(See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya, Mr. Bad Guy)
I've always loved the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Virtually nobody calls it that, though. As anyone who has been around them will tell you, it's properly referred to as a Warthog. Supposedly this is because it's ugly. I disagree. It's not a sleek airplane, mind you, but it's definitely not ugly.
Why do I like this beast?? Well, If you ever get a chance to see one in action, such as at an airshow, well I'm sure you feel the same way... there isn't another plane that's ever been built as brutally effective at what it does as is the Hog... nor one that's more incredible to watch at work. It's fast, it's eerily quiet, it's as maneuverable as a dragonfly, it turns on a dime, and oh yeah... it's got a gigantic 30mm cannon that fires shells of depleted Uranium at a rate of 2,000 rounds per minute. Pick up a ruler sometime and look at how big 30mm really is... those things are over an inch around. In fact, firing the cannon continuously produces so much energy that it slows the airplane down quite a bit. You don't really need to do this, though, since a single shell hitting a tank is a virtual guarantee that it is irreparably destroyed, usually involving a great explosion caused by the heat of the impact. Three A-10s can provide literally non-stop coverage of a ground target from several directions. Want to stay far away from the target?? You can carry a whole assortment of tank-killing missiles and air-air missiles for self-defense. There are few computers to go bad, except in the navigation equipment. It's truly seat-of-your-pants flying, often under 100 feet AGL at 400 knots. The A-10 has few compound curves in order to facilitate easy field repairs, and can use diesel fuel if jet fuel is not available. Desert Storm proved that it has lived up to the design parameters... it can return the pilot safely home (and probably be repaired to fly again) even if one third of a wing, an entire half of the tail, one engine, all hydraulic systems (including the flight control boosts), and the ability to lower the landing gear has been destroyed by enemy fire. The pilot and most critical flight systems sit in a giant titanium armored bathtub for protection, while the location of the engines and their design makes it difficult to track and hit the A-10 with a heat-seeking missile. The whole plane is ingeniously simple, easy to maintain, and low in cost, yet perhaps the most incredibly effective aircraft in the inventory. And to think, the know-it-alls in charge want to replace it in favor of expensive, temperamental, and unsuitable Mach-2 types that have proven they can't handle the role very well. Hmmm.
That's why I love A-10s. They just don't build 'em like that anymore.
I once got lucky on one of my frequent plane-watching trips to Patrick AFB. It was Labor Day, 1993 or 94 I think, and I was hanging around the park on the end of the beach awaiting the return of an A-10 (I had seen two the day before, and then noticed only one on the ramp as I drove by and knew that the other one was probably out flying around and was bound to return.) A guy came up and said "You know there's gonna be an A-10 coming back in 20 minutes if you wanna get a picture." I asked how he knew when it would be back, he informed me that he flew the other one that was still on the ramp!! So we chatted for a while and sure enough, twenty minutes later here comes the other one. The pilot flew an approach, but pulled up the gear about 50 feet high and hit full throttle down the rest of the runway, shooting over us at the threshold at 300 knots and about 80 feet AGL, pulling into a 4-G pitchup right over our heads. I literally got knocked over by the downdraft on the first of the six passes!! The pilot I had been chatting with even took me out onto the flight line for a little tour of sorts and let me climb up and see the cockpit. I will never forget this experience, no matter how much exposure to flying machines I get, and I have some absolutely incredible pictures to prove it all really happened!!
The background you see on this page was created from a once-in-a-lifetime photo I took during that experience (taken about a second before I got knocked over) which I have available as a very high quality JPG. You can see lots of vapor above the wing and from the wingtips, as well as details like the instrument panel. It was taken at a range of approximately 1000 feet during a painfully sudden pullup right over my head. The file is very large but many people have enjoyed it so if you like A-10s you may want to go for it. If you use it on a personal webpage or something non-commercial that's fine with me, but please do give me proper credit for it... That's all I ask :)