My favourite modern military aircraft design of all time: A-10 Thunderbolt II. Awesome aircraft with a ‘form follows function’ design philosophy

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The A-10 has superior manoeuvrability at low speeds and altitude because of its large wing area, high wing aspect ratio, and largeailerons. The wing also allows short takeoffs and landings, permitting operations from primitive forward airfields near front lines. The aircraft can loiter for extended periods and operate under 1,000 ft (300 m) ceilings with 1.5 mi (2.4 km) visibility. It typically flies at a relatively low speed of 300 knots (350 mph; 560 km/h), which makes it a better platform for the ground-attack role than fast fighter-bombers, which often have difficulty targeting small, slow-moving targets.

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The leading edge of the wing has a honeycomb structure panel construction, providing strength with minimal weight; similar panels cover the flap shrouds, elevators, rudders and sections of the fins. The skin panels are integral with the stringers and are fabricated using computer-controlled machining, reducing production time and cost. Combat experience has shown that this type of panel is more resistant to damage. The skin is not load-bearing, so damaged skin sections can be easily replaced in the field, with makeshift materials if necessary. The ailerons are at the far ends of the wings for greater rolling moment and have two distinguishing features: The ailerons are larger than is typical, almost 50 percent of the wingspan, providing improved control even at slow speeds; the aileron is also split, making it a deceleron.

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The A-10 is designed to be refueled, rearmed, and serviced with minimal equipment. Also, most repairs can be done in the field. An unusual feature is that many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy aircraft ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases, flying from taxiways or even straight roadway sections.

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Front view of an A-10 showing the 30 mm cannon and offset front landing gear

The front landing gear is offset to the aircraft’s right to allow placement of the 30 mm cannon with its firing barrel along the centerline of the aircraft. During ground taxi, the offset front landing gear causes the A-10 to have dissimilar turning radii. Turning to the right on the ground takes less distance than turning left. The wheels of the main landing gear partially protrude from their nacelles when retracted, making gear-up belly landings easier to control and less damaging. All landing gears are hinged toward the aircraft’s rear; if hydraulic power is lost, a combination of gravity and wind resistance can open and lock the gear in place.

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The flagship of the 81st Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany flies over the Mosel River in central Germany on Feb. 17, 2000. Spangdahlem AB consists of the 81st Fighter Squadron, which flies the A-10 aircraft, and two F-16 squadrons, the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons, which fly the F-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Blake R. Borsic)(Released)

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