Is the A-10 “Warthog” easier to fly than other fighter jets?
Let’s hear the answer from an actual A-10 “Warthog” Thunderbolt ii pilot named Lynn Taylor…
Lynn Taylor – A-10 Pilot, Joint Firepower Course Instructor, Air Liaison Officer
The following is his answer:
“Ooh, ooh, I know this one!
Very simply: the A-10 is pretty easy to fly. In some ways it’s easier to fly that other fighters, but in some ways it is more difficult. However, it’s performing the close air support mission that’s really challenging.”
“That said, every aircraft I’ve piloted had its own quirks that you had to respect or ‘something bad’ could happen.
For comparison, I’ve had a least a little stick time in the following military jet aircraft…”
-F-16 Fighting Falcon
Commonly called the “Viper” in fighter circles. I was a back seat passenger, but was able to fly it enough to get a feel for the jet.
(F-16s are also used by USAF “Thunderbirds”)
-BAE Systems Hawk
As part of an instructor exchange with our sister school in England. We did several low-level training runs for the JTACs, then popped over to the Lake District to play for a bit.
(Hawks also used by RAF “Red Arrows”)
-Canadair CT-114 Tutor
Scored a spare seat in the press familiarization flight with the Canadian “Snowbirds”. That gave me a whole new perspective on “close” formation flying.
-Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
A training flight to watch the initial B-52 Weapons School cadre execute a close air support training mission. I got to drive the bus for about 10 minutes.
Pilot training, phase 2.
-Cessna T-37 Tweet
Pilot training, phase 1.
T-38 Talon with F-22 Raptor
-Trickiest fighter to fly is the Talon…
“Out of all of those jets, the trickiest one to fly was the T-38. The venerable Talon was designed as a Century Series trainer. It is nimble and responsive, with the fastest roll rate of any jet I know at 720 degrees per second. Yes… if you throw the stick all the way to one side, you will go from right-side-up to upside-down to right-side-up to upside-down to right-side-up again…in one second.”
(T-38 Talon continued)
“I once just rolled (a T-38) and rolled it and rolled it until the nose dropped low enough that I had to recover. I lost count of how many spins that was, and had to drive straight and level for a while until the gyros in my noggin settled down again. Once was enough of that for me.”
“The T-38 has some… unique… stall characteristics, and you have to be careful when going into and out of afterburner. You do that one engine at a time, just in case an engine decides to flame out in the transition.
Compared to the T-38, the A-10 is a very stable and forgiving platform, as long as you respect its quirks.”
(ABOVE) Royal Air Force “Hawk”
USAF F-16 “Viper” (BELOW)
“The Hawk (above) probably has more in common with the T-38 than the F-16 (below), but it was also much more forgiving than the Talon, so I’ll include it with the Viper for comparison with the A-10.”
“Power is the word that comes to mind when noting the biggest difference between these two jets and the (A-10) Hawg.”
“Need more airspeed? Shove the throttle forward and you have it, pretty much on demand. That makes high-energy maneuvers a dream.”
“You still need to keep an eye on your airspeed, and fuel is a limited resource, but you don’t have to wonder if the engine will give you what you need when you need it.”
“One consideration that was a factor in these faster “fast movers” is turning radius…”
“…In the A-10 (Warthog),
we can nestle down in some pretty small valleys, and can bump up close against the edge of our airspace borders before having to haul back on the stick to turn around.”
“Neither one of them were particularly difficult to fly.
They are very responsive to control inputs, with lots of power to do what you ask.
Of course, even these jets have limits, but I wasn’t there to test them.”
(Hawks above / Vipers below)
Now for the A-10 Thunderbolt ii.
“The A-10 is very maneuverable. Even with those big Hershey bar wings, it has a very good roll rate (which you can actually increase a bit more by opening the speed brakes just a little).”
“It can turn on a dime and give you change, it just can’t keep that turn rate up for long without bleeding off all of its energy. You can usually expect to get a good 180 degrees of hard turn without losing too much, which is usually about as far as you need to turn in a hurry, anyway. More than that and you need to lighten up on the stick a little to conserve energy.”
“All the jets are a little bent out of shape after so many years of high-g maneuvering, so you need to keep an eye on your trim to keep the jet from wandering, but it generally stays pointed where you want it to.”
“A-10 drivers get fairly good at flying straight and level, or in gentle turns, using their knees to move the stick while their hands are busy holding maps, writing on the canopy, etc.”
“As a weapons platform, the A-10 is very stable. It also has a cool feature when firing the GAU-8 Avenger cannon. After lining up on a target, you pull the trigger back halfway and a flight control dampener engages, so you can make larger stick movements with less flight control responsiveness. That makes it easier to fine-tune the shot and line it up just right.”
“Then, when you squeeze the trigger the rest of the way and the nose wants to dip from the force of the cannon firing 66 rounds per second, the system adjusts to keep the nose where it was pointed when you pulled the trigger.
(Side note: that system can be disengaged when you don’t want that feature, such as when dogfighting, or strafing an area instead of shooting a point target.)”
“The toughest part of flying the A-10 is energy management. With amazing maneuverability, but only half an engine on each side, it’s easy to demand more from the jet than it can sustain, and you can quickly find yourself with little airspeed and few options. With experience, though, that problem is easy to manage. You learn how much you can demand from your jet, and what it will take to recover whatever you spend in maneuvers. You learn where the edges of the flight envelope are, and can bring your jet right up to the edge of max performance without pushing it over.”
“Like every other jet, once you learn its secrets, you can do amazing things with it.”
“As I mentioned at the beginning, the REAL challenge comes when it’s time to learn how to use the jet as a weapon. Close air support is one of the most demanding mission types (I would place it behind combat search and rescue and airborne forward air control, which the A-10 also does). There are a lot of moving parts, a host of changing factors to consider, and the stakes for screwing it up are extremely high.”
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