U.S. A-10s conduct unimproved surface landings on a dry lake bed in simulated assault zone

A-10s rock White Sands Missile Range

On Dec. 3 and 4, A-10 Thunderbolts belonging to the 354th Fighter Squadron, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the 74th Fighter Squadron, from Moody AFB, Georgia, conducted night and day unimproved surface landing training on a dry lake bed.

Sand land

The training activities were supported by 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, from Hurlburt Field, Florida, who provided air traffic control at the landing strip located inside a simulated assault zone “similar to what would be seen in a deployed environment.”

This kind of activity is useful to validate procedure used when operations occur from within a denied territory, where there is no established landing zone under friendly control.

Low pass

During the training, soft spots on the designated landing strip interrupted the departure of the first Warthog (the nickname of the Thunderbolt) causing the mission to change: subsequent aircraft practiced low approaches without conventional landing aids and instruments including night ones using NVGs (Night Vision Goggles).

To be replaced by the F-35 in the following years, the A-10 is currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS targets in Iraq.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Quote: “To be replaced by the F-35 in the following years, the A-10 is…”

    That makes about as much sense as replacing Panamax freighter with a little dingy, arguing that both float on the water and are thus equivalent.

    The F-35’s radar stealth will do it no good on a low-altitude, visual battlefield. Its fragility means it’ll be easily downed by ground fire. It’s huge cost means it’ll never been sent into such situations.

    I have nothing but contempt for the USAF officers who stuck this country with that overpriced and underperforming plane. I have even more contempt for their attempt to deal with the F-35’s huge cost overruns by dumping the A-10. They should be fired instead.

    And no words can describe the contempt I have for USAF officers who want to consign Army and Marine troops to death in battle because they don’t like providing ground support and would rather flit about in the “wild blue yonder,” doing little of value for our country.

    Fortunately, we’ve gone a Congress coming on the scene in January who’re likely to alter this insane policy.

    • Honestly, the military industrial complex goes far beyond just “USAF Officers”. You think there is money in the A-10? Our entire nation is set up on facilitating rich people getting even richer… The whole system would need to be scrapped and started from scratch in order to fix it.

    • The Army and Marines prefer their own helicopters for ultra close support. You can’t hide an A 10 behind a tree or rocky knoll. Now the A 10 is excellent in an uncontested air space or in a win or lose, do or die situation such as a late 70s early 80s Soviet assault across the Fulda Gap in Germany. Losses against Soviet air defenses would have been high for any aircraft but sacrifice would have been the order of the day. In a modern conflict against a modestly armed opponent the A 10 would be useless until air superiority was obtained and SAM defenses were suppressed. Also one must remember the A 10 was designed before the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In that war the SA 3 Goa made close air support extremely hazardous. Modern missiles are so much deadlier than the then decade old SA 3. I would hazard a guess that if the A 10 was such a wonder weapon that the Israelis would have sought some.Seems that they are more interested in the F 35. Of course they couldn’t use an A 10 for long range interdiction or nuclear strike and Israel probably no longer fears a massive armored assault. Also along that line of thinking neither does NATO.

      • But F-35 will get their butts kicked really hard if they try to do the Job of the A-10
        Russians are designing a new aircraft to Replace the Su-25 which is already superior to the A-10 and has good Air-to-Air capabilities

        F-35 is the worst answer for a Multirole aircraft
        It can do the air-superiority job but is weaker than air superiority fighter
        It can be bomber but can’t carry enough bombs compared to Bombers

        Stealth aircrafts are visible to modern radars but their signal is too weak and what Radars see is something the size of a bird
        But Russia added more powerful radars and added other ways to differentiate them from Birds.

  2. Mele Kalikimaka all……I’ve read that SAC in early 60’s practiced dispersing bomber & KC fleet to dry lakebeds. Interesting book…. 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation.

  3. Scrapping the A-10 with today’s battlegrounds is undoubtedly one of the most absurd policy considerations ever.

  4. I find it hard to believe that a aircraft as expensive as the F-35 will really be considered to train this way. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. However you can see how well placed the intakes for the A-10 are in order to avoid dirt/gravel/fod being kicked up by the wheels into the engines. I have no doubt, it would operate just great on grass airfields of Europe after the Soviets would have cratered their airfields. And no doubt we probably trained for this. But this is the first I’ve ever seen an A-10 landing in the wild.

    Okay, looking at the F-35 I MIGHT be convinced that if you put Mig-23/27 style mud guards over the wheels, the aircraft could operate a hardpack runway. The landing gear certainly looks like it could work off Marsden Matting.

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