"Have 30 mm gun, will travel - - wire Paladin, San Francisco"
From some time ago now, the blog had an entry that dealt with the aircraft, military and civilian versions both, that was build AROUND an engine. Enormous and powerful radial engine up-front to which was attached an itty-bitty airplane with stubby little winds and fuselage. A fundamental inherent instability found in both the military [Soviet I-16 "Rata"] and civilian [speed race GeeBee] versions posing significant danger to the pilot.
Here now with the airplane built AROUND a gun.
The American A-10 Thunderbolt.
Affectionately called the "Warthog" by pilots, ground crews, airplane spotters and aficionados.
The A-10, a warplane designed specifically for the ground-attack role. Able to fly low over the conventional battlefield, providing support to the ground forces using cannon fire, dropping bombs, firing anti-tank [Maverick] missiles. Also incorporated into the design a robustness of structure allowing the aircraft to absorb enemy AAA [anti-aircraft-artillery] and small-arms fire and keep going. A heavyweight "boxer" without the glass-jaw.
[heavyweight boxers with a "glass jaw" are said to be strong and have a very good knockout punch, but also susceptible to taking a single punch and being knocked unconscious themselves. The A-10 IS NOT THIS WAY!!]
The A-10, performing the ground attack combat support role as did the famous Soviet Il-2 of World War Two [WW2] or for that matter the German Halberstadt CL of World War one [WW1] fame.
It should not be suggested that the American military has NOT previous to the A-10 had ground-attack warplanes. The P-47 and P-51 in WW2 and the F-100, F-105, and F-4 from the Vietnam era all functioned as ground-attack role, however, in LESS than a satisfactory manner, those jet aircraft from the Vietnam War era supersonic "fast-movers" originally designed to drop an atomic payload, not conventional weaponry! The A-10, again, has been specifically designed as ground-attack from the start, from the "get-go"!
The A-10, possessing an extremely powerful and devastating 30 mm rapid fire automatic gun [GAU-8], designed as an anti-tank weapon. A gun firing a uranium depleted round able to defeat any known Soviet armored vehicle. A TANK KILLER.
Modern 30 mm ammo as fired by the GAU-8 also explosive as well!
The A-10, the American answer to the worst case nightmare scenario of NATO military planners. Soviet tank armies and GROUPS of tank armies moving west during a conventional war, the Cold War having turned HOT, the aim of the communist powers the defeat of NATO and the subjugation of western Europe under RED control. A conventional military offensive by the Soviets of course to be spearheaded by massive use of armor [tanks], overwhelming and unstoppable. The A-10 poised to play an important role in STOPPING such an attack!!
The A-10, unfortunately, a warplane that when originally proposed [early 1970's], NEITHER the plane or the mission [ground-attack] being desired by the U.S. Air Force [USAF].
The A-10 was not felt to be adequately "sexy"! A jet aircraft NOT flying at supersonic speeds. NOT able to fly at 40,000 feet on an intercontinental bombing mission, dropping a single atomic bomb on a Soviet target. The A-10 having also an unaesthetic appearance, ungainly and even grotesque, not sleek and aerodynamic - - not "sexy".
It was also thought that the A-10, having the ground-attack role, conflicted with the agreed upon 3,000 foot rule! Army rotary-wing attack aircraft [HueyCobra] operating in the envelope BELOW 3,000 feet, the U.S. Air Force operating in that airspace ABOVE 3,000 feet! It being thought the combat mission of the A-10 would violate and negate the agreed upon rule!
Congress and the Pentagon finally prevailing upon the Air Force to take into the inventory the A-10, the "Warthog" proving itself most successfully so in four wars now [Gulf War One, Bosnia/Kosovo, Gulf War Two, Afghan War]!
Indeed, the USAF, in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, attempted to relegate the A-10 to the scrape heap, decommission every single plane in existence, again the Congress and the Pentagon carefully instructing the USAF to retain the "Hog" in the inventory, both on active duty and in Air National Guard units. A situation that remains to this day. A-10's as currently envisioned will remain on duty until at least 2028!! Amazing and remarkable both!!
A LOT of consideration was given to the proper design of the A-10. Considerations as to what features were necessary for a ground-attack warplane to accomplish a difficult mission on the modern battlefield, surviving all the while operating in the offensive role. Features found to be useful, even fundamental, to include:
* Dual jet engines.
* Dual tail.
* Redundant and triple-redundant controls.
* Titanium armored protective "bathtub" for the pilot.
* Immense "loiter time". Carry a lot of fuel and "hang" for a long time over the target area.
* A radio that will net directly to the ground forces.
* A tank-killing gun.
Indeed, it has even been suggested that the famous German combat aviator from WW2, Hans-Ulrich Rudel acted as a consultant during the design phase of the A-10 development!! If any man would know the pros and cons and desirable features as to be possessed by a ground-attack aircraft, it would have been Hans-Ulrich!!
The A-10, all the while "unsexy" and "unwanted" has proven to be an eminent success!! Combat proven and still going strong. What more could one want?
NOW, for the pièce de ré·sis·tance . See this accompanying photo contrasting the size of the GAU-8 30 mm gun with a Volkswagen! For scale purposes this is incredible!!
The A-10, the plane that can, has and is! Long live the A-10!