What Makes the A-10 Go BRRRT!

A-10 Thunderbolt II
An A-10 Thunderbolt II sits on the ramp at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The A-10 is used for close air support throughout Afghanistan.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn/Released)


Cheers from ground troops usually follow the A-10s signature “BRRRT” sound. It’s reasonable to assume that the U.S. maintains this old aircraft in service to boost the morale of American soldiers. Whatever the case, the gun is totally awesome. Whoever built an aircraft around it was a genius and remains a firm favourite within the aircraft community.

A-10 Thunderbolt II 'Warthog' brrrt USAF
A-10 Thunderbolt II ‘Warthog’ (brrrt)

Make room for the gun!

The nose landing gear is offset to the right of the aircraft as is the rest of the A-10. This means the firing barrel aligns with the middle of the airframe. This is done to “create room” for the gun. The gun is mounted laterally off-center, slightly to the port side of the fuselage centerline. So the actively “firing” barrel is in the nine o’clock position so that the barrel lies directly on the aircraft’s centerline. This is done to prevent the gun’s recoil forces from pushing the entire plane off target during strafes.

A-10 Thunderbolt II brrrt usaf
An A-10 Thunderbolt II sits on the ramp at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The A-10 is used for close air support throughout Afghanistan.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn/Released)

Barrel position

Additionally, the firing barrel is positioned directly below the plane’s center of gravity and bore-sighted along a line 2 degrees below its flight line. When fired, this configuration precisely focuses the recoil forces on preventing changes in aircraft pitch or yaw. To induce a spin on each round, each of its seven barrels includes an interior rifling groove that runs the whole length of the barrel.

The gun is very heavy

The drum that contains 1,150 30-mm rounds of ammunition weighs roughly 4,000 pounds. Thus, the center of gravity of the aircraft must be taken into account while calculating the weight of the ammunition and its shells. In order to balance the aircraft with an empty gun, you would actually need to put ballast in the nose!

Size comparison of GE GAU-8 Gatling gun, used in A-10 Thunderbolt II, and Volkswagen Type 1


The armor-piercing, incendiary, or uranium-depleted rounds fired have a range of almost 6,500 meters. This means they can be used to cripple a main battle tank. The magazine contains 1,350 rounds, and the pilot can choose to fire at a rate of 4,200 rounds per minute or 2,100 rounds per minute to fire more cautiously. Additionally, it has a great sound, the brrrt that we all know and love! Did you also know that when the cannon is taken out for maintenance, the A-10’s tail needs to be stabilized to keep the nose from tipping up.

A-10 Thunderbolt II
A-10 Thunderbolt II ammo

The next generation may not hear the BRRRT

The Senate Armed Services Committee of the US Congress has proposed a new statute outlining the plans for the A-10’s retirement and eventual replacement. The Defense Authorization Act for 2021 mandates that the Air Force operates a specific minimum quantity of aircraft from each major task group.

The service meets the National Defense Strategy criteria by prohibiting the replacement or retirement of aircraft until the required minimum number of operational aircraft has been reached, according to the Act.

A-10 Thunderbolt II
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, conducts a strafing run over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Makenna Gott)

A-10 Warthog air support aircraft (44), KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-Extender refuelers (30), RQ-4 Global Hawk drones (24), and C-130H Hercules transport planes are among the 100 aircraft that will be retired as a result of the new legislation (24). In addition, the statute forbids the Air Force from getting rid of any crewed aircraft that the Special Operations Command uses for ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance).

A-10 Thunderbolt II USAF
Tech. Sgt. Jay Weir, 127th Wing, prepares to load 30mm bullets on to an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dan Heaton)

Col. Martha McSally, a Republican senator from Arizona and a former Air Force pilot who has flown A-10 Warthogs, asserts that retiring these aircraft without a suitable replacement is not an option. The Air Force disagrees with her. They claim that just six of the nine A-10 command squadrons can be kept operational until 2032. They require modernizing hundreds of aircraft by giving them wings.