Magazine | March 19, 2012, Issue


The Tank Buster

Bravo to Daniel Foster for his paean to the A-10 Warthog (“Justice for Warthogs,” March 5). In World War II, I was an enlisted combat aircrewman in Marine Corps aviation. Post-war, after college and ROTC, I took an Air Force commission and went to pilot training. Whenever I discussed our dearth of ground-support aviation, I’d be laughed at and told that our mission was big-time nukes.

Then Korea came, and the Air Force was scrambling for ground support. F-51 Mustangs, unsuited to the task, did a lot of the job and suffered considerable losses. The twin-engined B-26 (earlier the A-26) Invader helped, but was even less suited to troop support. We did a lot better in Vietnam with the A-1 Skyraider (secondhand from the Navy).

Then came the A-10, too late for Vietnam, but what a machine! The Air Force, with a tank-buster and troop support? The Warthog has covered itself with glory, and, frankly, I fully expected its transfer to the Army or Marine aviation. It’s the perfect weapons platform for a mission with which Air Force brass still seem uncomfortable.

Robert J. Powers

Colonel, U.S. Air Force (ret.)

Shreveport, La.


The Warthog’s Weak Spot

In early 1975, I was recently retired and working as a tactical-aviation expert at a think tank in Washington, D.C. We were asked to do a study on the efficacy of the A-10 on a modern battlefield. I was chosen as the team leader.

After months of study, we decided that because of its slow speed, it would be toast on a battlefield surrounded by Soviet-type ground-to-air defenses — the “bathtub” surrounding the pilot would provide insufficient protection. We also concluded that it would be exceptional in a “banana war” environment. Who knew there would be conflicts like Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan?

I was so perplexed by the decision to buy so many A-10s — a few would have been a good idea, just in case — that I interviewed retired four-star general William W. Momyer, who was commander of Tactical Air Command at the time of the buy, and asked him why so many. His response was roughly, “I did it for the soldier boys.”

There’s no doubt of the A-10 exploits that Mr. Foster chronicles, but they were possible only because we have been lucky enough to fight wars where the enemy has had relatively weak ground-to-air missile defenses. That said, mention tanks in a desert as the target, accompanied by relatively weak air defenses, and most fighter pilots, this one included, will immediately salivate.

Bruno A. Giordano

Colonel, U.S. Air Force (ret.)

Via e-mail

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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