A photo of an A-10C Thunderbolt II conducting training operations in the United States offers a not-so-subtle reminder of the Thunderbolt’s durability: a giant dent on the nose of the aircraft.
David Cenciotti’s Aviationist quips, “No, that’s not a bullet hole.” It’s a massive dent caused by the boom of a KC-135J during aerial refueling operations.
The photo, from April 28, shows an A-10 ready for take-off at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia as part of an air-ground training operation. What’s noteworthy is not that those refueling booms can cause damage to an aircraft; check out this image of stripped paint on another A-10 during refueling while conducting anti-ISIS operations in the Middle East last month. You can see just how many dings are on the nose of the A-10 from the boom. Clearly this is something that happens all the time.
The bullet-sized dent in the nose of the A-10 is noteworthy because it shows the kind of damage that can occur to the airframe on an A-10, and the reaction from pilots and maintenance crews alike are a shrug and a “we’ll fix it later.” As the Aviationist notes, “Usually, such dents don’t affect the aircraft’s ability to fly hence they are left there until the next major maintenance work.”
The durability of the A-10 is not a new revelation. In April 2003, an A-10 Thunderbolt endured terrible damage from anti-aircraft fire flying a close-air support mission near Baghdad in the early days of the Iraq War. That pilot, Air Force Capt. Kim Campbell, safely flew and landed her A-10 despite significant damage to the aircraft’s hydraulics systems, including a “football sized hole” in the aircraft, according to an Air Force report.
It’s pretty difficult to imagine one of the next-generation American aircraft, an F-22 Raptor or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, conducting routine operations with that kind of airframe damage.