Of all the fixed-wing aircraft in America’s inventory, none are more welcome to lend a helping hand in a desperate ground fight than the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Beloved by grunts for their dedicated crews and ability to bring fearsome firepower where it is needed most, the A-10 is the epitome of Close Air Support, a mission that often suffers the short-sightedness of US Air Force leadership, who prefer fast planes, flying high and munitions that can often cost more than the average house.
The A-10 is slow, built for fighting in adverse conditions and is literally built around of a 30mm Gatling gun, which is arguably its most distinctive feature.
Verily, the sound of the “Hog’s” 30mm is a boost to friendly morale- and a sound of terror to those who oppose them.
In Afghanistan, US forces locked in desperate firefights with insurgents will often feel emboldened by the sound of A-10s, who will repeatedly strafe the battlefield and expose themselves to enemy fire on behalf of friendly troops on the ground, as evidenced in this video depicting Special Forces troops engaged with the Taliban in 2012.
Summoning A-10s, friendly air controllers on the ground coordinate strafing runs as US and allied troops suppress their enemy, trapping them in the lane of death that is the A-10’s field of fire.
For the pilots of these fantastic aircraft, there is nothing more precious and worth fighting for than the task of protecting the grunt- and it is a very personal mission, indeed.
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