Inspired by the Stuka and Sturmovik

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

A-10 Warthog

The infamous A-10 “Warthog” — officially the Thunderbolt II — was inspired by the German Stuka and and the Russian Sturmovik, rather than its American namesake:

  • High maneuverability and acceleration for a fully-loaded close-support aircraft operating at speeds from 150 to 300 knots. That was for “staying within sight of extremely hard-to-see camouflaged targets and for operating under 500-foot to 1,000-foot ceilings,” says Sprey. Neither the Stuka nor Sturmovik could do this, but the A-10 can.
  • Aircraft survivability, including fire-suppression systems and bulletproof, fully redundant controls plus lots of cockpit armor. Not only could this protection save a pilot’s life, but it also boosts a pilot’s morale as he flies into heavy ground fire, Sprey notes.
  • High sortie rates from austere and unpaved airfields. “The ability of the Stuka and Sturmovik, operating out of dirt fields up near the troops, to fly five sorties or more per day under combat crisis conditions proved to be an enormous force multiplier,” Sprey says.
  • Multiple radios that enable pilots to communicate with ground troops. Sturmovik units were hampered by having radios only in the flight leaders’ planes. And those radios couldn’t talk to Red Army ground troops. But it wasn’t just the Soviets who couldn’t communicate. Before the A-10, no U.S. fighter had all the necessary radios, according to Sprey.
  • A cannon large enough to kill tanks and with enough ammunition for 12 firing passes, plus sufficient fuel for two to three hours supporting ground troops. The Ju-87G’s 37-millimeter guns were the best airborne tank-killing cannons of World War II, Sprey says, but they only had enough ammunition for six passes.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    I believe the immediate forerunner was the A-1 Skyraider, which served from the 1940s to the 1980s.

    The USAF believes that the F-35 with smart munitions can replace the A-10. That remains to be seen. The F-35 will have less range and loitering capability and carry fewer munitions.

    If the USAF does retire the A-10, it should be transferred to the Marines, who could make good use of it.

  2. Bruce says:

    Wish they’d just bring back the A-1 with drone piloting. Cheaper, good enough.

  3. Heaviside says:

    The effectiveness of tank-busting aircraft in WWII is greatly exaggerated, and dive bombing was much more effective against tanks with even the unguided rockets of the day than it was with actual bombs.

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