In December 2022, the National Defense Authorization Act approved a long-sought-after request by the U.S. Air Force to begin retiring the A-10 Thunderbolt II, specifically approving the retirement of 21 A-10s in 2023. The A-10 has been in USAF service since 1977, with 281 currently in service. Read on for the story of 77-0252, a Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single seat, twin turbofan, subsonic attack aircraft developed by Fairchild Republic for the U.S. Air Force. It was designed to provide close air support for friendly forces by performing airstrikes and strafes against enemy ground forces, armored vehicles and tanks. A-10s also serve in the role of forward air controller aircraft, which directs other aircraft to ensure friendly troops are not harmed in close air support strikes.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is named after the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, but it is most commonly known as the Warthog or Hawg. Like its namesake, the original Thunderbolt and its eight .50 caliber machine guns, the Thunderbolt II could deliver the firepower as well. It is armed with a 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger seven-barrel Gatling-style auto cannon that delivered armor-piercing incendiary rounds, with a depleted uranium penetrating core, at a high rate of fire. The A-10 became well known for its role in Operation Desert Storm as a tank killer. In addition to the Gulf War, the A-10 participated in the NATO-led Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The rugged A-10 was designed to survive severe damage, take off and land from short runways, be easily maintained, and keep the pilot as safe as possible. Its cockpit is built around a titanium bathtub , a 1,200 pound titanium armored shell designed to withstand direct hits from a 23 mm exploding cannon. The A-10 offered superior maneuverability at low speeds, making it ideal for targeting small or slow moving targets.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II development began when Fairchild Republic was awarded a study contract to define requirements for a brand new CAS (close air support) aircraft. The study was followed by a prototype development contract and a fly-off competition, which resulted in the selection of the A-10. The A-10 was ultimately chosen because of the mission-capable maintainability built into it by the design team, its low altitude maneuverability, its reliable weapon systems and lethality, and its ability to survive and return home safely. Its titanium bathtub protected the pilot, and its dually redundant flight control systems allowed them to fly out of enemy range even with the complete loss of hydraulics and severe damage.
The first flight of the A-10 took place in May 1972. In October 1975, the first production A-10A was delivered to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Full rate production was authorized in February 1976, and the first was accepted by the Air Force Tactical Air Command in March 1976. 713 total aircraft were produced throughout the 1970s until 1984, when production ended. Since 1987, Northrop Grumman, as the prime contractor, has provided support and a structural upgrade program which has allowed the A-10 to remain mission ready to this day. The A-10 has been continuously modernized since development, including the installation of the Low Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement ground collision avoidance system during the 1980s, followed by the Night Vision Imaging System in the 1990s.
Enjoy this video about the feat of engineering that went into the A-10.
“It is possible with reasonable advancement of our knowledge to go beyond the moon to Venus and Mars, provided we retain enthusiasm, enterprise and daring.” — Alexander Kartveli, Burlington Daily Times-News. March 26, 1958
Photo from the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives
Alexander Kartveli was a prolific aircraft designer and aeronautical engineer who designed some of the most important military aircraft of his time. While working as Chief Engineer for Seversky Aircraft Corporation, later the Republic Aviation Company, Alexander Kartveli achieved important successes in military aircraft design. Some of his more notable aircraft include the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Republic F-105 Thunderchief, Republic F-84 Thunderjet, among many others. Kartveli also designed experimental aircraft and was involved in an early USAF orbital logistics vehicle, years before the Space Shuttle.
Photo of 77-0252 taken on June 6, 1981 by Simon Wallwork, used with permission.
77-0252 was constructed as an A-10A and delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1978. Its career started with the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk. The 81st Wing remained at Bentwaters for over 40 years, as a key part of NATO’s defense of Western Europe throughout the Cold War years.
As they began phasing down their presence during the early 1980s, 77-0252 was transferred to the 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a unit of the Air National Guard Fighter Wing based at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, Wisconsin. ‘0252 was later transferred to the 706th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
The 706th TFS, the Cajuns, were called to active duty in December 1990 in support of Operation Desert Shield, with the first of its A-10s deploying to Saudi Arabia on January 1, 1991. The 706th TFS claimed the first A-10 air-to-air victory when Captain Robert “Swaino” Swain, flying 77-0205, shot down an Iraqi Bo-105 helicopter. During the Gulf War, the A-10 had a mission-capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles, according to the official United States Air Force website .
Photo by Richard E Flagg - http://www.ukairfields.org.uk/ - Used with permission.
Andy Wade, owner of Wade Salvage in Atco, New Jersey and Deputy Mayor of Waterford Township, first began collecting decommissioned aircraft at the age of 16 when he bought two wrecked airplanes at an auction for $40. Since then, Wade has amassed an eclectic collection of planes and vehicles in his own 12 acre personal boneyard. Wade Salvage has scrapped more than 200 buses, 100 airplanes, 40 Army tanks and armored vehicles, 100 subway cars, rail cars and locomotives, 30 helicopters, thousands of automobiles - not to mention tons of aluminum siding, steel cans, bicycles, mowers and more - over the past four decades. In addition, Wade has now expanded his empire to renting and selling props for TV and film. As of this writing, they have have supplied about 30 productions and have had two studio projects filmed at the yard thus far.
Dave Hall and the MotoArt team visited Wade Salvage in 2022 and acquired the back half of 77-0252 to create A-10 PlaneTags. “Meeting Andy Wade and seeing his collection was an experience unlike any other,” says Hall. “There were so many things to look at.” But Hall was laser focused on getting the A-10 for the PlaneTags collection. The team removed the skin on site and sent the material back to the Torrance, California shop .
Back at the Torrance PlaneTags headquarters, the team designed and produced the packaging and A-10 PlaneTags.
The Hawgs are making their long awaited landing Thursday, February 2, 2023 at 12pm Pacific Time on planetags.com. They are numbered in a series of 5,000.
The initial variants will be
Add an A-10 to your collection because, like many of our small run military planes, the Warthog is expected to sell out. Our P-47 Thunderbolt PlaneTags are sold out and once you miss them on our website and app, you’ll have to find them on the secondary market. For collectors looking to fill their PlaneTags collections by trading, auctions, selling or buying, check out the MotoArt PlaneTags Collections Facebook group.
The A-10 joins a group of esteemed aircraft in the PlaneTags fleet. Add these USAF PlaneTags to your collection before they are gone, like the Northrop T-38 Talon, SR-71 Blackbird, the P-47 Thunderbolt - and so many others.