A group of A-10C Thunderbolt II attack planes had been deployed to Guam for training amid tensions between the United States and its regional rivals, specifically, China and North Korea, said the Air Force back in October.
The A-10s are commonly known among their admirers as “Warthogs.” These particular ones belong to the 23rd Air Expeditionary Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The jets arrived at the US overseas island on October 23rd. Described by the service as part of a “routine dynamic force employment operation”, the practice of rotating units through overseas installations for training opportunities and to deter potential attacks in the region is common practice.
“The United States is committed to being ready to execute missions quickly in unpredictable ways,” the Air Force commented, adding that the service can “rapidly respond” to any perceived threat from abroad or in theatre.
A-10s have been a combat staple for attacking enemy armoured vehicles, tanks, and ground positions in West Asia for decades. After the US’s improvised withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the Warthog crews have essentially been freed up to focus instead on honing their tactics in the Department of Defense’s other two top-priority regions: Europe and the Pacific. Its role as a bulwark for counterterrorism has also been put under reconsideration.
Show of Force
Flown by the 25th Fighter Squadron, the US maintains a regular A-10 force in the Indo-Pacific at South Korea’s Osan Air Base. The A-10s situated in this base fly routine maritime security patrols and help with search-and-rescue efforts in addition to their more conventional airstrike roles.
This morale-boosting jet, or morale-plummeting depending on who it’s firing at, can also send a message that the US intends to protect its partner nations and keep international airspace and waterways unrestricted to all.
Guam over South Korea
However, almost 2,000 miles south of Osan, almost as far apart as Colorado and Maine, the island of Guam offers a more remote and realistic proving ground than any base in South Korea. The 25th Fighter Squadron periodically visits Andersen to practise wartime skills, but appearances by the US-based A-10 units are rare.
The 23rd Mission Support Group was designated as one of several new “lead wings.” The Group trains, equips, and deploys personnel support forces to build, protect, and sustain air bases worldwide for combat air operations. The wing was on track to be certified as the Air Force’s first such organisation over the summer.
The Air Force indicated the A-10 unit will lead in “Operation Iron Thunder,” a Pacific Air Forces exercise that will assemble disparate aircraft and teach them to work together while separated by distance and jammed communications.
The operation will likely include other assets such as the B-1B Lancer bombers that arrived in Guam on October 18 and international partners like the Royal Australian Air Force. Air National Guard A-10s made a similarly atypical trip to Europe in May to participate in two US military exercises, held against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“This is an A-10, but the procedures for calling in fires from an F-35, or an F-22, or a bomber or something else, will have quite a bit of overlap,” said Daniel Norton, a military systems analyst with the federally funded think tank Rand Corporation. “The training is valuable,” he then added.