The official name of this aircraft is Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. From the outside this close air support attack aircraft doesn’t seem to be impressive at all. But what is the reason for its exceptionally long service life, with possibly no retirement in the upcoming decade?
Two A-10C Thunderbolt II “Warthogs” flying in a training formation. Image credit: Senior Airman Matthew Bruch, U.S. Air Force, Public Domain via Wikimedia
A-10 Warthog was first introduced in U.S. Air Force service in 1977. This single-seat, twin-turbofan, straight-wing, subsonic airplane was intended to provide air support to ground troops. Despite its relatively small dimensions, A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and low altitude, has short takeoffs and landings, and therefore it is far superior to fighters-bombers which have difficulties targeting small objects.
But probably the most remarkable feature lies in its survivability. To make the airframe durable, 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of titanium armor protects the cockpit and aircraft systems, enabling it to absorb damage and continue flying. Armor withstands direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm, while also resisting indirect hits from 57 mm shell fragments.
Furthermore, A-10 has double-redundant hydraulic flight systems, and a mechanical system which acts as a backup if hydraulics are lost. The aircraft is designed to be able to fly with one engine, half of the tail, one elevator, and half of a wing missing. Isn’t this impressive? Watch more about this insanely cleverly-engineered airplane which has constantly proven its value under extremely difficult conditions: