what the aircraft’s renowned 30mm gatling gun does do armor plating. In addition, the Warthog can take a beating and keep on flying.  To see how, check out the PBS documentary on the aircraft, which calls the Warthog “the most survivable plane ever built.”

Congress likes the A-10 Warthog because it is good at what it does, and it is relatively inexpensive when compared to other aircraft. But times are changing and the military is trying to retire the A-10, which would free up funds for other planes like the expensive F-35.  The Air Force has asked to phase out the A-10 by 2019, but congress still wants to keep the old bird. It is uncertain how desperate the Air Force is to retire the plane.

Some news has come out saying that the Air Force is trying to smear the A-10’s reputation. The Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog, says that information recently provided to USA Today by the Air Force is skewed.  In their report, POGO writes the following:

Air Force headquarters is getting desperate to dump the A-10. Congress has demonstrated strong support for keeping the A-10 and is skeptical of the Air Force’s attempts to retire the platform. An Air Force general even accused any pilot who tells Congress why the A-10 supports troops so effectively in combat of committing treason.

Now, to further muzzle any honest debate about providing adequate close air support for our troops, Air Force headquarters cherry-picked and then declassified selected statistics for USA Today—all to tar the A-10 with having killed more American troops and Afghan civilians than any other plane. Those cooked statistics excluded—and kept classified—data that is essential for a basic understanding of the issue.

POGO concludes that the A-10 Warthog is actually one of the safest aircraft in the military’s arsenal. They say that the B-1 bomber killed more civilians than the A-10, contrary to the Air Force’s data.

For the meantime, the A-10 is still flying and doing its job well, but that may not be enough to keep it from being retired.

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