US Deploys ‘Thunderbolt’ A-10 Warthogs Ground Attack Aircraft To Guam Amid Simmering Tensions With China

The US Air Force recently deployed A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The deployment comes amid rising tensions between the United States and its regional adversaries, China and North Korea. 

The A-10s, dubbed “Warthogs,” are assigned to the 23rd Air Expeditionary Wing at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The planes arrived in the United States territory on October 23. 

The mission to Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is part of a “routine dynamic force employment operation,” according to the service. It involves rotating units across overseas facilities for training and deterring potential regional threats.

The Air Force has not disclosed the number of A-10s deployed to Guam. But, a picture uploaded on Andersen’s Facebook page shows four aircraft lined up at the base, adorned with their signature artwork of jagged teeth on their nose cones. 

“The United States is committed to being ready to execute missions quickly in unpredictable ways,” the service said. It noted that the Air Force could “rapidly respond” to rivals’ moves from afar or in the theater.

The A-10 is built for close air support of ground forces. It can operate at low speeds and altitudes and is particularly effective against tanks and other armored vehicles.

A row of A-10C Thunderbolt IIs at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam: USAF

The 25th Fighter Squadron visits Andersen regularly to practice wartime tactics, but deployments of US-based A-10 units are rare.

Moody’s 23rd Wing is one of many new “lead wings,” a key unit in charge of a group of aircraft from various sites that train collectively in anticipation of future deployments.

The PACAF spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine that the exercise “demonstrates the ability of the Air Force to command and control forces spread out through multiple locations and rapidly deploy airpower to support Palau.” 

A-10s assaulted enemy tanks and ground positions in the Middle East for many years. Following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Warthog crews are now focusing on improving their tactics in the Pentagon’s two top priority locations – Europe and the Pacific.  

Warthogs from the Air National Guard made a similar unusual trip to Europe in May to participate in two American military drills held against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, one squadron of A-10s is stationed at South Korea’s Osan Air Base in the Indo-Pacific region. The 25th Fighter Squadron operates the only Warthog unit in the area. 

The unit performs more conventional airstrike duties, flying maritime security patrols, and assisting with search-and-rescue operations. However, it lacks the speed and stealth of fighter jets.

Operation Iron Thunder

Air Force Times reported that the A-10 group will lead “Operation Iron Thunder.” The exercise is designed to unite several aircraft and educate them on how to cooperate while being separated by distance and disrupting their communications.

But, there aren’t many specifics available regarding Iron Thunder, including what kinds of situations the A-10Cs will confront.

The B-1B Lancer bombers that the Air Force sent to Guam on October 18 and other international partners like the Royal Australian Air Force will also probably be part of the exercise. 

The B-1B bombers were sent from South Dakota to Guam as part of an Air Force bomber task force mission. The Air Force stated that the purpose of the bomber task force missions is to display the B-1B’s “ability to rapidly deploy anywhere, anytime, and provide lethal precision global strike options for combatant commanders.”

Meanwhile, the latest update of the National Defense Strategy (NDS), which was recently made public, says that the American territory of Guam is becoming increasingly significant to American security. 

A-10 Fighter planes: USAF

The US government has already invested significantly to strengthen the island’s defenses. Given North Korea’s increased missile tests and China’s military aspirations in the region, a $1 billion effort is being made to build a robust, integrated missile defense system for Guam.

The NDS document states that Guam is a crucial operational base for US efforts to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific region and is home to important regional power projection platforms and logistical nodes. 

It further notes that if an enemy attacks Guam or any other US territory, it will be seen as a direct attack on the United States for homeland defense and will be responded to with the appropriate response.