Air Force Warthogs patrol Middle East waters in response to Iranian actions
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2023
A U.S. attack aircraft known for close air support in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is seeing action in maritime patrols amid recent tensions between the U.S. and Iran, according to the Navy.
A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” jets are part of an increased rotation of U.S. aircraft and ships in the Strait of Hormuz, off Iran’s coast, U.S. 5th Fleet said this week.
Navy destroyers, Coast Guard fast response cutters, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned systems are also part of the patrols, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said Monday.
“Our ramped-up defensive posture is in response to Iran’s unwarranted and unlawful behavior of late,” Hawkins said.
The U.S. accuses Iran of seizing a commercial oil tanker in late April and another one in early May, as part of a series of 15 incidents in which the U.S. says Iran interfered with ships in the Middle East. The Iranian government says its recent seizures of oil tankers were due to ship violations or legal disputes.
The A-10s are part of a detachment sent in late March to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. Since their arrival, they have trained on firing on targets at sea.
In late April, the A-10s simulated a live-fire attack on sea targets during training that included the Air Force, the Marines and the Coast Guard, a statement by the Marines on May 2 said.
The goal of the exercise was to train on coordinating aircraft and ships against surface threats, a video posted on Twitter by the Air Force after the exercise states.
The A-10, which was designed to destroy Soviet tanks during the Cold War, has seen combat mostly in land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it occasionally has been used in a maritime role. A-10s attacked small boats in Libya in 2011 and patrolled over the South China Sea in 2016, according to the military blog War is Boring.
And an exercise in 2017 saw the plane flying mock attack runs against small boats that looked very much like the type of fast vessels used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, the online publication The Drive reported at the time.
The jets may be used in other experimental roles, U.S. military officials have said.
For example, the Air Force may try to shoot down aerial drones with them, as the Warthog’s slower flight speed could be an advantage there, Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, 9th Air Force commander, told Defense One in April.
The service has tried for a long time to retire the A-10 over concerns that it didn’t have a role in modern combat and that it was vulnerable to Russian air defenses. Congress has blocked those attempts.
But in early April, the Air Force announced it had sent an A-10 to the boneyard. That plane was the first of 21 slated to be decommissioned by the end of September.
The service intends to mothball the rest of the fleet by 2029, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said in March.