[Photo] U.S. A-10 Warthogs during aerial refueling over Afghanistan

An interesting gallery of U.S. Air Force’s A-10s being refueled over Afghanistan.

Taken on Jul. 10, 2014, the images in this post show U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, refueled over Eastern Afghanistan by a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar July 10, 2014.

Operation Enduring Freedom

The A-10’s armored fuselage, maneuverability at slow speeds and low altitude has made the Thunderbolt (known as Warthog by its pilots) one of the best (if not the best) CAS (Close Air Support) asset throughout Operation Enduring Freedom (and several more operations, including Desert Storm).

Operation Enduring Freedom

However, the U.S. Air Force has plans to retire the A-10C aircraft between 2015 and 2018, even if the deadline might be postponed until 2028.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti 4450 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


  1. Another huge Air Force mistake. Retiring the A-10 has to be one of the dumbest moves ever. No other aircraft can get down and dirty like the HOG. No other aircraft can take the abuse of being down in the weeds. I think the F-35 will turn out to be their worst mistake! That plane is a complete waste of taxpayer money and does nothing well. A jack of all trades and a master of nothing!

    • I disagree. I love the Thunderbolt II. I got to see one at the AF Museum in Dayton as a teen, and had a tee-shirt with the A-10 on it.

      That being said, the USAF needs to allocate its resources in a manner that prepares us for the battlefield of the future. Its safe to assume the next big fight will be with Russia or China. In both instances an A-10 is next to useless. MANPADs and Integrated Air Defense would chew them up. The F-35 has the ability to survive in a contested air space. Drones are disposable if needed. They are the weapons of the 21st century battlefield.

      • The US will never fight Russia or China directly. The wars of the future will be like the wars of the last 70 years, fights we can win. The F-35 is a turd, an expensive turd, but still a turd.

      • @ Misanthropik,

        You said:

        “Its safe to assume the next big fight will be with Russia or China”.

        Remember the war in Georgia 2008…

        The US was actively helping the Georgians with lots of military aid, but abruptly stopped after Russia threaten the US with a full blow war.

        Russia concurred a US-basis in Georgia and stole all the (new) US-military items on that base; the US did nothing!

        A “next big fight” with Russia or China will very quickly result in a nuclear war because not one of these lands will want too lose a war.

        Remember the M.A.D. principal !

        It still works just fine and thanks to that there will be no world war III.

        World war III will destroy ultimately all human live on earth.

      • We HOPE the F-35 has the ability to survive in a contested airspace. As fancy as the F-35 is, and as cool as it’s high tech gadgets and stealth coatings make it seem, the A-10 does things every day that the F-35 will never be able to do no matter how many billions we pump into it. Both aircraft have a valuable, crucial role in our nation’s defense and it is sad to see one program get the axe in favor of the other. Yes, the A-10 can get knocked down by radar guided SAMs and be seen by enemy jets, but when the delicate and small F-35 is forced to get down and dirty to protect our troops in contact, I will bet money that it succumbs much quicker than any A-10 ever has to AAA and MANPADs. Being stealthy is worth almost nothing when the guys trying to kill you are able to track you with the naked eye. Redundancy and armor still matter when folks are throwing fire up in your face. And good luck flying that Reaper from Nellis when the Chinese hackers have broken into all of your computer systems. Drones are nice, but saying that they can replace a heavily armed, loiter – able manned aircraft in an active combat zone reminds me of the numbskulls that swore dogfights were over as soon as air to air missiles were developed.
        I’m not anti-F-35, I believe that aircraft has an important role as a first striker, a SEAD tool, a precision interdictor, but I don’t believe it is the right tool for every job. Keeping our military cutting edge is always a top priority, but sometimes the best weapon for a job isn’t the newest and flashiest one.

    • Drones can now follow the enemy for many days and surgical strike without any warning to the enemy.

      An A-10 can’t do that.

      The 30 mm cannon is very impressive, but is not accurate enough, if you compare it for example with a MQ-9 Reaper armed with 4 AGM-114 Hellfire rockets and 2 GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. See this picture:


      (Testing the MQ-9 Reaper is underway, to support also the operation of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missile).

      Manned aircraft will ultimately be replaced by drones, because the pilot is already the weakens link; a drone is very expendable, a pilot of a F35 not. See the future:


      The F35 is a waste of money: The F35 is manufactured for a symmetrical war against for example Russia or China, both have also huge nuclear arsenals…

      Do you think Russia or China will accept an massive (preemptive) attack with F35’s without nuclear retaliation?

      • Drones with warheads as large as that on an expensive hellfire are not the close air support of the present or the future. The CAS role will always entail flexibility in the choice of weapons, including machine guns and cannons. One can support ground troops at closer range with a gun than a missile, a bomb, or a rocket. The ability to loiter a long time, track, and fire a missile is not a substitute for a manned aircraft that get on the seen, evaluate the situation, and lay down the appropriate fire.

        The better debate on CAS is not manned vs. drones, it is fixed wing vs. rotor craft. The value of the rotor craft in AFG and Iraq in the CAS role has been largely omitted, and they present the flexibility of close stations and forward arming and refueling, close up work in surveiling and killing, and stand off work in surveiling and killing. Helicopters can kill up close or from a long way off. They are expensive to build and operate, but not F-35 expensive. They have their vulnerabilities on the modern battlefield, but they can duck, dodge, play hide and seek in the terrain, and shoot and scoot as well. (That is not to say that they are a perfect substitute for all fixed wing CAS either.)

        • @ FlyingBarrister,

          You said:

          “Drones with warheads as large as that on an expensive hellfire are not the close air support of the present or the future”.

          Only the maintenance of an A-10 or F35 is more expensive than using and firing regularly AGM-114 Hellfire rockets or GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs with a drone.

          That is why fixed wing drones are now used mostly to observe and take out High-Value Targets.

          The US is buying today more and more fixed wing drones for 24/7 a-symmetrical battlefield support; the A-10 is going out of service…

          A (drone) helicopter makes more noise and has not the long fly-time capabilities of a fixed wing airplane or drone.

          With advanced camera’s, a fixed wing drone has now the same (or better) capabilities of a (drone) helicopter.

          You said:

          “The ability to loiter a long time, track, and fire a missile is not a
          substitute for a manned aircraft that get on the seen, evaluate the
          situation, and lay down the appropriate fire”.

          Exactly, get on the seen. I prefer an armed drone(s) that is 24/7 above my head, in stead short air support from a manned (noisy) plane.

          The Taliban in Afghanistan attacked (again) when a manned plane had to refuel, a drone can give you 24/7 air support without refuelling.

          That is exactly what is going on on the battlefield in Afghanistan right now.

          The ability to loiter a (very) long time, track, observe and kill are essential in an asymmetrical war.

          That’s why IS demanded to stop the very successful drone-strikes before they killed James Foley…

          The F35 is made only for a symmetrical war.

          A symmetrical war will probably ultimately escalate in a nuclear war…

          The M.A.D. principle is still working just fine.

  2. The big “G” in the cockpit indicates that the A-10 driver is apparently a University Of Georgia graduate or at least a fan.

  3. The USAF has spent a bunch of money on the A-10 in recent years, among other things replacing the wings on a number of aircraft at more than US $1 billion. The assemblies were built in Georgia and the replacement work done at Hill AFB in Ogden, UT. It seems that it would have been more reasonable and cheaper to do the work at an AFB in Georgia. But one on the outside cannot evaluate the logic or the logistics, and it does not make that much sense to spend $1B on a program that USAF brass wants to end. Moreover, the purported savings from mothballing A-10’s would go into the blackhole of the unproven and highly delayed F-35.

  4. Flares after a refueling? Georgia flag? What’s with this guy. At least their coach is from Nebraska, Go Big Red.

  5. from an old grunt- we love them saved my ass a few times- they sure work the hell out of them to want to get rid of them. Sounds like management may have a little disconnect.

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