Attack aircraft (also strike aircraft, attack bombers) are tactical military aircraft that have a primary role of attacking targets on the ground or sea, with greater precision than strategic bombers, and which are prepared to face stronger low-level air defenses. This class of aircraft is designed mostly for close air support and naval air-to-surface missions, but they are also employed in other missions, for example air interdiction or offensive counter air. In contrast to fighter aircraft, attack aircraft are not necessarily intended for air-to-air combat. However, they are often equipped with air-to-air missiles for self-defense.
Until the precision-guided munitions became standard in 1960s, the term "attack aircraft" implied a heavily armored aircraft armed with both bombs and with forward-firing automatic weapon—the former were more powerful, but the latter enabled strafing attacks of a much higher precision. In particular, the Russian shturmovik and German Schlachtflugzeug terms may be seen in the literature. Also many fighter-bombers of the era fell into this category naturally, if sufficiently armored.
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force (USAF) requirement to provide close air support (CAS) for ground forces by attacking tanks and other armored vehicles, and other ground targets with a limited air defense capability. It was the first USAF aircraft designed solely for CAS.
The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a heavy rotary cannon that forms the aircraft's primary armament. (It is, to date, the heaviest rotary cannon ever mounted on an aircraft.) The aircraft's hull incorporates over 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of armor and was designed with survivability as a priority, with protective measures in place which enable the aircraft to continue flying even after taking significant damage.
The A-10's official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname "Warthog" or simply "Hog". As a secondary mission, it provides airborne forward air control, guiding other aircraft against ground targets. A-10s used primarily in this role are designated OA-10. With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10's service life has been extended to the 2040.