Military Aviation

“Low thrust, Not enough thrust, Engines that don’t generate enough thrust.” Former A-10 pilot explains why the engines are the biggest weakness of the Warthog.

‘We joke that the A-10 is really a single-engine aircraft, with half an engine on each side,’ 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.

But what are the biggest weakness of the venerable A-10?

Lynn Taylor, former A-10 pilot, explains on Quora;

‘Affectionately known as the Warthog

‘The top three weaknesses of the A-10 are:

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-10C Thunderbolt II 355th FW, 354th FS Bulldogs, FS/82-684. Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ – 2015

1. Low thrust.

2. Not enough thrust.

3. Engines that don’t generate enough thrust.

‘We joke that the A-10 is really a single-engine aircraft, with half an engine on each side. (Also… do you know what an A-10 simulator is? You go out back, climb in a dumpster, and they throw rocks at you.)

‘In the summer heat of the Sandbox, you have two options:

1. Take off with less than a full weapons load, or

2. Take off with less than full fuel.

‘The engines just don’t push out enough thrust in the summer heat to do both. Since you can get more gas once you’re airborne, but not more weapons, a common solution is to take off with a lighter fuel load, then hit a tanker to top off your tanks on the way out to drop said weapons.

Engines

The A-10’s engines are the General Electric TF34, a first generation turbofan. ‘It really is a great engine, though, and the perfect kind of engine for the Hawg. IIRC, something like 80% of the thrust comes from bypass air instead of what goes through the engine core. It’s (relatively) quiet, runs cool, is easy to maintain, and very durable. However, being an old first generation motor, the newer ones are much better.’

Taylor concludes;

‘An upgrade wouldn’t even require a new engine design. Back when I was flying Hawgs, we would pine for the same engine used on Canadian biz jets. The General Electric CF34 (a direct descendant of the TF34) has about twice the thrust of the venerable TF34, with only about a 20% increase in fuel flow. The engine mounts would need to be beefed up a bit, but the increased power would more than make up for that.’

Photo credit: Master Sgt. Dale Atkins, U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Some 20+ years ago I was the Air National Guard project officer looking into a replacement for the A-10 engines. As I recall, the CF_34

  • We also used the GE TF34 in the S-3 Viking. For Carrier-Based ASW, SSSC, Stand-Off Anti-Ship missions, the TF34 was more than enough for us. You could set it for 500 pounds per hour per side and get an easy 2000+ NM run to Diego Garcia. Or loiter for 4-6+ hours working to track a Soviet submarine 400 NM from the Battle Group. We rarely had the immediate power demands desired by Warthog pilots, but I can imagine what they were dreaming of in the CF34. Since no other platform can really do what the Warthog does, let's hope they get them!

  • The first generation Bell 206 Long Ranger helicopter had the same engine as the 206 Jet Ranger. Unfortunately on hot days it would temp ou well before max torque making it impossible to take off at high gross weights. The solution was simple, add a 3 gallon tank with a water alcohol mixture. During takeoff (in my case from 34th St heliport NYC over the East River) this mixture was injected directly into the engine to cool things down. Worked like a charm.

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