Not to be messed with: a USAF A-10A Thunderbolt II in front of a Easter European style aircraft shelter. The USAF is however considering messing with the A-10, as the entire fleet of these tank killers may be cut due to budget constraints. The same goes for the entire KC-10 Extender and F-15C Eagle fleets. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Thunderbolt returns to Europe

The A-10 Thunderbolt returns to Europe. A dozen tank killers belonging to 355th Fighter Wing at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona are deploying to Spangdahlem airbase in Germany this February. The deployment is part of a Theater Security Package (TSP) which in turn is part of operation ‘Atlantic Resolve’, according to the US Air Force.

The A-10s are set to be ready at Spangdahlem by the end of the month. The A-10s are the first of several TSP deployments to Europe. Rotations will generally last six months, depending on requirements. Although a first in Europe, the US has been conducting similar TSP rotations in the Pacific region since 2004. Kunsan in South Korea and Kadena in Japan regulary host Theater Security Packages.

The return of the A-10 to Europe comes just shy of two years after the last Spangdahlem-based A-10C Thunderbolt left Germany and headed Stateside. At the American airbase in the German Eiffel, the A-10s were part of 81st ‘Panthers’ Fighter Squadron. The unit was de-activated, leaving Spangdahlem with only F-16CJ Fighting Falcons.

For over three decades, the A-10 – also known as Warthog – was a US Air Force mainstay in Europe, with dozens of aircraft being based in the UK and forward deployed locations in Germany. They were facing the same opponent as the aircaft deploying to Spangdahlem are now. With Russia flexing it muscles, the US obviously feels the need to do the same.

However, the movement to Europe also comes at a time when the A-10  is under close scrutiny within the US, with the Pentagon looking to retire numbers of A-10s. US Congress doesn’t want this to happen, with former presidential candidate John McCain being out spoken in favour of the A-10. McCain is also in favour of a more agressive stance towards Russia, and he is Senator for Arizona… home state of the 355th Fighter Wing now headed for Spangdahlem.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest

An A-10 Thunderbolt with the DM tail code from Davis Monthan. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An A-10A Thunderbolt with the DM tail code from Davis Monthan. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A 81th FS Panther flying an A-10A Warthog, that’s not your usual sentence to say. Gone from European skies and unfortunately soon from all skies (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An A-10C beloning to the 81st Fighter Squadron. (Image © Elmer van Hest)