I’m In Love With A Hog
By RU Rob
I am in love.
It started in the sixth grade when my father was stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas and I attended Custer Hill Elementary School. My classroom overlooked the vast training area which was heavily wooded. The ground wasn’t the location of my affection though, but rather the sky. I would frequently look out the window to catch a glimpse of my infatuation, hoping to see it dance gracefully as it dove, twisted and climbed to its own majestic music and always with a partner. When I did see it there was a mesmerizing effect on me and I would end up lost in the moment.
The A-10 Thunderbolt was and is the object of my long standing love affair. More commonly referred to as “The Warthog” due to the appearance that only a grunt could love, its gracefulness in the sky and ability to wreak havoc on the ground has made me a life-long fan.
Originally conceived in the early 1970’s to fill the critical need of Close Air Support (CAS), the A-10 is one of the few aircraft entirely designed around a weapon, in this case, the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling cannon. Firing at a rate of over 3,900 rounds a minute, the A-10’s Gatling gun is more than capable of living up to the expectation of making it rain harder than a strip club on Victory Drive. There are few such weapons that have the ability not only to physically destroy the enemy but also put fear of god in their hearts with the sound alone.
In addition, the A-10 typically carries an array of air-to-surface Maverick (talk to me Goose) missiles, cluster bombs and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for self-defense. It is also capable, but not commonly used, of being armed with laser guided munitions (yes, I did say “LASER”)
The odd placement of the engines, elevated at the rear of the aircraft, helps in two entirely different areas. First, the engines are able to remain running during rearmament operations which allows for the aircraft to return to the battlefield quicker. Second, provides the ability to fly with minimal forward sound allowing it to creep upon the enemy, like a lion stalking his prey, without announcing its presence.
The unique wing design of the aircraft allows for superior maneuverability at slower speeds and lower altitude, literally giving it the ability to turn on a dime. It also allows for shorter take-off and landing requirements which make the airframe deployable to shorter, unimproved runways in combat situations.
Not only is this beast of an aircraft tough looking and capable of reaching out to touch the enemy, but in the rare circumstance that someone tries to reciprocate, it can take a beating as well. With over 1,200 lbs of armament, and specially designed fuel cells to withstand enemy fire I can find only five instances where an A-10 was shot down by the enemy since the Vietnam War. That is one tough bitch.
Ask any infantryman if they have a preference in CAS while on a combat mission and I am willing to bet that the number one answer would be a Hog.
Unfortunately, the Air Force doesn’t seem to value the A-10 like we do. They have stated that in light of budget constrictions, the A-10’s retirement would save $3.7 billion from 2015 to 2019 even though its current schedule would allow for appropriations to continue until 2028. Seems to me that the less glamorous A-10 just isn’t in keeping with the over-budget, highly problematic F-35, which is where all monies saved would be spent.
The Air Force has frequently tried to kill the A-10 program for the last seven years, each time being saved by an act of Congress. While it was saved again last year, it has again been placed on the chopping block for 2015. It is my hope that one of the other branches…ahem…Marines…pick up the airframe for sponsorship. I say the Marines as they already have combat fixed-wing aviators and it makes the most sense to align this airframe with those who know and utilize its capabilities often. This is one plane that has proven its worth time and time again to the people who need it the most.
As for me, since I no longer have the regular ability to watch the awesomeness of its flight in person I will instead watch Youtube videos to fill my desires. It’s kind of like porn with wings.