Early in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the defenders asked the U.S. for 100 A-10 “Warthog” attack jets to wipe out tank columns rolling on Kyiv. The request was rejected as “impossible” by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who added that it “made no sense.”
Ukraine asked to borrow a fleet of aging A-10 jets in March amid calls for U.S. forces to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, according to a long Washington Post story about the buildup of American aid over 10 months of full-scale Russian invasion.
The U.S. has steadily amped up support for Ukraine’s defense, most recently with a $45 billion aid package and, for the first time, sophisticated surface-to-air Patriot missiles. But officials from the beginning have balked at sending American jets to shoot down Russians over Ukraine, wary of direct confrontation with a rival power.
The A-10, nicknamed “Warthog,” carries a 30-millimeter Gatling-style gun and other weapons to support ground troops. After a 40-mile convoy of Russian military vehicles stalled on the road to Kyiv at the onset of the invasion, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksii Reznikov tried to secure 100 of the jets to crush it.
Ukraine had done its “homework” on the jets and determined that the U.S. had a surplus of them, Reznikov told the Post. But Austin firmly rebuffed the request, saying the dated aircraft would be a “squeaky target” for Russian defenses, Reznikov said.
“This was understandable to me. It was reasonable. I said okay,” Reznikov said, reportedly throwing his hands up.
After the Air Force hinted Ukraine could have some A-10s, one of Reznikov’s own advisers echoed Austin’s assessment to Military.com. The adviser, Yuriy Sak, said the jets would be “a target” and that Ukrainian forces couldn’t support them.
“The A-10 is over 40 years old, bordering on 50 when it comes to design,” retired Air Force lieutenant general Dave Deptula told Insider. “There are more survivable, effective and lethal modern aircraft that can provide the ability the A-10 was able to provide. If the Ukrainians don’t want it, that sends a message.”
The U.S. is now retiring some of its A-10s for the first time in decades, Insider reported.