A Sad Farewell To The Coolest Fighter Jet Of All Time

A Sad Farewell To The Coolest Fighter Jet Of All Time
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Anyone who grew up watching cartoons, or playing video games, or just taking an interest in large, expensive vehicles will be saddened to hear today that the US military has indicated the end is nigh for the fabled A-10 Warthog.

Incorrectly labelled “ugly” by some detractors, the fact is the A-10 is the coolest damn aircraft to have ever served in the United States armed forces. Sure, the F-14 was sexy in Top Gun, and other fighters have captured the public’s imagination at some point or another, but know this:

The A-10 was designed to be a pair of wings built around the GAU-8 Avenger, the biggest gun to have ever been put in an aircraft.

It also has shark teeth on the front of it.

That, plus the fact it looked like nothing else on this planet, was more than enough to earn it a special place in the hearts of generations of kids growing up since the 70s, who have seen the A-10 star in everything from Transformers to GI Joe to Ace Combat to Saints Row.

Even if getting the thing off the ground was sometimes more trouble than it was worth.

Designed in the early ’70s and first entering active service in 1977, the A-10 has served with distinction in a number of conflicts and roles, from the Gulf War (where A-10s destroyed around 900 Iraqi tanks) through to Afghanistan, where its ability to not just hunt enemy armour (it’s why the thing was designed, and has the huge freakin’ gun) but to also provide close support for infantry has seen it adored by not just the Air Force, but troops on the ground as well.

While the ridiculous Avenger cannon – which can fire enormous 30mm rounds at a rate of 4200 per minute – was the main reason for the Warthog’s design, the A-10 was also famous for its rugged construction, able to withstand a ton of punishment.

Below is an image of the Avenger. So when people say the Warthog was literally built around the gun, they’re not kidding.

Another fun Avenger/Warthog fact: the gun fires its rounds so fast, and so powerfully, that if you were close enough to a target you’d hear the rounds hitting the ground before you’d hear them leaving the A-10.

Originally pegged for a gradual retirement by 2028, recent budget cuts – and the looming arrival of the F-35 – have seen the Air Force declare that the entire A-10 fleet is now on the chopping block.

It’ll be a sad day to see the Warthog mothballed, but it might be for the best. When the machines rise up and take over, we’re going to need them fresh and well-rested.

Air Force Mourns Likely Passing of A-10 Warthog [DoD Buzz]


  • Ugly,slow and a relic of the cold war in which Soviet tank columns were feared to be blitzkrieging across the west German border.

    Still it will be boring when all the US services use variants of the F-35 and the almost identical looking F-22 Raptor.

  • The difference is that the F-35 and -22 can’t fly with less than half a wing, one engine only, and missing one rudder.

    This rugged bastard of an aircraft can still fly despite being mangled. It’ll be a sad day to see this one go…

  • Couple of awesome facts pulled from xkcd. Source http://what-if.xkcd.com/21/

    The GAU-8 Avenger fires up to sixty one-pound bullets a second. It produces almost five tons of recoil force, which is crazy considering that it’s mounted in a type of plane (the A-10 “Warthog”) whose two engines produce only four tons of thrust each. If you put two of them in one aircraft, and fired both guns forward while opening up the throttle, the guns would win and you’d accelerate backward.

    To put it another way: If I mounted a GAU-8 on my car, put the car in neutral, and started firing backward from a standstill, I would be breaking the interstate speed limit in less than three seconds.

    • That is some cool stuff right there. Also a funny image in my head of back to the first GTA on PS2 where you could turn on ‘light vehicles’ cheat, get in a tank, and fly by shooting the cannon behind you.

  • For the role that the A-10 Thunderbolt provides the US, I can say for sure that the JSF F-35 cannot do the same.
    This plane was designed with two things in mind 1: Survivability 2: Firepower
    The thing can just take pure punishment and keep going
    They used the world’s highest CAS (Close air support) Ace as key input onto the design, that is something new planes are lacking is experienced input (not saying new planes dont have alot of input now but it’s not the same as having pilots they servered in world wars. most conflicts these days are very one sided if you know what i mean)

  • Don’t count it out just yet. The Fighter Mafia in the USAF have been trying to kill it off for almost 30 years, and time and again, it keeps proving itself more useful for the types of conflicts the US are finding themselves involved. The US tried making a CAS exclusive variant of the F-16 in the very early 90s, the A-16 with a fixed, mounted 30mm cannon on the centre pylon, but the results were inferior to the A-10As of the time. It seems every 20-ish years the Yanks have to go and re-learn lessons they’ve already learned because someone in the USAF is pushing their new pet project, or Congress has been convinced by lobbyists of a new platform. The F-35, though potentially capable, simply won’t be able to perform as effectively as the A-10 in close air support profiles, shit, the F-16 still can’t, and that’s after 30 years of trying!

    (PS, don’t mean to quibble, but the A-10’s not a fighter. It may be fighter sized, and may carry Sidewinders for self defence, but it’s an attack aircraft through and through)

    • Not to mention the F-35 is ridiculously expensive whereas the A-10 only costs maintenance (and repair) at this point, and is probably at least as effective in a CAS role.

      It’s not going to win any dogfights but that’s why you’re getting F-35s. Better not to break the expensive toys in realms where a shoulder-mounted SAM will make chaff of your pretty plane.

      Re: fighter – I looked this up – to fight is to “take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons” so on that level it’s arguable. However most dictionaries have a separate entry for “fighter” which defines a fighter as an aircraft in an anti-air role. And so my pedantism collapsed.

  • NOOOO!! The best CAS aircraft ever and they want to get rid of it. Pure aggression and firepower in the sky. I know they’ve been trying to get rid of it for a few years now but the F35 is hardly the right replacement. Hell, it hardly even works yet. I can’t wait for the day that they announce they have cancelled the F35 project so that my beloved A10 can live on a few more years.
    In short, why fix that which isn’t broken?

  • And like the B-52 they will replace it with much more expensive systems that just can’t fill the same role. Eventually change their minds and bring it back long after replacement part have stopped being manufactured for them, resulting in a costly modernization program. Like they did with the B-52, the Patton tank series, the M14 rifle, the UH-1 Iroquois…

  • The XKCD link was an interesting read, thanks for that.

    According to that link, the Russian Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-30 had an even higher thrust to weight ratio. 40g of acceleration!

    I was always under the impression that part of the A-10’s success was it’s low stall speed, meaning that it could fly low and slow, its rugged construction and armour taking the hits, while it searched for targets for the GAU-38.

    Part of the reason why the F-16 CAS variant didn’t work was that it was both too fast, and too fragile.

  • What will happen is they will take it out of service, and start mothballing them, only to realise “Shit, we cant provide CAS with a lightweight fighter”. They should be designing a proper replacement for the A-10, when they can afford to. Lets face it, there are only 2 or 3 countries around teh world that would require F-22s and F-35s instead of F-15C, F-15E and A-10s

  • The F-35 has an entirely different role. It’s meant for information warfare and air superiority. What’s likely to replace the A10 will be UAV’s which can be even slower and even less risky (human life wise anyways) to use in a CAS role.

  • “Another fun Avenger/Warthog fact: the gun fires its rounds so fast, and so powerfully, that if you were close enough to a target you’d hear the rounds hitting the ground before you’d hear them leaving the A-10.”

    Youtube has an awesome video of this, you see the rounds hit before hearing the BUUUUURT of the gun. Fantastic.

    From what I’ve read a lot of the US Air Force (especially the higher-ups) doesn’t really care for the Warthog because it’s not “sexy” like the fighter jets. The grunts on the ground love it, but it doesn’t impress politicians and other sources of funding…

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