‘All other things being equal (pilot skill, full weapons load, clear weather, etc.), the A-10 has the clear advantage, and will win for the exact same reasons that it loses against air superiority fighters,’ Lynn Taylor, former A-10 Warthog pilot.
The A-10 is the first US Air Force aircraft designed specifically for close air support of ground forces. It is named for the famous P-47 Thunderbolt, a fighter often used in a close air support role during the latter part of World War II. The A-10 is very maneuverable at low speeds and low altitudes to ensure accurate weapons delivery, and it carries the systems and armor needed to survive in this environment. It is intended for use against all ground targets, but specifically tanks and other armored vehicles. The Thunderbolt II’s great endurance gives it a large combat radius and long loiter time in a battle area. Its short takeoff and landing capability permits operation from airstrips close to the front lines. Maintenance at forward bases with limited facilities is possible because of the A-10’s simple design.
The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter was designed to be an extremely tough survivor under combat. The prototype Apache made its first flight in 1975 as the YAH-64, and in 1976, Hughes received a full-scale development contract. In 1982, the US Army approved the program, now known as AH-64A Apache, for production. Deliveries began from the McDonnell Douglas plant at Mesa, Ariz., in 1984 — the year Hughes Helicopters became part of McDonnell Douglas. Highly maneuverable and heavily armed, the combat-proven Apache helicopter is the backbone of the US Army’s all-weather, ground-support capability.
Who would win a fight between an A-10 Warthog and an AH-64 Apache?
‘All other things being equal (pilot skill, full weapons load, clear weather, etc.), the A-10 has the clear advantage, and will win for the exact same reasons that it loses against air superiority fighters.
‘Yes, the Apache has better maneuverability, and can drag its wheels through the sagebrush to make targeting it difficult. But the A-10 has the advantage in (dare I say) speed, climb rate, and relative performance at altitude. The Apache may dodge around and be tough to hit, but the A-10 has a long reach with a lot of bullets to spare. Plus, it is quite adept at maneuvering at low altitudes in case it needs to get really close to secure a kill. Even in mountain valleys, the Hawg can still get its nose on the Apache and deliver the mail.
‘Realistically, the Hawg will need to use the Gun to bring down the Apache. Those Sidewinders on the wing will probably have trouble locking onto an Apache down low. (This was demonstrated in Desert Storm.) No worries, though. The Gun is more fun, anyway.
‘Conversely, the Apache doesn’t really have much in the way of air-to-air weaponry. Its Hellfires are going to be nigh useless. With Stinger capability, the trick will be getting a good angle on the Hawg’s tailpipes, and getting a shot off when the Hawg isn’t maneuvering hard and dumping out flares… which will be pretty close to never.’
‘The Apache’s 30mm is also not the same as the A-10’s.
‘An A-10 round is 30mm x 173mm. The AH-64 round is 30mm x 113mm.
‘You’re looking at this:
‘If the Apache tries to hold steady enough to get a good shot on the A-10, even with its gun pointed to one side, it’s going to be well within the effective range of the Hawg, and present an even easier target.
‘Assuming that they both managed to hit each other, I expect the A-10 would hold up to battle damage a bit better than the AH-64. The Apache is well armored and sturdy, to be sure, but its Achilles heel is that big fan blade on top. Hit that, and it’s game over. The Hawg, on the other hand, has proven it can take a hit from a MANPAD (which is what the Stinger really is) and keep on truckin’.
‘Yes, a lucky shot from either side could determine the battle in an instant, and it’s not like the Apache is an easy target. Still, I expect that, on average, the Hawg would be the clear winner.’
‘The best the Apache can hope for is a draw by jinking and jiving until the Hawg runs out of bullets, gets bored, and trundles off to root around somewhere else.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Graeme Main/MOD and SOBCHAK SECURITY – EST. 2005