Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, more commonly known as the A 10 Warthog was a Close Air Support attack aircraft flown by the US Military, specifically the United States Air Force. The A 10 Warthog's first fly was conducted on May 10th, 1972 and entered service in October of 1975 at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Although the original A 10 Warthog designed by Fairchild ceased production in 1984, Northrop Grumman took up the production in 1987. In September 2009, Boeing was awarded a contract from the US Military to modernize the Air Force's entire A 10 Warthog fleet. One thing that has remained the same throughout the history of the A 10 Warthog plane's production is the unique A 10 Warthog Mouth painting. Many history buffs and WWII enthusiasts will attribute the A 10 Warthog mouth to the "Flying Tigers" and their Curtiss P-40 Warhawks which sported similar shark mouth art on their noses decades before. As it turns it this only partly true. The Flying Tigers themselves took inspiration from the 112 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force. 112 Squadron took the idea from the German Luftwaffe's Zerstörergeschwader (Heavy Fighter Wing) 76. Finally, or rather initially, the ZG 76 adopted the mouth art from a German Air Force recon plane that was flown in the First World War.
To date, the Warthog plane is the only aircraft designed for the Air Force specifically to fulfill the role of close air support with its diverse armament. Most notably, the A 10 Warthog sports a GAU-8/A 30mm cannon just under the tip of its nose cone that is capable of unleashing 3,900 rounds per minute. The Warthog plane also carries general purpose bombs, cluster bombs, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions (JDAM), wind corrected munitions dispenser (WCMD), as well as Maverick and Sidewinder missiles and rockets to take on everything from instillation to armored vehicles and tanks with ease.
With a max speed of Mach 0.75 the A 10 Warthog is highly maneuverable at low altitudes, further complimenting its role as air support. In additions to is impressive arsenal, the Warthog has received numerous upgrades throughout its decades of service. The cockpit, situated in front of the aircraft's wings, has compatibility with Night Vision Imaging Systems goggles allowing for night operation. During its early years, the A 10 Warthog used the Penny Pave laser receiver pod which used reflected laser light to assist with targeting. This system was eventually phased out in favor of more advanced systems over the years, such as the LASTE. LASTE stands for Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement and it not only worked as a computerized aiming system, but it also featured an autopilot and ground collision warning system. The turn of the century brought a plethora of other technical advancements to the A 10. GPS, electronic counter measures, and Precision Engagement are just a few of the modern systems currently integrated into the A 10 fleet.
The Warthog plane has been in combat throughout multiple US military operations around the world. It was extensively put to use during Operation Desert Storm, the Kosovo Crisis, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The two non-afterburning turbo fan engines supply the A 10 Warthog with over 9,000 lbs. of thrust and their placement on the fuselage enables the aircraft to stay in the air even if one of the engines should fail. The impressive 800 mile range of the Warthog means that it can linger in the air for extended periods of time to offer support to ground forces as needed.