New Photos Of U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II Refueling During Anti-ISIS Mission Show Interesting Weapons Loadout

Warthogs have started carrying 2,000 lb bombs. You won’t find many photographs of A-10s with GBU-31s.

The photographs in this post were taken from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Apr. 19, 2017.

Among that mission’s receivers, there was also a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

Interestingly, the images of the “Hog” expose some changes in the weapons loadout of the A-10s involved in the fight against Daesh militants. Indeed, the aircraft depicted in the photos carries one GBU-12 Paveway LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs – on station 1 – the outmost one on the left wing), one AGM-65 Maverick missile (on station 3), one LAU-131 rocket launcher (station 2), three GBU-38 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions – station 4, 5 and 9), one GBU-31(V)1/B with MK-84 warhead (station 7) and an AN/AAQ-28 Litening AT targeting pod (station 10).

Station 8 has a GBU-54 laser JDAM whereas the LAU-131 on Station 2 is a LAU-131A/A model used for the new (and very awesome) AGR-20 laser guided rockets.

Among the mix of missiles, guided bombs and rockets, that complement the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger 30-mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type, the most interesting addition is the GBU-31, a pretty heavy (2,000-lb) general purpose bomb with JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) GPS guidance system intended for mobile and fixed hard (and soft) as well as maritime surface targets.

This A-10’s worn out nose proves the Thunderbolt’s been hit several times by the flying boom during AAR operations (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride)

Although the GBU-31 is a type of weapon certified for use with the A-10 you won’t find many photographs showing other “Warthogs” carrying a 2,000-lb GBU-31: a sign that the coalition may also rely on Close Air Support platforms to hit targets which require a significant destructive power and blast radius.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 19, 2017. The 340th EARS, part of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, is responsible for delivering fuel for U.S. and coalition forces, enabling a persistent 24/7 presence in the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride)

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About David Cenciotti 4452 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.

4 Comments

  1. It must be special to fly this aircraft, I think only replacement is new A-10.

  2. First off…they have been operating Hogs loaded like this with in range of the current Russian A2AD systems in Syria. Second if we were in a pier on pier fight CAS would not be done by any platform but for a very limited basis until the A2AD could be degraded. There are tactics that we use to counter these assets as well. There are lots of little things to this argument because it is unlikely to happen but it if did would be costly for both sides.

    • Agree with most of your points except for one thing… Russian A2AD in Syria are not actively engaging NATO/Allied aircraft unless Russia want a hot war with NATO and friends.

      • Well true, however there was a lot of EW gear flying around on our side as well. The Russians would ping our jets like crazy (Lots of RWR right-ups for the pointy heads to figure out) however in doing so they are letting us learn a lot about their latest threat system. It’s wacky but by us being so close to a field operational S-400 site is actually quite a win for us from the Intelligence side of the house and if they did take a shot at one of our birds (even the hogs) it would be from a decent distance off (giving us a tiny bit extra time to do something about it) and the Raptors would have the green light to JDAM the S-400. So it’s a tit for tat. Would, even in a big shooting war, the Russians want to loose a Expensive and hard to replace S-400 radar set in exchange for a couple of attack aircraft? Have you ever noticed how people can be so black and white on the matter for Russian A2AD, they feel that they are invincible and that their missiles are a guaranteed kill? People act like no harm could come to the SAM system, ever. That JAGM (soon), JSOW, JDAM and HARM don’t exist and are equipped on advanced jets just itching to take out a SAM radar or launcher. We have tactical counters for these system that go well beyond a simple game of technology. Our jets in the IR AOR are using these tactics and have assets available to counter the “pier” threats should they present themselves. Yea, sure if the Russian pulled the trigger on that S-400 the nearest set of Hogs would bite the dust, perhaps a F-16 or two, but in so doing that S-400 would have to pack up shop and move or risk being destroyed.

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