The A-10 ‘Warthog’ owed its birth to two influences - the inadequacies of the Close Air Support aircraft used in Vietnam, and the need to counter Soviet armoured might in Europe. During the Vietnam War the Air Force regarded CAS as their domain but was hard pressed to find an aircraft with both the range and loiter capacity to fulfil this need. They did obtain quantities of the old but excellent piston-powered Douglas A-1 Skyraider originally developed for the Navy, which soon earned the appreciation of the ground-pounders by its ability to carry a huge warload, dish out and take punishment, and remain on station for an extended period of time. Late in the war the USAF shifted the CAS mission to the jet-powered A-7 Corsair II, which had been developed for a US Navy requirement for a carrier-based strike fighter to replace the A-4 Skyhawk. The Corsair was an excellent aircraft, but it was designed for the strike-interdiction role, not for the battlefield CAS mission. The USAF therefore began to put together an AX - ‘Attack Experimental’ program to develop a dedicated CAS aircraft that could do the job far better than the Corsair, match the Skyraider in warload and endurance, but be substantially faster while being extremely maneuverable. The aircraft would also need to be highly survivable through the use of armour and redundant systems, include twin engines and be armed with a fast-firing Gatling-type gun.
The YA-10A was selected as the winner of a competitive evaluation on 18 January 1973 and led to a contract for the production of ten A-10A pre-production machines, fitted with the GE TF34 turbofan. The second and third preproduction machines were the first to be fitted with the fearsome GAU-8/A cannon and trial attacks with the cannon on old US M-48 tanks and Soviet T-62 tanks, obtained from Israel, were to put it simply, awesome. The GAU-8/A cannon all but tore the targets to shreds! The first preproduction aircraft was rolled out in late 1974, and the first production A-10 performed its initial flight in October 1975 following which it was handed over to the USAF on 5 November. The A-10 was given the name ‘Thunderbolt II’ but this never stuck with the flight crews, the ugly nature of the aircraft soon earned it the nickname of ‘Warthog’, and so a legend was born! On the verge of retirement in the early 1990’s the first Gulf War saw the Warthogs finest hour, so much so that the Air Force gave it a new lease of life, and one that seems set to continue to a while yet! The story of the powerful A-10 is told in this new MDF Scaled Down from SAM Publications, and in the words of the ‘Warthog community – ‘Go Ugly Early’!