23 tanks destroyed in one day: the A-10 Warthog in action

Dec 20 2012 - 9 Comments

Without the presence of the A-10A Thunderbolt II attack planes, allied forces would have suffered a far higher cost in terms of loss of life during the ground phase of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991.

This is proved by the facts that happened in the morning of Feb. 25, 1991, during the second day of the ground war.

That day a large column of Iraqi tanks was moving south from areas controlled by the Republican Guard and two “Warthogs” (the most common of the A-10 nicknames) belonging to the 76th TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron) of the 23rd TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing) were scrambled to destroy them.

The two A-10s,  flown by Captain Eric Solomonson and Lieutenant John Marks, were led to the target area by an OA-10 FAC (Forward Air Controller).

Solomonson and Marks noted that some Iraqi tanks had scattered and tried to hide in prepositioned revetments while some others were pulling off from both side of the road.

However there were enough targets for both infrared AGM-65 Maverick missiles and for the powerful 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger seven barreled cannon of the two Warthogs.

In a matter of ten minutes six tanks were destroyed by the Mavericks and other two were killed by the brutal force of the Avenger.

Instead of returning to their base, the Thunderbolts landed  to a FOL (Forward Operating Location) to be refueled and reloaded of weapons and take off again to help the Marines near Kuwait City.

A “Fast FAC” F/A-18 Hornet directed Solomonson and Marks in the area where two AV-8B Harriers had been hit. One of the two Harrier pilots had to eject and so the Warthogs had to cover the rescue mission for the “jump jet” pilot.

Once on the target area, during a rapid and tough engagement, the two A-10s killed eight more tanks, six by using the Mavericks and two by means of the cannon.

However for Solomonson and Marks, it was not yet time to rest because, as they returned to their main base, their Thunderbolts were re-armed and took off once again for more Marines support. During this third sortie the two Warthogs destroyed seven more tanks!

On an interview featured in the excellent book “Gulf Air War Debrief” by Stan Morse, Salomonson says: “There are a lot of jets that fly a lot faster, a lot higher, but don’ t drop nearly as much stuff , nor can they hang out in the target area as long as we can.”

The A-10 is one of the most imporant U.S. assets. It will be replaced by the F-35 in the future.

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  • zo

    It’s a shame. The A-10 is the best close support in the air, bar none. The list is too long and well known why this is the case. There was a general a few years ago who argued the US should just have 4000+ A-10 and a few hundred F-22 and thats all you’d need to cover all needed roles. I’m a believer in that. Obviously the military industry wants shiny new toys to sell at the cost of something that works ‘perfectly’ well already. Again, a shame.

    • Dario Leone

      You are right. The A-10 is the best close support in the air.

    • tacticaltshirts.com

      That is a very interesting thought. I have always heard the USAF wasn’t very hip to the A-10 because you can’t ever be an “ace” by killing tanks.

      I for one wonder why the A-10 would be phased out. It’s a work horse, is very durable, using common commercial jet engines, and doesn’t cost a lot.

      I’m sure there are people smarter than me in the Pentagon who understand the abilities of one asset over another better than I. But I just have a hard time believing that the F-35 could ever replace the A-10. Maybe…maybe a drone. But it seems the F-35 isn’t in the same class as the A-10.

      Honestly…has the USMC ever been that satisfied with the AV-8B? I don’t know. I see the F-35 finally meeting that expectation. But the A-10, I’m doubtful.

      • Dario Leone

        Do you imagine a F-35 flying at low altitude firing to the tanks?

        • tacticaltshirts.com

          If this question is directed at me, I would guess no. Honestly…why fly low and increase your chances of getting hit? Making the fight “more fair” isn’t in the cards. I would just as easily send a missile from stand-off distances.

          The problem I see with the F-35 / F-16 in the A-10 role is one of the amount of ordinance the platforms can carry and the loiter time. The A-10 SHOULD be much better at both.

          The only justification I can make in the opposite direction is probably my own ignorance on the subject. It may very well be that military planners don’t believe an A-10 could survive on the battle field of the future? Or 3-unmanned A-10-capiable drones are better than 1 A-10 to fill that future battle-space need?

          The problem with most arm-chair generals is they are planning on fighting the last war, not the NEXT one.

          Perhaps the A-10 is like the US Carrier Battle Group? While current us Naval policy has been based on carrier centric operations, there are many military planners that see the submarine force as the main-battle platform of the Navy in the future. The thinking is the CBG is way too vulnerable to catastrophic loss with WMD or even overwhelming it’s defenses with decoys, drones and anti-ship missiles.

          In short the theory is they won’t survive in the battle-space if something goes wrong. And the longer combat operations go on, the greater the chance of Mr. Murphy taking an appearance.

          Perhaps the A-10 has the same dim prospects and I’m just not seeing it yet?

          • Dario Leone

            I think, in my honest opinion, that the better platform for CAS mission will be also in the future a manned aircraft. In those moments human eyes are the best technology!

            You are right those generals plan the last war and not the next one!

  • Melkor

    Do u have any information about the Harrier, that was shot down in that day?

    • Dario Leone

      No, unfotunately I don’ t have any info. And you?

    • tacticaltshirts.com

      Here is a link on Wikipedia that shows all of the Harriers lost. It breaks down by year and then by country. As I have heard for years, the USMC looses a lot of them. To see the list is astounding.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Harrier_Jump_Jet_family_losses