The A-10 Thunderbolt II was developed in the early 1970s, The A-10’s official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. It is affectionally called the Warthog or just Hog.
The A-10 was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon that is its primary armament. It fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells at a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.
The A-10 is designed to be refueled, rearmed, and serviced with minimal equipment; most repairs can be done in the field. Many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers.
The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires, and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy aircraft ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases, flying from taxiways or even straight roadway sections.
The front landing gear is offset to the aircraft’s right to allow placement of the 30 mm cannon with its firing barrel along the centerline of the aircraft and the wheels of the main landing gear partially stick out a bit when retracted, making gear-up belly landings easier to control and less damaging.
Weighing in at 12 tons without armament, the A-10 can carry an additional 13 tons of weaponry.
The A-10 is exceptionally tough, being able to survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. It has double-redundant hydraulic flight systems, and a mechanical system as a backup if hydraulics are lost.
The cockpit of the A-10 is surrounded by over 1,200 pounds of titanium armor. The armor is capable of stopping .50 caliber direct hits or 25mm and 37mm airburst rounds.
A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the Air Force as most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance.
The A-10 was used in combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 other military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s also shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 cannon.