USAF A-10C THUNDERBOLT II
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly nicknamed the 'Warthog' or simply 'Hog', was in many ways the US Air Force's quintessential Cold War platform - a rugged, agile ground attack platform optimised for the destruction of Soviet tanks and armoured vehicles with its nose-mounted 30mm GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. While armed conflict with the Warsaw Pact never arose, the A-10 showed its capabilities with an outstanding performance during Operation 'Desert Storm', the 1991 Gulf campaign, and has since served extensively in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq again, providing close support to troops on the ground. Numerous squadrons of 'Hogs' were based in the UK during the type's Cold War heyday, with forward operating locations in Germany, closer to what would have been the front line. With détente between East and West, all those units were withdrawn from Europe, though one A-10 squadron remained at Spangdahlem, Germany, until mid-2013 when it too disbanded. Today, though, in response to tensions around NATO's eastern fringes, the USAF has deployed to Europe a so-called Theater Security Package as a demonstration of its commitment, and this includes a number of A-10s. Two of these aircraft, from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, a unit normally based at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in the continental United States, will attend this year's Air Tattoo.