A pair of U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs – better known as Warthogs – drilled with U.S. warships in the Gulf of Oman in a maritime exercise, the Navy announced Monday.
The two Warthogs attack planes, known for anti-tank and close-in ground support roles, from the Air Force’s 75th Fighter Squadron joined with USS Stethem (DDG-63) for an Air Operation in Maritime Surface Warfare on Saturday and Sunday.
The Navy statement didn’t give many details on the drills outside Stethem. The pair of Warthogs held a live surface combat air patrol that included, “employment of joint fires against surface threats improving the tactical proficiency,” reads the Monday release.
Designed to take on Soviet tanks from the air, Warthogs are built around a massive GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm cannon assembly that fires rounds at a rate of up to 3,900 rounds per minute. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Warthogs were used extensively for infantry close air support.
Prior to the most recent deployment, the A-10 has had limited use in the maritime. One notable exception was in 2011 during the U.S. intervention in Libya, Operation Odyssey Dawn. An A-10 paired with a Navy P-3C Orion took on a patrol boat and several small attack craft in the port of Misrata during the fighting. The encounter was one of the few times an A-10 had been used in a maritime engagement.
Earlier this year, the Air Force dispatched the A-10s to the Middle East as part of a plus-up in U.S. forces following increasing Iranian harassment of merchant oil traffic in the Middle East along with the guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), which is attached to the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group.
According to the Navy, there have been several other combined Air Force-Navy surface warfare exercises in the last year.
- In August, two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II operated with Bataan, Thomas Hudner in the Gulf of Oman.
- On July 10, an A-10 fired 30mm practice rounds on a practice surface target.
- On April 28, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, two Air Force A-10 Warthogs and three U.S. Coast Guard cutters with embarked U.S. Marine Corps joint terminal attack controllers, trained together in the Persian Gulf.
- On April, 2, guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) and an HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter conducted joint operations in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.
Most recently, amphibious warships USS Bataan (LHD-5), USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were dispatched to U.S. 5th Fleet. The MEU has 100 Marines who were trained to ride commercial ships to deter intercept by Iranian forces, USNI News previously reported.
As of Monday, Bataan and Carter Hall were in the Gulf of Oman after about a month in the Persian Gulf.