These Stunning Images of the U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts in Kuwait say a lot about their missions against ISIS

Mar 03 2015 - 36 Comments

A-10s involved in Operation Inherent Resolve carry a full complement of air-to-ground weaponry.

The pictures in this post were taken at the end of January at Ahmed al Jaber airbase, in Kuwait, where A-10 Thunderbolt attack planes belonging to the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron “Blacksnakes”, part of the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, based at Fort Wayne, Indiana, are currently deployed to support Operation Inherent Resolve against IS militants in Iraq and Syria.

Inherent Resolve

Although some videos of the Thunderbolts using their GAU-8 Avenger a 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon to support Kurdish fighters had already surfaced, the photographs released by the U.S. Department of Defense provide some more details and clearly show, for the first time, the loadout of the “Hogs” involved in the air war against ISIS.

Inherent Resolve

Noteworthy, as noted with little differences on previous deployments in Afghanistan, along with their trademark cannon, the aircraft carry an interesting mix of rockets, missiles and bombs, that enable the pilot to select the proper weapon to attack any kind of target, from technicals, to tanks, to armored vehicles, to light and heavy fixed or moving targets: AGM-65 Maverick missiles (on station 3 and 9), LAU-131 rocket launcher (station 2), GBU-12 Paveway LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs – on station 5 and 7), GBU-38 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions – station 4 and 8) and an AN/AAQ-28 Litening AT targeting pod (station 10).

Inherent Resolve

Considered that there is no risk to meet any enemy fighter, the A-10s don’t carry any AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

By the way, as highlighted by Wim Zwijnenburg, the Pentagon has just confirmed that: “[…] US and Coalition aircraft have not been, and will not be, using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve,” meaning that the 30 mm Depleted Uranium ammunition has not and won’t be loaded onto the A-10s.

Inherent Resolve

The pilots wear the Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS), the world’s only, full-color Helmet Mounted Cueing System: the helmet system enables the aircrews to rapidly cue sensors or weapons, and to designate targets by simply “looking at” the target or point of interest. Furthermore, it takes all the information collected by the plane’s sensors and positions it on the ground so that each pilot can look at a heads-up display and know exactly where the ground targets are positioned without the need to look inside the cockpit and never losing visual contact of these targets.

Inherent Resolve

While the “Warthog” remains one of the weapons of choice for Close Air Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction missions against the Islamic State, the U.S. Air Force has announced that 18 planes (and maybe 19 more) will be mothballed later this year and placed into “Backup Aircraft Inventory” status to save money and free up experienced maintainers destined to the F-35 fleet.

Inherent Resolve

Inherent Resolve

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


  • Flatley

    “to hear it you’d almost think that the F 35 just pumps out bundles of money.”

    It certainly will be pumping out bundles of money to Lockheed Martin for some time to come.

  • James FT

    ——> “For the 10-20% where things get sticky, sending a B-1 to do an A-10’s job will get Americans killed (actually happened).”

    Did you also miss the part where A-10c are now handling 80-90% of CAS with PGMs at high altitudes? Your fantasy dream of A-10s coming in tree top level rarely happens these days when it comes to CAS. All forms of CAS are potentially dangerous. Not to mention, the A-10 does not have a terrific record when it comes to fratricide (worse than the B1) and that’s been known for decades. That 30mm avenger also has a nasty spread. Why do you think pilots call it, “Spray and Pray.” So the only point you succeeded in making is that CAS is a risky business no matter who is pitching of PGMs or strafing camels in non contestant airspace.

  • James FT

    Nope. An F15C still maintains far more flexibility than an A-10 and can multi-role similar to an F-16. Also, with the short amount of F-22s in the Arsenal, how would the A-10s help the F-22’s achieve and maintain air superiority?

  • WpnsLoader175

    The new wings are…interesting. Made in Korea and assembled at Hill AFB by people i think used to work at McDonald’s (we have had..Errhm, wiring issues). But with the new wings and “C” model Avionics the A-10’s should be available to kick ass straight through 2040. Oh, and we have Pylon Mods on the way!

  • WpnsLoader175

    A-10 needs to go so that there is no Compare and Contrast between A-10 and F-35 in the CAS/CSAR missions. Can’t have their shinny new toy looking bad now can they?

  • Mike

    “The A-10 is an ancient aircraft, which takes more and more money to maintain every year. Plus the air frames are reaching their maximum flight hours.”

    Within a 7 year period the F-15, F-16, A-10, and F-18 were all introduced. These all have been upgraded a number of times through the years. But yet, the A-10 is referred to by you as the “ancient” airframe out of the group….it isn’t. Ancient might be better applied to the B-52 or maybe the Hawkeye E-2..all still flying just fine thank you.

    Retire the A-10….not quite yet…and oh by the way the USAF is now looking into a dedicated A-10 replacement..A-10 Warthog Version 2.0 – A-X Program.–10-stay-until-2022/79687644/

    “The U.S. Air Force needs a next-generation A-10 before attempting to mothball any further A-10s,” McSally wrote. “I look forward to working together to support the Air Force in maintaining the A-10 and beginning the process of developing a next-generation A-10 to support our national security and bring our brave troops home alive.”

    “Although it is not clear whether plans for an A-10 replacement, often dubbed “A-X,” will be included in this year’s budget request, top service officials have suggested the Air Force is beginning to look into that option.”

  • 75skydog

    there was a wonderfully done youtube video that has since been taken down (probably offended hussein-obama) that showed off the A-10’s tank and ground asset killing prowess, with the 30mm cannon, hellfire, AGM-65 and low-drag bombs and you got the sense of what it can do to ISIS mechanized infantry, and it was put to the tune of “All over me” by Drowning Pool