Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II
The A-10 Thunderbolt II (also called the Warthog) is an attack aircraft made by Fairchild Republic. It first flew in 1972 and was introduced in 1977. It is designed to drop bombs, fire rockets, missiles, and its 30mm Gatling gun at enemies on the ground (such as tanks). It is named after the World War II P-47 Thunderbolt. Although not as fast as most military jets, it is tough, heavily armored, and can turn well. The A-10 is also used as a CAS (close air support) aircraft, which involves flying slowly over a battlefield and destroying enemy targets.
The A-10 is 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters) long, 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters) high, has a wingspan of 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters), has a top speed 420 miles per hour, and can weigh 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms) at its heaviest. It is armed with a 30mm GAU-8 Gatling gun, and can carry multiple tons of bombs or missiles. It can also carry radar-jamming pods to avoid radar detection, and chaff, which can distract radar-guided missiles fired at the A-10.
While the A-10 has a lot of room on its wings to carry bombs and missiles, its main weapon is the front mounted gun, called the GAU-8 Avenger. It is a very long and heavy gun called a Gatling cannon, since it is a both an autocannon (fires large bullets very fast) and Gatling gun (has more than one barrel, which spins while shooting). The Avenger is so big that the A-10 had to be designed around it, leading to a joke that the A-10 does not have a gun attached, but the Avenger has a plane attached. The A-10 is the only aircraft to use the Avenger. Other American planes use the smaller Vulcan, also a Gatling cannon that uses smaller bullets.
Because the Avenger fires such big bullets (exploding artillery shells 3cm wide) at such a high rate of fire (up to 40 every second) many believe it can destroy any target very easily, even tanks with thick armor such as the M1 Abrams. However, while the bullet can go through thin metal on a car or truck, it cannot penetrate the thick metal walls of a tank. It can only destroy them because most tanks only have thinner metal on the top to make them lighter. If an A-10 hits this thinner armor, then destruction is more likely, but if it hits the front or sides where the armor is thicker, then the tank crew and systems will survive.
The A-10 is reportedly a rugged aircraft. On April 7, 2003, then-Captain Kim Campbell felt a loud hit to her A-10. The aircraft rolled left and pointed toward the ground. After trying other procedures, she turned off the hydraulics and flew the aircraft in manual reversion. The aircraft performed fine during the hour flight back to the air base. However, landing was tricky, because she had no brakes nor ground steering without hydraulics.
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