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Fleece’s Faves – Warthog Edition

November 28, 2010

The A-10 is commonly called the Warthog, but it is technically the Thunderbolt II, and it is the greatest ground-attack airplane in history.  It was designed as a jet powered replacement for an enigmatic predecessor, the propeller driven A-1 Skyraider that was still serving close-support roles during the later years of the Vietnam War.  The A-10 is a carbon copy of the A-1’s design philosophy, sturdy, able to loiter for long amounts of time, and deadly.

Sturdiness

First let’s start with what most people are familiar with on the A-10, its pilot protection.  The cockpit is surrounded by a titanium “bathtub” designed to withstand direct hits from 23mm rounds and historically has handled 57mm hits.  The bathtub weighs in at over 1200 lbs. and makes up a full 6% of the aircraft’s empty weight – this shows the desire to protect the pilot, because every pound spent on protection is a loss in range and ordnance.

The Warthog also has triple redundant flight control systems.  The hydraulic controls have hydraulic backups, and then the backups have mechanical backups.  This is important because the flak and other forms of Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA pronounced “triple-A) are most notorious for knocking out systems and controls, not for actually hitting aircraft.  If you make the plane unflyable, you basically take it out, and hitting near an aircraft is much easier.  The A-10 is one of the most difficult aircraft to knockout of the fight.

But even if you do, the Warthog is designed with that in mind too.  If during flight, the aircraft’s landing system gets damaged and the landing gear is incapable of being dropped, the craft can still make a control “belly landing” due to an ingenious design.  The wheels, when retracted, do not go completely into the fuselage or wings, they half protrude out of their nacelles.  On a belly landing, these half exposed wheels allow the pilot extra control not afforded by other aircraft who basically let the laws of physics control their plane once on the ground.

Loiter Time

The Warthog is not a speedster, it is not sexy either (unless you think purpose-built design and raw brute force is sexy, which I do) but that is necessary for a ground attack aircraft.  High speed is counter to hitting targets that might be only 100 feet from friendly troops on the battlefield.  The A-10 frequently flies below 100o feet at speeds below 600 km/hour.  This slow speed also contributes to its extended flight times.  The Warthog has a varying range, but the average I could find was 800 miles, which given its speed equates to almost a five-hour total flight time.

Another aspect of its “unsexiness” is its huge wings and other control surfaces.  This design allows the A-10 to turn in half the distance as the Air Force’s other ground attack aircraft, the F-16, enabling a Warthog to hit a target, turn around and hit it again in around 7 seconds (from globalsecurity.org).

Deadly

That is a huge gun for an aircraft!

Despite all the durability and loiter time, there is one thing this plane was built for, killing tanks.  And it sports the scariest gun in history for doing so, the GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling cannon.  This is one of my all time favorite weapons.

The Avenger is a seven barrel 30mm cannon designed for one purpose, killing tanks.  Firing at 4200 rounds per minute, this baby can empty its combat load of 1150 rounds in less than 15 seconds, so short controlled bursts by the pilot are necessary.

The GAU-8’s typical combat load is a 4:1 ratio of armor-piercing to high explosive incendiary.  The projectiles each weigh in at almost a pound (15 oz.) – imagine being on the receiving end of a couple hundred 1 pound bullets flying at you at around 3300 feet per second, not much is going to live through that.  Few do considering where the rounds are coming from, above, where the armor is weakest on armored vehicles.

The Avenger cannon aside, the A-1o can carry an insane amount of droppable ordnance, 16,000 pounds to be exact.  This is usually a mix of dumb bombs, either 500 or 1000lb, or guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles, most often the AGM-65 Maverick missile.

Conclusion

The A-10 is the last of a dieing breed, aircraft purpose-built for a single mission profile.  With the trimming of military budgets and the subsequent shrinking of the US Air Force, aircraft are being designed as multi-role fighters, hence the F-16 and F-15 being highly capable ground support aircraft.  But none equal the capabilities of the Warthog in that mission.

The Warthog is a soldier’s friend, and most soldiers I know love this aircraft, usually ranking it in their top three favorites all time.  This is understandable, no aircraft is better designed to kill the bad guys on the ground.

The Links

On to my favorite links this week, in random order, but with a twist, Planet Moron gets top billing because he is most vociferous in his lobbying for most favored blogger status (aka – he whined about being last).

Planet Moron – If it involves drinking, you know he is gonna do some of his best and most hilarious writing – read his self-sacrificing experience with Four Loko, all in the name of reporting

American Elephants – excellent video by Reason.tv with Richard Epstein about our economic woes

America’s Watchtower – Steve talks about the lame-duck Congress and the DREAM act, lets attach to a Haiti bill

Blog de KingShamus – KS comments on the idiocy of diplomacy with impostors

Bunkerville – Watch you blogs people, the FCC is taking down web-sites, read about it here

Capitol Commentary – Harrison has empirical evidence that democrats actually are mentally ill

Conservative Hideout – excellent post about a “new” moderate “grass roots” organization named “no-labels” – where there is that much quoting, it must be good [won’t link for some damn reason, so GO HERE]

Motorcity Times – Steve has some more goodness about our future under Obamacare – I wonder if I can get a waiver?

NoOneofAnyImport – excellent Thanksgiving story – she is a great writer

Political Realities – Larry talks about my lovely Virginia and my Attorney General’s opinion that schools can confiscate cell phones

Spellchek – Great post about “greed” and “dependency” – excellent commentary on our ails as a country

The Current – Right Hand Man talks about the “gentle thugs” in our government and how they relate to the mafia, they cause a problem then offer the solution

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2010 10:55 am

    The A-10 is a very cool jet.

    Another thing I have read about the A-10 is that during mock dog fights, if a faster jet doesn’t take it out in a ‘first pass’ the A-10 pilot can use its extremely tight turn radius to its advantage keeping the GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling cannon pointed at the opponent.

    Thanks for the link!

    • November 28, 2010 3:59 pm

      They do equip sidewinders as well. But you are right, dogfighting is done at subsonic anyway, so having a tighter turning radius is a huge advantage. And I definitely wouldn’t want to be in any plane on the receiving end of the GAU-8.

  2. November 28, 2010 11:48 am

    They had an A-10 squadron at Whiteman when I was stationed there. They are a remarkable plane…tank killers. Thanks for the link Colin. It is greatly appreciated.

    • November 28, 2010 4:00 pm

      I have never seen them up close, only flying overhead, I am jealous.

      It was my pleasure. =)

  3. November 28, 2010 3:30 pm

    The A-10 may not be the sexiest girl at the dance, but I wouldn’t mind dancing with her anyway. Brute force and stopiing power is pretty sexy!
    Thanks for the link!

    • November 28, 2010 4:01 pm

      I agree completely. Something about the beauty of utilitarian design. And you are most welcome for the link.

  4. November 28, 2010 4:03 pm

    Thanks for linking Fleece! I used to work the bombing ranges of Nellis AFB in Vegas. The firing of that gun is a sound you can’t mistake for anything else. When you take a look at the results, you can see why the enemy has no chance at all. I want one for Christmas!

  5. LD Jackson permalink
    November 28, 2010 6:34 pm

    Wow, what a great profile of the A-10. These aircraft moved into the National Air Guard base near my place of work and they are much different than the F-16s that used to reside there. They very interesting to watch as they do their training.

    Thanks for the information and thanks for the link. It is much appreciated, Colin.

    • November 29, 2010 12:04 pm

      You are very welcome. I love the F-16 too, but the A-10 always holds a special place in my heart.

  6. KingShamus permalink
    November 28, 2010 9:52 pm

    Fleece, thank you very much. I appreciate it, man.

    By the way, the Warthog is an amazing piece of flying bad-assery. That gun is incredible. You did a great profile on this ugly yet beloved aircraft. I learned something today! Whoo-Hoo!

    • November 29, 2010 12:06 pm

      You are welcome my friend. That picture of the gun system by the VW bug impressed me, I never knew it was that big.

  7. November 28, 2010 10:49 pm

    At last, victory is mine!

    And I don’t whine, I merely make observations in an incessant and annoying manner.

    Okay, I whine.

    • November 29, 2010 12:07 pm

      lol, I had to throw you a bone for doing your part for consumer protection.

  8. November 29, 2010 12:37 am

    Never had ’em in my day. Skyraiders & Spooky did the numbers on Mr. Charles. ‘Course, ol’ Chuck didn’t have many tanks…

    • November 29, 2010 12:09 pm

      I love the Skyraider.

      I was torn between the A-10 and the AC-130 Spooky/Spectre. I will do the the Spectre some day, that thing is just plain nasty. A plane with an artillery gun is just plain cool.

  9. December 1, 2010 12:24 am

    Sorry I missed this earlier, but thanks for the link. That, and the A-10 is a throwback, and a successful one at that. Great plane, and great post,

    • December 1, 2010 3:43 am

      It was my pleasure.

  10. December 2, 2010 9:29 pm

    The A-10 has always been my favorite plane. I go to the airshow at Nellis AFB almost every year just to see one fly.

    What do I need to do to be cool enough to get a link on your site’s blogroll? I put a link to your site on mine.

    • December 5, 2010 1:13 pm

      Thanks, for the link. I will certainly return the favor. =)

Trackbacks

  1. Fleece’s Faves – Warthog Edition « Swashbuckling, Liberty & Waffles

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