Without the presence of the A-10A Thunderbolt II attack planes, allied forces would have suffered a far higher cost in terms of lives during the ground phase of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991.
This is proved by what 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 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 sides 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 two more were killed by the brutal force of the Avenger.
Instead of returning to their base, the Thunderbolts landed to a FOL (Forward Operating Location), were refueled and reloaded of weapons and took 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 in 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.