Ten Maryland Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft are currently deployed to the eastern part of the European continent as part of an annual exercise. This deployment comes on the heels of tests to confirm that the A-10 remains an effective aircraft against vehicles equipped with explosive reactive armor tiles.
Deployment to Europe
On May 5, 2022, an A-10C attack aircraft landed in Iceland, marking the return of the well-known A-10 to Europe. Between May 2 and 20, the 10 aircraft will participate in the annual Swift Response exercise. The exercise takes place in the Arctic, Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe. It involves 9,000 military personnel from 17 different states, including 2,700 U.S. military personnel. This exercise was notably visible on May 10 when six C-17 strategic transport aircraft took off from Norway toward Central Europe.
- On May 6, four A-10s headed toward Norway.
- On May 7, six A-10s flew toward Northern Macedonia.
The aircraft then separated:
They will not stay within these two countries as they will be expected in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. By the way, in previous stints in Estonia, training very often included landings and takeoffs from unprepared runways or from roads/highways.
Still an effective tank fighter
This deployment comes on the heels of a series of tests conducted on tanks equipped with additional armor. In all, it was two A-10Cs that made various offensive runs, under various conditions, on tanks equipped with explosive reactive armor. This type of armor is present in the form of tiles on vehicles and tanks. These tiles explode on impact with a missile or shell to reduce, or even stop, its piercing effect.
This is the first time a test of this kind has taken place: the idea originated within the USAF to see if the various types of reactive armor currently in service do not diminish the various air-to-ground destruction capabilities of its aircraft. For the moment, only the A-10 was concerned by these tests. It would seem that its 30 mm gun is still formidable for armoured vehicles, despite the use of explosive reactive armour. The tests also confirmed that the AGM-65L air-to-surface anti-tank missile and the AGR-20E rocket also remain effective.
Despite these tests and various still recent upgrades (more details in this article), the USAF would like to part with 21 A-10s in its FY2023 (FY23) budget proposal (articles on FY23 aircraft) to make way for the F-35. However, the F-35 still has many problems, and its close-air-support accuracy is in no way equivalent to the accuracy of the A-10: as a result of its underpowered engine, the F-35 cannot fly at low speeds and is therefore unable to accurately support troops on the ground.
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