Texas, San Antonio - Lackland AFB - A-10A "Thunderbolt"
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single seat, twin-engine, straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force. Its official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, a fighter particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nicknames "Warthog" or "Hog". The A-10 was designed for close-in support of ground troops, close air support, providing quick-action support for troops against helicopters, vehicles, and ground troops. It entered service in 1976 and is the only production-built aircraft that has served in the USAF that was designed solely for CAS. Its secondary mission is to provide forward air controller - airborne (FAC-A) support, by directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets. Aircraft used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.
The A-10 was intended to improve on the performance of the A-1 Skyraider and its poor firepower. The A-10 was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which is its primary armament. Its airframe was designed for durability, with measures such as 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of titanium armor to protect the cockpit and aircraft systems, enabling it to absorb a significant amount of damage and continue flying. Its short takeoff and landing capability permits operation from airstrips close to the front lines, and its simple design enables maintenance with minimal facilities. The A-10 served in Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Storm, the American intervention against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, where the A-10 distinguished itself. The A-10 also participated in other conflicts such as Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and against ISIL in the Middle East.
The A-10A single-seat variant was the only version produced, though one pre-production airframe was modified to become the YA-10B twin-seat prototype to test an all-weather night capable version. In 2005, a program was started to upgrade remaining A-10A aircraft to the A-10C configuration with modern avionics for use of precision weaponry. With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10's service life may be extended to 2028.
In January 2015, USAF officials told lawmakers that it would take 15 years to fully develop a new attack aircraft to replace the A-10; service leaders admit a follow-on weapon system for the A-10 is "on the table." It planned for F-16s and F-15Es to initially take up CAS sorties, and later by the F-35A once sufficient numbers become operationally available over the next decade. The service is considering purchasing a relatively inexpensive replacement to perform CAS against enemies that lack sophisticated air defenses. As of 2015, the US Air Combat Command is considering developing a replacement aircraft. In January 2016, the USAF revealed it was "indefinitely freezing" plans to retire the A-10 for at least several years. In addition to Congressional opposition, its use in anti-ISIL operations, deployments to Eastern Europe as a response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, and reevaluation of F-35 numbers necessitated its retention. Retirement has been deferred until 2022 when F-35s will begin replacing it on a squadron-by-squadron basis. In March 2016, the Air Force revealed it had begun studying future CAS aircraft to succeed the A-10 in low-intensity “permissive conflicts” like counterterrorism and regional stability operations, admitting that the F-35 is too expensive to operate in day-to-day roles; everything from low-end AT-6 Wolverine and A-29 Super Tucano turboprops and the Textron AirLand Scorpion as more basic off-the-shelf options to more sophisticated clean-sheet attack aircraft or "AT-X" derivatives of the T-X next-generation trainer as entirely new attack platforms are being considered. [Wiki]