A-10 Thunderbolt II Attack Aircraft’s Bomb Markings Explained

An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Airman 1st Class Mercedee Wilds modified by the Author to highlight the various weapon markings)

A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, sport hundreds bomb markings. Here’s what they mean.

Bomb and kill markings are a very well-known tradition in military aviation.

In particular, on Oct. 24, 2016, when they returned home from a 6-month tour of duty in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, A-10 Thunderbolt II belonging to the 124th Fighter Wing (Idaho ANG), from Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, sported many bomb markings earned taking part in the air war against Daesh.

Two years laters, the Warthogs of the “Skullbangers”, are still decorated with the markings applied when the 124th FW flew from Turkey as part of the 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, at Incirlik Air Base, as some recently released images show.

In particular one of the new photographs provides a pretty clear overview of the bomb markings applied to the example with serial number 78-0624 allowing a proper identification of the type of weaponry used by the A-10 over Syria and Iraq: 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, there are GBU-12 Paveway LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), AGM-65 Maverick missiles, GBU-38 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) and GBU-54 laser-guided JDAMs (both based on a Mark-82 500-lb bomb – the -54 differs from the -38 for the distinctive laser seeker – according to our sources the marking is the same), the 2,000-lb GBU-31 JDAMs and the AGR-20 laser-guided rockets used with the LAU-131A/A rocket launcher.

One thing that must be considered is that the silhouettes usually mark more than one bomb or cannon round: although this may vary from deployment to deployment, one A-10 pilot told us that usually 30mm bullets represent 100 rounds, bomb stickers represent two bombs of that kind, whereas rockets and missiles represent one of each. “If we applied one sticker for each bomb expended in combat we would cover all the aircraft!”

By the way, there are 124th FW aircraft that sport more bomb markings than 78-0624: in particular, in 2016, 78-0633/ID had an impressive amount of stickers applied to the area just below the right side of the cockpit. Take a look at the following photo dating back to 2016:

Bomb markings on A-10C 78-0633 belonging to 124th FW. Photo released by the unit in 2016.

In May 2016, we spotted JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bomb silhouettes on one of the F-22s belonging to the 95th FS from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after one rotation to the UAE to support Operation Inherent Resolve

In Syria, Russian Su-34s  sported red star silhouettes to mark 10 air strikes, whilst EA-18G Growlers of VAQ-137 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt got unique kill markings, showing Electronic Attack support as well as mobile devices jamming missions.

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.