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Feeding the Avenger: Reloading the A-10’s monster Cannon

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has one of the largest cannons on any aircraft in the world. Understandably, reloading this Goliath can be it’s own monster of a task.

Dive in as we take a detailed perspective of what it looks like to reload the cannon on this legendary aircraft – the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger.

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Refueling a Warthog at Night

How difficult is Aerial Refueling?

One of the most challenging exercises military pilots must perform is refueling their aircraft from a tanker jet midair. It takes years of training to become proficient at this task, and it requires intense sustained focus every time to perform successfully.

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A-10 Strafing Run Cockpit POV: Killer View

A-10 Thunderbolt II Cockpit Footage of a 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, dropping live bombs and conducting flying operations June 8, 2019 for Green Flag-West at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

A-10 Strafing Run Video

The sheer power shown in the above video is incredible. The 30 mm rounds fired by the A-10 are devastating to any targets that are hit, which are usually numerous considering the aircraft’s accuracy. Re-watching the video a few times gives you an even better impression of the effects of the weapon on the aircraft, and the pilot’s deadly precision despite it.

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How Deadly is America’s A-10?

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been a formidable asset in the US Air Force’s arsenal for decades. Its origins can be tied all the way back to the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, when the Military began looking for more intense Close Air Support (CAS) options. The original requirements for the plane from the Air Force included “extreme survivability.” The result is this massive tank of an airplane below, the A-10.

An A10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing executes an austere landing on the Freedom Landing Strip, June 5, 2019, at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. The IDANG is participating in Green Flag-West with flying operations at the NTC in support of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered at Boise, Idaho.

The GUN

The A-10’s most notorious feature is also its most deadly – the massive 30 mm canon mounted directly under the pilot. The effects of this canon are pure devastation. Each round is crafted from depleted uranium, which means they are incredibly dense and strong. Traveling twice as fast as most projectiles fired from aircraft, that combination of speed and density takes the impact of these shots to whole new levels.

The A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger Auto-Canon displayed next to a VW car for scale.

The canon on the A-10 can fire up to 3,900 rounds per minute. Yes, that’s about 65 rounds every single second. 65 rounds of depleted uranium, delivered timely and accurately, every single second. Unsurprisingly that spells some pretty bad news for any tanks or other armored units in the area. For this reason, and many more, the A-10 is one of the most deadly aircraft for enemy ground troops in the US Air Force.

Why is the A-10 so formidable?

So much of the A-10’s advantage comes from the “extreme survivability” aspect the Air Force requested. Specifically the A-10 is designed to take direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles, and keep on flying! The pilot is protected by the “Bathtub,” a 1200-lb titanium shield capable of withstanding a hit from projectiles up to 23 mm in size. The cockpit windows are also bullet-proof, protecting the pilot against small arms fire from the ground.

The pilot is protected by the “Bathtub,” a 1200-lb titanium shield

The A-10’s unusual design also lends to the overall survivability of the aircraft. The plane features two large turbofan engines mounted up and behind the center of the jet. Having the engines positioned where they are allows the A-10 to operate on unimproved airports, meaning this awesome combat aircraft can literally lift off from a dirt road.

A-10 Thunderbolt II In Action

The end result of all of the above, extreme survivability, an incredible weapons system, and unique overall design, combined to create a one-of-a-kind Close Air Support asset for the US Military. Fortunately we’re the only military in the world that gets to enjoy air support from such a cunning and deadly platform.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., fires its 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling cannon during close air support training mission Sept. 23, 2011, over the Nevada Test and Training Range. U.S. Air Force Weapons School students participate in many combat training missions over the NTTR during the six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The A-10 will hopefully remain flying for the US Military for decades to come. Despite several efforts to ditch the airframe in favor of less costly and less capable options, so far the Thunderbolt II has come up on top. Its Close Air Support skills and capabilities are just too fantastic to pass up.

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Warthog Sunrise

An A-10C “Warthog” pilot from the 163rd Fighter Squadron, and Aircraft Maintenance Crew Chiefs from the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne, Ind., prepare for takeoff during Operation Guardian Blitz, Jan 23, 2018, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Operation Guardian Blitz provided training opportunities to practice our core skills of Close Air Support, Forward Air Control and Combat Search and Rescue in a joint environment. The Blacksnakes of the 122nd Fighter Wing and our 163rd Fighter Squadron constantly train to ensure our members are always prepared to defend the nation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper/Released)

An A-10C “Warthog” pilot from the 163rd Fighter Squadron, and Aircraft Maintenance Crew Chiefs from the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne, Ind., prepare for takeoff during Operation Guardian Blitz, Jan 23, 2018, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Operation Guardian Blitz provided training opportunities to practice our core skills of Close Air Support, Forward Air Control and Combat Search and Rescue in a joint environment. The Blacksnakes of the 122nd Fighter Wing and our 163rd Fighter Squadron constantly train to ensure our members are always prepared to defend the nation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper/Released)

An A-10C “Warthog” pilot from the 163rd Fighter Squadron, and Aircraft Maintenance Crew Chiefs from the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne, Ind., prepare for takeoff during Operation Guardian Blitz, Jan 23, 2018, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Operation Guardian Blitz provided training opportunities to practice our core skills of Close Air Support, Forward Air Control and Combat Search and Rescue in a joint environment. The Blacksnakes of the 122nd Fighter Wing and our 163rd Fighter Squadron constantly train to ensure our members are always prepared to defend the nation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper/Released)

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Boom Operator’s Office

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Moe Shivers, a boom operator assigned to the 914th Operations Support Squadron, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The A-10s, assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., conducted Operation Guardian Blitz, which includes training in close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Moe Shivers, a boom operator assigned to the 914th Operations Support Squadron, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The A-10s, assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., conducted Operation Guardian Blitz, which includes training in close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Moe Shivers, a boom operator assigned to the 914th Operations Support Squadron, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The A-10s, assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., conducted Operation Guardian Blitz, which includes training in close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

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Warthog’s Natural Habitat

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Oct. 6, 2017. The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and visibility conditions. The wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Oct. 6, 2017. The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and visibility conditions. The wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Oct. 6, 2017. The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and visibility conditions. The wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

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Tactical Air Control Party

Members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, from Oklahoma City, and Estonian tactical air control party specialists acknowledge a 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., during a show of force after completing close air support training at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. The Estonian TACPs traveled to the U.S. to work alongside members of the 146 ASOS to complete upgrade training and enhance multi-national relationships. This was the first time the 146 ASOS hosted the Estonian TACPs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)

Members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, from Oklahoma City, and Estonian tactical air control party specialists acknowledge a 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., during a show of force after completing close air support training at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. The Estonian TACPs traveled to the U.S. to work alongside members of the 146 ASOS to complete upgrade training and enhance multi-national relationships. This was the first time the 146 ASOS hosted the Estonian TACPs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)

Members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, from Oklahoma City, and Estonian tactical air control party specialists acknowledge a 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., during a show of force after completing close air support training at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. The Estonian TACPs traveled to the U.S. to work alongside members of the 146 ASOS to complete upgrade training and enhance multi-national relationships. This was the first time the 146 ASOS hosted the Estonian TACPs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)

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A-10 Close Air Support

A 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., completes close air support training with members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron and Estonian tactical air control party specialists at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. Members of the 146 ASOS, in Oklahoma City, organized the training between the 442 FW and Estonia TACP. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)

A 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., completes close air support training with members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron and Estonian tactical air control party specialists at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. Members of the 146 ASOS, in Oklahoma City, organized the training between the 442 FW and Estonia TACP. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)

A 442nd Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., completes close air support training with members of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron and Estonian tactical air control party specialists at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range in Salina, Kan., Dec. 13, 2017. Members of the 146 ASOS, in Oklahoma City, organized the training between the 442 FW and Estonia TACP. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodward)