The last strike: A-10 Thunderbolt II preserved in Shaw's Air Park
By Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 25, 2014
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Talks of phasing out the legendary A-10 Thunderbolt II began swirling around Washington, D.C., Feb. 24 after outlined budget cuts where proposed by the Department of Defense.
Congress has ordered nearly $500 billion in defense spending cuts over the next decade.
To meet this order, a significant draw down of U.S. Army active-duty forces along with the elimination of the A-10 are a few of the options proposed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and top military leaders as they work to cut costs in the defense budget.
Currently, the A-10 Thunderbolt II or "Warthog" as it's also known as, is stationed at approximately 17 DOD locations around the globe.
The gritty war plane has been a part of the Air Force arsenal since the mid-1970s and has an extensive history.
Some of that history has taken place right here at Shaw AFB.
The blunt nose plane with its infamous blue and yellow thunderbolts painted on both tails is one of the first things that can be seen when entering Shaw's main gate.
Just a slight glance to the left and it can't be missed; the aircraft is proudly displayed in Shaw's Air Park alongside other air frames that were once assigned to units stationed at Shaw.
"The A-10 is an awesome plane," said Senior Airman Jovany Trinajstic, 20th Security Forces Squadron installation entry controller. "It's cool to have a unique piece of Air Force history here at Shaw."
The first A-10's arrived at Shaw AFB around October 1991. The jets were first assigned to the 21st Fighter Squadron wich was part of the 507th Tactical Air Control Wing before finally landing at home with the 55th Fighter Squadron Jan. 1, 1994.
According to The Shaw Spirit, the base paper at the time, The 55th Fighter Squadron activated with the A-10 as its assigned aircraft. On that same day the 77th, 78th and 79th Fighter Squadrons (flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon) also activated and were assigned to the 20th Operations Group, which also activated that day. The 20th OG, on activation, was assigned to the 20th FW which moved (without equipment or personnel) from Royal Air Force Upper Heyford, England to Shaw that same day.
The primary function of the A-10 is to provide close air support of ground forces. It's powered by two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans. Each engine has a thrust of 9,065 pounds. The jet's wing span is 57 feet 6 inches and it can travel at speeds as fast as 420 miles per hour. It can operate with up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch rockets; illumination flares and an array of munitions.
The 55th FS had about 26 A-10's assigned. Pilots in the unit flew the warthog during two deployments in support of Operation Southern Watch. The first deployment was conducted from April to July, 1995 and the second was from March to June 1996.
"On July 3, 1996, the last of the 55th FS personnel transferred out of the squadron leaving it as a shell. The squadron did not inactivate, but it was stood down and existed without equipment or personnel," said Arthur Sevigny, 20th Fighter Wing historian. "The last of the A-10s departed Shaw Sep. 12, 1996, and were transferred to Pope Field, N.C."
The 55th FS was later stood back up and assigned the F-16 Fighting Falcon as its airframe and currently remains as such.
On Nov. 25, 2008 the A-10 Thunderbolt II was put on display in Shaw's Air Park.
"An A-10 with serial number 75-0309 was moved to the Shaw Air Park for display," added the 20th FW historian. "The aircraft is painted to represent an A-10 with serial number 81-0964 assigned to the 55 FS from 1994 - 1996. The represented aircraft was credited with downing an Iraqi Mi-8 Hip helicopter on Feb. 15, 1991 while assigned to the 511th TFS."
Though talks of cutting the A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Air Force arsenal remain in the air, the warthog will always have a home at Shaw AFB.