The US Air Force (USAF) has stalled plans to retire A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft in the wake of the emerging threat from Russian aggression and ISIS.
USAF vice chief of staff General David Goldfein was quoted by Defense News as saying: "When we made the decision on retiring the A-10, we made those decisions prior to ISIS, we were not in Iraq, we were coming out of Afghanistan to a large extent, we didn’t have a resurgent Russia."
The A-10 Thunderbolt was originally scheduled to be replaced by new F-35 jets.
However, being the USAF’s primary low-altitude close air support aircraft, A-10 is now expected to extend its contribution in the fight against ISIS.
The A-10s have been deployed in US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
The aircraft features better manoeuvrability at low-air speeds and altitude. It is capable of loitering near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low-ceiling and visibility conditions.
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Equipped with a 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-gun cannon, the aircraft will be able to fire 3,900 rounds a minute and can defeat an array of ground targets, including tanks.
Last year, the USAF had deployed 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to Europe in order to support Nato’s Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Image: The A-10s have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Blake R. Borsic.