The Air Force has finally installed the last set of new wings for 173 of the service's 283 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft as part of a $1.1 billion contract with Boeing, Air Force Material Command announced on Monday.
Members of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were accustomed to the conflict conditions of Afghanistan, in which airstrikes aren't often carried out in close quarters.
But one A-10 Thunderbolt II unit summoned into the dense, urban environment of Raqqa, Syria, where Islamic State fighters and snipers hid within buildings, found itself testing new ways to support U.S.-backed militia on the ground, contributing to the city's liberation in late 2017.
The A-10 is a flying death machine, a plane built around a cannon that is capable of firing 4,200 rounds per minute and eliminating anything in its path, but this fearsome gunship's days are numbered.
Some U.S. Air Force pilots are currently transitioning to flying other aircraft, like the new F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters that are supposed to replace many of the A-10s for ground attack missions.
Here's what one pilot had to say about the shift during the Air Force's Red Flag air combat exercises.
U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts are back in the Baltics this month, practicing for rough landings on improvised runways as a part of Saber Strike 18, the annual exercise where NATO and partner forces work to improve their ability to operate across Europe and with NATO's forward-deployed battle groups.