A-10s of the U.S. Air Force theater security package have deployed to Europe

A-10 Thunderbolts are back in Europe

The U.S. Air Force has deployed 12 A-10 Thunderbolt attack planes and approximately 300 personnel to Spangdahlem airbase, in Germany, as part of a so-called TSP (theater security package) in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The aircraft are from the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and are expected to be ready to fulfil the TSP mission by the end of the month: TSPs are meant to augment U.S. Air Force in Europe support to Operation Atlantic Resolve, “the demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe’s continued commitment to the collective security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region.”

The A-10 has been designed to attack Soviet tanks during a Soviet invasion across the German plain and the Fulda Gap and has been a part of the AirLand Battle Doctrine pursued in the late 1970s/ early 1980s; hence an eventual involvement in a (proxy or direct) war with Russia is quite unlikely.

Therefore, the Warthog return to Europe after the last permanent unit was withdrawn in 2013, is probably just symbolic. The A-10 is today more suitable for other scenarios, like Afghanistan or Iraq.

By rotating A-10s and other assets to Europe, Washington flexes its muscles amidst growing tensions with Moscow: officially, 6-month TSPs enable joint training among NATO units, but they are just another way to increase presence in Europe and reassure regional allies.

Noteworthy, after a first period at the airbase in Germany, the first TSP and its A-10s will forward deploy to some unspecified locations in Eastern European NATO nations.

According to the Air Force, TSPs have conducted similar activities in the Pacific area since 2004.

Jacek Siminski has contributed to this post.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


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. Too bad they didn’t send something other than an obsolete aircraft that has no chance of survival in places where there are any air defences around (unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan). The Russian Tunguska and Pantsir-S1 would eat the A-10 for breakfast, without even breaking a sweat.

    • They would other aircraft as well, to include anything stealth (see S400). That is why they, alongside A10s, wont operate alone as the sole aerial asset. especially if SEAD hasn’t been already undertaken.

      Any war in which our aviators are engaged in hobo knife fights with the aviators of a nuclear power is going to result in significant losses on both sides (and, with much credible anticipation, outright nuclear). Something we cannot imagine with our perspectives of war based on limited COIN operations in recent memory.

  2. “The A-10 is more suitable for other scenarios, like Afghanistan or Iraq”

    Huh? The A-10 was specifically designed for a confrontation with soviet armor in the European theater…

    What you talkin bout Willis?

    • Do you really think that a confrontation between the U.S./NATO and Russia in European theater will involve tanks and boots on the ground?

      Those are old-fashioned scenarios.

      A modern air war between NATO and Russia could only be nuclear and would not involve any A-10 in CAS…

      • Yeah right… no tanks or boots on the ground. Tell that to Georgia or Ukraine.

        Or tell that to Poland, who recently bought 119 additional Leopard 2 tanks and 120 self-propelled howitzers, and rapidly developing in a new light tank fearing a ground attack from Russia… Those will be added to the more than 900 tanks, 1700 armored fighting vehicles, and hundreds of artillery pieces they already have.

        Or to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania who just bough over 100 armored vehicles, over $55 million worth of Javelin guided anti-tank missiles, and over $63 million worth of Carl Gustav antitank rocket launchers to defends against a Russian attack…

        Or to the UK, who recently send its 3rd Armored Division to train in Poland how to react against a Russian ground assault.

        Nevermind that Russia has been practicing airborne assaults supported by fighter and bombers near Kaliningrad, or mock bombing runs on Sweden, the Baltic States and Poland…

        Yeah, let’s just scrap those A-10…. Good for nothing.

        • Nobody said A-10s, tanks, training on airborne assaults are good for nothing. Most probably they are simply not suitable for a US-Russia war (by the way Georgia or Ukraine are not such a kind of war).

          The point is that the A-10s will probably be useless in case of direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow in Europe: there are chances that it will be a regional, nuclear, conflict with ICBMs coming and going towards their targets. A-10s stationed at an airbase in Poland would be among the first targets.

          Anyway, these are only analysts opinions, they may be right or wrong. Nobody really knows how a future war will be fought. You can only guess and speculate, like you and me.

          • Thinking that the only type of engagement between Russia and the West would be nuclear is naïve.

            Russia published its new “defense doctrine” last December. The most consequential part of the doctrine refers to Russia’s aim to protect its citizens abroad. This is through the “lawful use of the armed forces … to ensure the protection of its citizens, outside the Russian Federation in accordance with the generally recognized principles and norms of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.”

            Several border states have substantial Russian-speaking minorities. That has the Baltic states worried, as protecting Russian citizens was the Kremlin’s principle justification for invading Crimea—and backing the breakaway statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia during the 2008 war with Georgia.

            Will we see tank divisions rolling towards Berlin or Paris? Highly Unlikely.

            But a limited engagement in the areas close to the Russian borders is a very real possibility. We won’t see the massive armored divisions the Soviets once had, but nevertheless, in that scenario ground troops, including tanks and other armored vehicles will definitely take part. If any of the countries involved is a NATO member, then the US will definitively be involved as well.

            Most likely those ground troops will be forces unofficially supported by the Russian government in what they call the “maskirovka” strategy (Like in Ukraine). However, whether those ground forces are formal Russian troops, or undercover troops is irrelevant. They could be there.

            And the A-10 and other fighter jets that provide close air support are the best antidote. Nodoby is going to launch ICBMs against “rebels” or “separatists”, even if backed by Russia.

  3. Bah! Why send crappy old A-10’s when we could deploy F-35’s to the Europe? That would show Putin that the US means business. :-)

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