The U.S. Air Force has decided delay the retirement of the renowned A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack plane. The Warthog’s increased role in the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was the Pentagon’s main reason for the postponement. First developed in the 1970s, the A-10 was designed to kill Red Army tanks on large European battlefields. Heavily armoured and capable of flying low and slow, the A-10 was built to make devastating low-level attacks against Soviet armoured columns with missiles, bombs, and its GAU-8/A Avenger 30-millimeter gun. With the end of Cold War, USA offered aircrafts to Turkey but Turkish officials denied proposal due to its high maintenance costs. USA remembered the aircrafts at Gulf War and since then country repeatedly plans to retire them and to be replaced by F-35 as Air Force contends that the A-10 can no longer survive on the modern battlefield against modern air defences.
Critics of the retirement plan charge that the fast, unarmoured F-35 isn’t a real replacement for the A-10, and the limitations of the F-35’s gun—which is less powerful than the GAU-8/A and carries a 220 rounds—make it less useful in close air support situations. The F-35 will also only be able to carry 1,000 pound GPS-guided bombs and 500 pound laser-guided bombs. Islamic State has access to various types of anti-air weapons, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, but it doesn’t have a coordinated air defence. At least two squadrons of 12 A-10s each are currently flying against ISIS, from bases in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East.