Cold War Era

When the Warthog became Snowhog: the story of the A-10 that received a unique arctic camouflage

The A-10 Warthog

The first production A-10A was delivered to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB), Ariz., in October 1975.

Ground crewmen perform maintenance on the two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft being used during exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

The A-10 Warthog (as the iconic Thunderbolt II is dubbed by her aircrews) CAS aircraft has received many upgrades over the years. In 1978, the aircraft received the Pave Penny laser receiver pod, which sensed reflected laser radiation from a laser designator. Pave Penney has now been discontinued in favor more capable advanced targeting pods. The A-10 began receiving an inertial navigation system in 1980.

Ground crewmen load a Mark 82 bomb aboard an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

Another important piece of early A-10 history came on Dec. 18, 1981.

On that day in fact, two A-10 aircraft arrived at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) from the Fairchild-Republic factory in Hagerstown, Md. As explained By Don Fenton, 354th Fighter Wing Historian in the article Arctic camouflage makes Eielson’s hogs unique, the aircraft tail numbers were 80-221 and 80-222 … the first two A-10s assigned to Eielson. 

Left side view of two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, one with camouflage paint scheme, in flight over frozen terrain during exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

Any guesses to what the difference is between the two hogs featured in the photos of this post?

From A-10 Warthog to A-10 Snowhog 

The only difference between the two ‘hogs’ is color. A snowhog is covered in arctic camouflage and a warthog is all gray or green. OK, both Snowhogs and Warthogs are nicknames for the two A-10s. 

An air-to-air right side view of two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, one with camouflage paint, participating in exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

However, not long after arriving at Eielson, 80-221 was repainted in an arctic camouflage scheme. This was done as an experiment for an upcoming exercise titled Operation Cool Snow Hog.

An air-to-air view of a camouflaged A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, participating in exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

The exercise was held from Mar. 8 to 16, 1982, at a forward operating location in Kotzebue, Alaska.

Cool Snow Hog

Cool Snow Hog represented the Air Force’s first test of forward basing A-10s in Alaska. Overall, the plan called for the Air Force to fly 16 close-air-support sorties in support of the 3rd Scout Battalion of the Alaska Army National Guard. 

Two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the18th Tactical Fighter Squadron operates arrive to participate in exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

Over the following years, the forward operating location concept was tested through various operational readiness exercises and major joint forces exercises such as BRIM FROST, but they were never again referred to as Cool Snow Hog exercises. 

Overhead view of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, with camouflage paint scheme, parked on the apron beside a Beech C-12 aircraft. The Snowhog is being used during exercise Cool Snow Hog ’82-1.

It must be noted that this paint scheme was only an experiment. The Air Force never fully adopted the scheme, thus A-10s never flew operationally long-term in the arctic scheme.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-10A Thunderbolt II 354th TFW, 353rd TFS Black Panthers, MB/78-0660. Myrtle Beach AFB, SC – 1991, Operation Desert Storm

There are a few sources that mention an upwards of three additional A-10s were painted this way however, official documentation has yet to be discovered to verify this information. Nevertheless, the Hogs sure looked good. 

Photo credit: SSGT Bill Thompson / U.S. Air Force

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.


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.

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