The A-10 Thunderbolt II, also affectionately known as The Warthog, The Hog, or the A-10 Warthog, was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Fairchild Republic Company’s OEM Team, which is now part of Northrop Grumman Corporation Aerospace Systems. The official name is based on the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, which is a World War II fighter-bomber that was effective at attacking ground targets.
The OEM Team started with a study contract in the 1960s to develop a new aircraft for Close Air Support to protect ground combat troops, which meant the A-10 Warthog had to be survivable and rugged. Following the initial study, they developed a prototype and won the final competition to develop the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
The Thunderbolt II was selected due to its outstanding low altitude maneuverability, survivability, mission capable maintainability, and lethality. The design features a titanium area to protect the pilot, able to withstand direct hits from high-explosive and armour-piercing projectiles up to 23 mm in size, and includes redundant flight control systems so pilots can fly to safety even after experiencing severe damage in enemy territory.
The Warthog is a single-seat, twin turbofan, straight wing jet airplane. It is developed for attacking armoured vehicles, close air support (CAS) for ground troops, and quick action against enemy ground troops. The Warthog was tasked with improving on predecessor A-1 Skyraider’s lesser firepower, so it was designed from the ground up around its 30 mm Avenger rotary cannon. Some of its key features include capability for short takeoffs and landing, which allows it to operate close to the front lines.
The Warthog first entered service in 1976 and remains the only production-built USAF aircraft designed exclusively for CAS. Some of the key theatres where the Warthog has been used successfully include Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and more recently in operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and the Global War on Terror. It has also supported other conflicts in the Balkans, Grenada, Afghanistan, and the Islamic State. The A-10 has been used only by the USAF, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard.
The Warthog is much loved by its pilots and ground troops, inspiring the saying “Go Ugly Early” because the A-10 is often called in early to support ground combat troops. In 2016, the USAF froze plans to retire the A-10 due to Congressional opposition and the need to use the A-10 in several key deployments. The Air Force eventually announced that the beloved Warthog will remain in their inventory indefinitely.