After almost five decades, the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base are beginning to be retired.
The first of the many A-10s housed at the base, tail number 82-648, was pulled off duty this past week. The A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as an A-10 Warthog and famous for its “BRRT” sound, is set to be fully pulled out of U.S. Air Force service by 2029. After several Congressional delays, the current fiscal year allows the Air Force to pull a few dozen Warthogs out of operation. Those include the ones at Davis-Monthan Air Base, which has been a home for the aircraft since 1978.
“The A-10 has been the symbol of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for many years, and it will continue to be a symbol for the Airmen of DM, a symbol of their commitment, excellence and service,” Col. Scott Mills, 355th Wing commander who also serves as A-10 pilot said in a statement from the base. “For now, we’re divesting a single squadron during the summer-fall timeframe of 2024.”
The Vietnam War-era design has proven extremely successful at providing close air support to ground forces, but its age is leading the military to phase it out. Alongside its capabilities to carry multiple bombs and rockets, its nose-mounted 30mm GAU-8/A rotary cannon made it incredibly dangerous to enemy ground forces. In fact, even as it worked to get approval to retire the A-10, the Air Force was continuing to upgrade it, including expanding its armaments.
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“The plane is unique in its diverse ability to support our ground team not only with precision munitions from a distance, like we’re doing as we speak in the Middle East, but also with scalpel-like accuracy using the GAU-8 gun under the most difficult environments imaginable,” Col. Razvan Radoescu, 355th Operations Group commander, said in the base’s statement. “The plane, coupled with our high-level training standards, are the reasons so many of our joint and coalition forces returned home to fight another day – because they had A-10s overhead covering their six, or employing weapons to save their lives when nobody else could.”
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, located near Tuscon, Arizona, is home to the 355th Wing. According to the Air Force, pilots and maintainers assigned to A-10 Warthogs will be reassigned to other airframes, specifically F-35s.
As it retires the A-10, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is to be the home to the new 492nd Power Projection Wing, part of Air Force Special Operations Command. As part of that, new aircraft will arrive including a MC-130 and an AO-1K Sky Warden. Additionally, the Air Force plans to expand the base’s rescue capabilities. Over the next five years as the A-10s are retired, the base will add HC-130 aircraft and five HH-60W helicopters.
Even with its age, the A-10 is still currently in operational use, including being used in the Middle East. Several additional airframes were sent to the region last summer during tensions over attacks on shipping vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and again in the fall after the start of the Israel-Gaza War.
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