While Ben Franklin theorized using airships to deliver troops to battle behind enemy lines as early as 1783 and the Union Army fielded a balloon service in the Civil War, today’s Air Force traces its origin to the heavier-than-air machines of the U.S. Army’s Aeronautical Division, founded in 1907– just four years after the Wright brothers first flew. After service in Army green during both World Wars, the Air Force became an independent branch of the military in 1947 with the first Secretary of the Air Force named on Sept. 18 and its first Chief of Staff named on Sept. 26.
May 10, 1972: Nixon was in office, Roberta Flack’s “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was on the top of the charts– which is a beautiful coincidence considering the love the public has for the A-10– and a gallon of milk cost 52 cents.
That was the day Fairchild-Republic test pilot Howard W. “Sam” Nelson made the first flight of the YA-10 prototype Thunderbolt II, 71-1369, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Fairchild Republic YA-10A (S/N 71-1369, the first prototype). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Drive has a really great article about a young Fairchild Republic A-10 driver in the “Flying Tigers” of the 74th Fighter Squadron, Lt. Kayla Bowers, call-sign Banzai.
And she wanted to fly A-10s, the newest of which is now 32-years-old, from the get go.
“I started researching the different aircraft,” says Banzai, “and when I learned about what an incredible platform the A-10 is, and looked at its combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission—it intrigued me. I also heard stories about it from high school friends who had enlisted in the Marine Corps and the Army. They had already deployed and told me stories of the A-10 saving their lives. It just really spoke to me that I could potentially do something like that, and make such a difference in somebody’s life. It’s not glamorous. Really, it’s just a very rugged aircraft that has a lot of capabilities. It’s just really incredible.”
Currently deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, they have been flying missions with Bulgarian Air Force’s Su-25 Frogfoots, the A-10s Soviet-designed counterpart, and Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters, which is something the original A-10 designers probably never dreamed of in their wildest fantasy.
David Axe at War is Boring found this great 18-minute official U.S. Air Force documentary about the A-10 Warthog . Never formally released to the public (possibly because the USAF has long tried to kill the aircraft).
Even as five SF soldiers were killed in a suspected blue-on-blue incident involving close air support by the supersonic B-1B bomber this week , the House Appropriations Committee, headed by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, voted 23–13 against an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would have preserved funding for the 283 USAF Cold War-era A-10 Warthog aircraft in fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1.
“Respectfully, let me stipulate at the onset that the A-10 Thunderbolt is a tremendous aircraft,” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, who chairs the panel’s defense subcommittee, said before the vote. “It is, though, 30 to 40 years old … [and] close-air support is not the only mission the Air Force must be able to perform.”
In defending the decision to retire the A-10, Frelinghuysen said the F-16 fighter jet and the B-1 bomber can do what the A-10 does.