How The Legendary A-10 Warthog Got Its Name

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog, is considered by some to be just one big Gatling gun with wings. This fearsome battle-tested aircraft of the United States military became legendary during the Gulf War not only because of its unmistakable appearance but also the sheer unadulterated firepower it brings to the battlefield — and the resultant unmistakable sound it emits while doing so.

During its time in Operation Desert Storm, the A-10 was responsible for destroying over 900 tanks, 1,200 pieces of artillery, thousands of other ground vehicles, and even a few helicopters.

Initially built by Fairchild Republic Company, the Warthog was first put into service in 1976 and has been used by the Air Force as its primary low-altitude close air support aircraft ever since. In 1987, Grumman Corporation purchased all of the A-10 assets from Fairchild.

It's done its job so well that the Air Force still uses it today. In fact, it has managed to avoid being relegated to the air museum a few times, first by the F-16 and then by the F-35 Lightning II. Currently, 281 A-10s are still in operational use.

An aircraft by any other name wouldn't sound the same

One of the most recognizable features of the A-10 is the seven-barrel GAU-8 Avenger 30mm Gatling gun perched in its nosecone, which is capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute. Interestingly, the plane was built around the weapon, not the other way around. In 1970, the Air Force issued a call for a 30mm rapid-fire cannon. One year later, General Electric and Philco Ford created the GAU-8, which makes a very distinct "BRRRT!" sound when its fired, and is the reason soldiers nicknamed it the Warthog. The gun itself is larger than a Volkswagen Bug and takes up 16% of the A-10's total weight of 12 tons.

The Warthog was designed to be a "Tank Buster," capable of conducting attack runs on ground targets and strafing them with either PGU-13/B High Explosive Incendiary rounds or PGU-14/B Armor Piercing Incendiary rounds. Keep in mind, each round fired from the GAU-8 is bigger than a standard beer bottle.

It can carry up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance, including drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, mine-dispensing munitions and missiles like the AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder. If that's not impressive enough, it can even withstand direct hits from 23mm high explosive and armor-piercing ammunition.

Recently it was announced that the Air Force will begin retiring the remaining A-10s still in use, so it could be entirely out of service by 2029. However, considering its past success at dodging retirement ... we wouldn't bet against the Warthog.