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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 09:59 GMT
Fact file: Thunderbolt
A-10 graphic

The US Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt is a relatively slow but highly manoeuvrable and heavily armoured plane, built for attacking ground targets in support of troops.

Its OA-10 version is designed for forward air control - directing other aircraft onto ground targets.

The Thunderbolt - also known as the "Tankbuster" or "Warthog" - has a distinctive shape, with unswept wings and two turbofan jet engines mounted high on the rear fuselage, ahead of twin rear tail fins.

Pilots of "pointy-nosed" fast jets tend to look down on the slow, snub-nosed A-10 - one joke being that its airspeed indicator is a calendar.

But it can take off and land using short runways and is able to loiter over a battlefield, hunting for targets, in a way that fast jets cannot.

Once it finds them, it has a seven-barrel, 30mm Gatling gun under its nose that can fire 65 rounds per second - of controversial depleted uranium shells.

Slung beneath the fuselage and wings it can also carry up to 16,000lbs (7,200 kg) of other weapons, including high explosive and cluster bombs, laser-guided bombs and Maverick missiles, rockets and air-to-air missiles.

To protect it from anti-aircraft fire the A-10 has a lot of armour - much of it titanium - and "survivability" features such as self-sealing fuel cells and manual backup for the hydraulic controls.

Introduced in 1975, upgrades have involved better weapons targeting and night-time capability.

A/OA-10 Thunderbolt
Crew: One
Main weapons: 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun, general-purpose bombs, cluster bombs, Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs, 2.75in (7cm) rockets, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
Max speed: 420mph (676km/h)
Length: 16.2m (53ft 4in)
Wingspan: 17.4m (57ft 6in)
Weight Max take-off 22,950kg (51,000lb)
Source: US Air Force






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