Warthog hyperbole – what was I smoking?

“Lizard-skinned Warthogs flit through German valleys en route to a rendezvous with tree-hugging Cobras.” Okay, that was definitely one of my more lurid feature intros. It was written in 1979, shortly after the Fairchild A-10, aka the Warthog, arrived in Europe. And in those days they carried the European 1, aka Lizard, colour scheme. But I’m not sure now where the Cobras came in…

I wrote the feature after visiting the A-10s’ forward operating base at Sembach, Germany. The trip involved a couple of days being driven around in a NATO car listening to news and music on the radio, in the course of which I discovered there is no German for “Kentucky Bluegrass” or, it would seem, “100 call girls”. I wish I had understood the rest of what they were saying.

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The new Warthog pilots, most of them from F-4s, loved the seat-of-the-pants flying and the absence of someone in the back seat. The A-10 was designed for anti-tank warfare in Europe, but has repeatedly proved its continuing relevance in post-Cold War conflicts. Now the USAF is to rewing them to keep them flying for another 20 years.

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Also in 1979, I visited Fairchild in Farmingdale on Long Island to find out about the Night/Adverse Weather A-10. This seemed a little counter-intuitive – take the simple A-10 and make it complicated and expensive – and as an effort to prolong the Warthog’s production run it was ultimately unsuccessful. But the two-seater did have its own unique look.

Later, in 1985, I went back to Fairchild to be briefed on the T-46 primary trainer, a sort of miniature A-10 chosen by the US Air Force to replace its T-37s. But Fairchild by then was a company in decline and the T-46 proved to be a poorly executed failure and was cancelled. Fairchild closed its doors not long after. But the A-10 lives on.

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Mike Badrocke’s A-10 cutaway (Flight archives)

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