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With the A-10 Warthog now closer to retirement than it’s ever been, one question keeps popping up about the legendary warbird.
Could the US field a stealthy version of the air support titan for the 21st century? Let’s dive into whether or not this is feasible.
The A-10 has earned its reputation over the past two decades of combat operations. And even though seeing a ‘STEALTH WARTHOG’ headline would produce a lot of hype, the truth is: the way the A-10 operates is the complete opposite of how a stealth aircraft should function.
Warthogs engage troops by flying directly at them at low altitudes while unleashing its beastly GAU-8/A Avenger’s depleted uranium rounds at its targets – a far cry to how stealth fighters engage their enemies.
Jets like the F-22 and F-35 are heavily reliant on a coating of radar-absorbent materials that covers the majority of the airframe. Even the tiniest gap would produce a larger radar signature than intended, so you’ll often see seams covered in RAM tape.
Stealth aircraft also have their engines tucked inside their body, with a thick layer of RAM placed around the jet inlets to minimize its effects.
Modern RAMs are rated to absorb around 70% to 80% of inbound electromagnetic energy, but it is also extremely fragile and expensive to make. Scraping off and reapplying these coatings is one of the bigger expenses associated with maintaining America’s F-22s and F-35s.
Now imagine covering an A-10 with RAM coating just to lose it in a span of a few minutes…
Making the A-10 stealthier means getting its design fundamentally changed. It would cost so much money that they’d probably be better off making a whole new jet instead.
The A-10’s design was finalized by 1972, around 11 years before the F-117’s introduction as the world’s first stealth aircraft. Stealth aircraft like the F-35 also don’t have giant hydraulically-driven seven-barrel Gatling guns sticking out of their noses as it would negatively affect their stealth profile.
Still, the gun isn’t even its biggest concern. Its two high-mounted GE TF-34-GE-100A turbofan engines also pose another set of problems as it limits both radar and infrared returns.
With that said, it’s not entirely impossible to make a stealthier Warthog. You’d just need a lot of funding and a lot of support for it to even remotely work.