Panthers gone … the extinction of Warthogs in Europe
As if mother nature itself was depressed by it, the last tactical sortie of A-10 Warthogs of USAFE’s 81st Fighter Squadron on 14 May 2013 took place under a dark and threatening sky. After 40 years of presence at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, the unit became prey to big scale budget cuts in the United States defense costs and was disbanded.
The unit fought many battles during various wars, like World War II, the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. Since its activation in 1942 the ‘Panthers’ flew famous aircraft in various roles. Among them are the P-47 Thunderbolt for fighter escort, close air support and interdiction missions and the EF-4C and F-4G Phantom II in the role of suppressing enemy defense systems. In 1994 the squadron received the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a typical Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft, designed around its impressive Avenger cannon. Due to the resemblance of the aircraft to a warthog the aircraft earned this animal species as nickname. The last years the 81st was the only A-10 unit in Europe.
The last tactical mission took three A-10’s over Germany saying farewell to the local region. On return two trucks from the fire department were waiting to salute the A-10’s with a curtain of water. Personnel of the 81st and their families held fire extinguishers and champagne bottles ready to hose the pilots down as soon as they mounted their Warthogs. On Friday 17 May 2013 the last four A-10’s left Spangdahlem, leaving the extinction of Warthogs in Europe a sad fact…
This article was published in the July 2013 issue of Air Forces Monthly, in the July 2013 issue of Full Stop Magazine and in the November 2013 issue of AIM Magazine.