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    A-10 Warthog’s Future: From Retirement to Allies’ Frontlines

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    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly known as the Warthog, has been a mainstay of American air power, especially recognized for its exceptional capabilities in close-air support roles.

    Heritage Flight – A-10 Warthog, P-51 Mustang, F-35 Lightning” by rocbolt is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    As debates continue over its retirement and replacement with modern aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II, new perspectives have emerged suggesting a second life for these battle-proven warbirds: transferring them to U.S. allies who could utilize their strengths in ongoing conflicts.

    Las Vegas, United States - 15.11.2019 A-10 Thunderbolt in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States
    Las Vegas, United States – 15.11.2019 A-10 Thunderbolt in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States

    The A-10 was initially designed for the cold landscapes of a potential Soviet conflict, particularly for destroying armored columns.

    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Tactical Demonstration.
    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Tactical Demonstration.

    Its unparalleled close-air support, combined with remarkable survivability features such as a titanium-reinforced cockpit—affectionately termed the “bathtub”—and redundant flight systems, have made the A-10 a favorite amongst troops for its ability to deliver firepower precisely and endure heavy damage.

    Las Vegas, United States - 15.11.2019 A-10 Thunderbolt in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States
    Las Vegas, United States – 15.11.2019 A-10 Thunderbolt in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States

    However, its lack of speed and vulnerability in non-permissive airspaces cast a shadow over its continued utility in modern warfare.

    US Air Force USAF Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt 81-0945 flypast over Budapest city downtown
    US Air Force USAF Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt 81-0945 flypast over Budapest city downtown

    U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall mentioned that “one country at least has expressed some interest” in buying the used A-10s, though the country in question remains unnamed. This suggests that despite its looming retirement, the Warthog still has a certain allure on the international stage.

    A-10 Warthog aerial refueling” by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Speculation abounds as to which country may be eyeing the A-10. Poland, embroiled in Europe’s security concerns due to Russian aggression, could potentially be interested.

    Airplane Heritage Flight A-10 Thunderbolt Wharthog jet fighter flying at the 2017 Los Angeles Air Show
    Airplane Heritage Flight A-10 Thunderbolt Wharthog jet fighter flying at the 2017 Los Angeles Air Show

    South Korea, facing the ever-present threat of North Korea is also a potential suitor. Both regions’ topographical and geopolitical landscapes might benefit from the A-10’s specific combat advantages.

    A-10 Thunderbolt II
    A-10 Thunderbolt II

    Other contenders could include countries like Egypt or Vietnam, each with their unique security challenges that could be alleviated by the A-10’s capabilities.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Interestingly, the idea of transferring A-10s has also been tied to the current conflict in Ukraine.

    A-10 ‘Warthog’” by BriYYZ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    While U.S. officials have stated that Ukraine has not shown much interest, mainly due to its inability to control the airspace, the need for such ground support aircraft in the face of Russian armored assaults cannot be dismissed lightly.

    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the shark faced machine gun nose of a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt.
    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the shark faced machine gun nose of a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt.

    The A-10, with its prowess in tank-busting and ability to operate from austere bases, could offer a significant edge. However, the reality of sophisticated air defenses in the Ukrainian theater makes the introduction of A-10s there a topic of extensive debate.

    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Tactical Demonstration.
    Cleveland, OH-USA August 31, 2019: Cleveland National Air Show featuring the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Tactical Demonstration.

    The Warthog’s retirement, planned to be complete by 2029, has prompted discussions not only about its replacement but also about how best to utilize the remaining fleet.

    The US Air Force Thunderbirds ground crew work on aircraft while an A-10 Thunderbolt II passes in the background at the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona at Tucson, Arizona.
    The US Air Force Thunderbirds ground crew work on aircraft while an A-10 Thunderbolt II passes in the background at the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona at Tucson, Arizona.

    The transfer of A-10s to allied nations could serve multiple strategic objectives. It would assist allies in bolstering their defense capabilities against contemporary threats while allowing the U.S. to shift focus and resources to more pressing areas.

    American warplane a10 flies over desert
    American warplane a10 flies over desert

    Additionally, this move would maintain the A-10’s legacy of service, not within the U.S. inventory but as a global asset in the hands of American partners.

    Relevant articles:
    Save the A-10 Warthog: Give It to the U.S. Army, The National Interest
    Forget the F-16: Why Doesn’t America Send A-10 Warthogs to Ukraine?, nationalinterest.org
    A Mystery Country Is Trying to Snatch Up America’s Extra A-10 Warthogs, Popular Mechanics
    What the US should do with its A-10 Thunderbolt, Air Force Times

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