Will the USAF premier tank killer ever get modernized?
By Steven Lewis
The Vietnam Wars showed the United States Air Force just how vulnerable aircraft are to AAA when flying close air support missions. As a result of this, it change the viewpoint of what is needed out of an aircraft to conduct such a mission. What is needed is an aircraft that is heavily armed, be proficient at destroying tanks, excellent maneuverability in addition to be able to loiter time over the battlefield for an extended periods of time. The aircraft must be highly survivability, maintenance uncomplicated and have a quick turn around time to operate during daytime hours in fair weather. March 6, 1967 such a request from the USAF went out to 21 companies. After six years of research and design the Fairchild-Republic’s A-10 was selected. This was the birth of by far the best close air support aircraft in history.
The A-10 is neither the sexiest nor the fastest aircraft in the Air Force. Some say it have a face only a mother could love. Officially it’s called the “Thunderbolt II’ but most call it the “Warthog”. But what the Warthog lacks in beauty and speed it makes up with sheer firepower. The General Electric GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon the most loved feature of the Warthog. Calling the Avenger a beast is an understatement. It‘s a 19 foot long, seven barrel tank killer that fires armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds at a rate of 70 per second. With a muzzle velocity of 3,240 ft per second, Hog Driver can disable just about any main battle tank from 4 miles away. The front fuselage of the A-10 is literaturely built around it; the nose gear is offset to starboard so that the gun's firing barrel is aligned on the aircraft's centerline. There’s no doubt that the Warthog is a tank killer.
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