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Tanks with explosive reactive armor no match for USAF A-10s, test shows

A-10 rendered tanks with ERA inoperable during tests
US Air Force photo of one the A-10s during the test

A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the US Air Force’s 422nd and 59th Test and Evaluation Squadrons proved recently that modern-day armored vehicles equipped with explosive reactive armor are still vulnerable to the A-10C’s GAU-8 Avenger.

This first-ever test was conducted at the Nevada Test and Training Range in February this year, the air force said.

Each test mission included a two-ship of A-10Cs employing armor piercing incendiary rounds against two surrogate main battle tanks equipped with ERA. The pilots varied attack parameters and direction in order to evaluate weapons effects against the up-armored targets.

Through post-shot analysis of video, photo imagery, and visual inspection of the targets, analysts were able to ascertain the battle damage inflicted upon the tanks and determine that the tanks were rendered inoperative.

“A typical A-10 gun employment uses 120 rounds, which means an A-10 is capable of employing fires on nine to ten targets before exhausting its gun munitions,” said Maj. Kyle Adkison, 422nd TES A-10C division commander. “Against large fielded forces, A-10 formations are capable of engaging nearly 40 armored vehicles with 30 millimeter munitions. That’s a significant amount of firepower.”

In addition to 30mm gun rounds, the test also collected data on AGM-65L Maverick and AGR-20E advanced precision kill weapons system effectiveness against armored vehicles.

“This has been an ongoing test effort since the idea originated in 2020,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Earle, 59th TES A-10C operations test analyst. “Now that it’s come to fruition and proven successful, we will work towards testing other types of anti-armor munitions in the air force inventory against ERA and collect more data.”

The A-10 is well suited for agile combat employment roles, and this test proves the A-10 can continue to deliver massive rapid firepower with devastating effects on enemy vehicles in a contested environment, the air force said.