If you ask any US veteran how angels sound like, the answer would look more like a BRTTTT!!! than any Tik-Tok trending music. And that’s what you get when you put wings around a car-like sized gatling cannon.
That’s what Fairchild Republic had in mind when the A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog for the friends) was designed. For further context, it must be said that the US Armed Forces found a lot of troubles while trying to provide air support for their troops in Vietnam: they needed more resistant planes, capable of carrying more guns and providing more accuracy on situations where enemies were too close or even mixed with the comrades.
The A-10 outperformed its predecessors, like the A-1 Skyrider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and even the F4-Phantom on the ground attacking task. The idea behind this new generation airplane was to use a 30mm rotatory gatling cannon as main armament: the GAU-8 Avenger, a weapon capable of turning enemy soldiers into Swiss cheese, to the more advanced and protected soviet tanks (aim that was proved to be more than possible during the Gulf War) with a cadency of 3900 rounds per minute of piercing shells (originally it was capable of 4200rpm but had to be lowered, otherwise the plane would have spin like a flying Beyblade). Other weapons that can be used onboard this plane vary from rocket launchers to anti-tank guided missiles, and even anti-air missiles, all up to nearly 50.000lbs of armament under its super-lifter wings.
The other highly important feature of this plane is its survivability: the A-10 was designed to make the pilot survive at all cost, that is the reason why the cockpit is installed inside a thick titanium cube and the plane has several redundant flight control lines, mixing from hydraulic and manual ones. Extracting directly from Wikipedia: “The aircraft is designed to be able to fly with one engine, half of the tail, one elevator, and half of a wing missing”. And so it did several times, for example, in 2003 during the Invasion of Iraq, when the Cpt. Kim Campbell was hit over Baghdad and had to fly it for almost an hour in manual reverse mode until he was finally able to land. As they discovered lately: “The A-10 had sustained damage to one engine and to the redundant hydraulic systems, disabling the flight controls, landing gear and brakes, and horizontal stabilizer. A detailed inspection revealed hundreds of holes in the airframe and that large sections of the stabilizer and hydraulic controls were missing”.
For carrying itself and its loadout, the A10 is propelled by two turbofan engines over the fuselage, with their exhaust pointing upwards, compensating that way the recoil of the cannon fire. The plane is capable of reaching up to 700km/h but, most importantly, it can use an enormous power to recover and climb after almost perpendicular dives.
But no plane can be perfect, at least on its first design. During its first deploys, pilots discovered that the massive amounts of gases produced by the cannon’s barrel would shut down the engines, so that it would be necessary to restart them manually after ceasing fire. A meticulous (and astonishing expensive) investigation was put on wheels to finally conclude that this problem could not be solved and that the most they could do was to configure the engines to automatic and repeatedly restart over and over again while firing the cannon… As we say in Spain, “if it works, don’t touch it”.
As a final fact: before its first fire baptism, pilots and soldiers didn’t like the plane and even hated it, with the Air Force wanting to replace it by the F-16. After its deployment in 1991, no soldier or pilot would tell you any bad word on it and the idea of replacing it vanished into the Iraqi sand.