Basically, these aircraft, Su-25 and A-10, play a decisive role in victory in the war against guerrilla war, riot, as in Syria.
Considered as rivals for close air support of friendly ground troops, the Russian Sukhoi Su-25 and the US A-10 Thunderbolt II – both are “flying tanks” in the sky. They are considered the symbols of the two leading militaries in the world – equipped with advanced armor, low-altitude attack and bombing ability, providing quick-action support against enemy ground forces.
The birth of these attackers
The American A-10 Thunderbolt II was born after the US military learned from the Vietnam War. Starting in 1972, the US military recognized the need for a specialized aircraft for ground attack purposes.
At the time, the Air Force had only three options for ground attack missions: F-4 Phantom, F-111 and A-1 Skyraider. These aircraft were all unsuitable in the new situation.
A-10 Thunderbolt II was born to compensate for the gap in air-to-ground combat of the US Air Force, completely overcoming the weaknesses of the F-4, F-111 when participating in ground attack.
The Russians began production of the Su-25 in 1978. The birth of the Su-25 closely resembles the A-10. The Soviet Air Force saw the need for a highly survivable low altitude aircraft to supplement its fleet of attack aircraft.
Before the Su-25, Soviet strike aircraft often relied on speed to survive. Aircraft such as the Su-17, Su-22, MiG-23BN and MiG-27 have only a single engine and have no protective armor. Combat experience in Afghanistan has shown – these planes were very vulnerable to ground fire when conducting missions at low altitude. An aircraft with protective armor and 2 engines was needed to improve survivability.
In terms of design, Frogfoot is smaller and more compact overall than the Warthog. The Su-25 and A-10 have maximum takeoff weights of 19.3 tons and 22.7 tons, respectively – a more compact profile also contributes to higher survivability.
Su-25 is considered to have better cockpit protection than the A-10, with cockpit armor thicknesses from 10 to 25mm. Similarly, the A-10 also has a cockpit protected by titanium armor weighing more than 0.5 tons, nearly 4cm thick.
In fact, the battlefield shows that the Su-25 and A-10 are well protected aircraft. During the Soviet-Afghan war, a Frogfoot could take a direct hit from a SAM in either engine or tail and still come back home.
During the 1991 Gulf War, an A-10 was hit 4 57mm rounds, 2 hit the tail, 1 exploded in front of the nose, 1 hit the right wing and detonated the Sidewinder air-to-air missile mounted there. In total, the A-10 had 378 body holes, 17 of which were just below the cockpit. However, the pilot is still safe and can land safely.
The main design difference between these two planes is the engine. The A-10’s engine is slightly more powerful than the Su-25 – it has two TF-34 engines, while the Su-25 is powered by two R-95. The A-10’s engines were also more obvious than the Su-25’s, easily become the target of ground fire. While the engine of the Su-25 is discreetly designed in the fuselage and protected by titanium armor.
In later upgraded versions, the Su-25 is equipped with more powerful R-195 engines. For example, the Su-25K is significantly more agile than the A-10. It has a top speed of 975 km/h, while the A-10 is 706 km/h. The Frogfoot can accelerate better, fly faster and has pretty much the same rigidity and redundancy that the A-10 does. The Su-25 is more maneuverable than the A-10. For example, the Su-25 is fully capable of performing complex acrobatic maneuvers, while the A-10 is limited to swaying flight angles.
According to Magomed Tolboev, a Russian military expert, the Su-25’s engines are multi-fuel engines, while the A-10 can only fly on jet kerosene.
The first generation Su-25 was not equipped with a HUD. In addition, it was not equipped with an autopilot feature. However, it did carry two SPS-141 jamming pods on the middle-most pylons on the wings.
Compared to the Su-25, the A-10 is better equipped with an actual HUD for navigation and targeting. The information display makes targeting for the AGM-65 Maverick more intuitive. The A-10A carries the ALQ-131 jamming pod on one of the outermost pylons.
Early versions of the Su-25 had limited avionics. Russia has recently upgraded the Su-25 to SM standard with new avionics allowing for more effective combat.
Both the Su-25 and the A-10 are flying arsenals – the fear of the enemy’s ground forces.
The main weapon of the A-10 is the 30mm GAU-8 avenger gattling cannon. This is the most powerful cannon ever mounted on an attack aircraft. The cannon has a rate of fire up to 4,000 rounds/minute.
The Su-25 is also equipped with a 30mm twin barrel cannon. Su-25 has 11 hard points with a total payload of about 4 tons. The main ground attack weapons of the Su-25 are rockets, bombs, Kh-23, Kh-25, Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles. Su-25SM can add R-73 air-to-air missile.
Meanwhile, the GAU-8 cannon on the A-10 can carry up to 1,174 rounds. In particular, this cannon can fire poor-uranium armor-piercing rounds, allowing to destroy tanks and armored vehicles with high efficiency.
The A-10 also has 11 weapon hard points with a total payload of 7.2 tons, which has an advantage over the Su-25. The A-10 can also carry conventional bombs, cluster bombs, AGM-65 Maverick air to ground missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinders fitted to LAU-105 launchers on the outermost pylons.
The Su-25SM3 is Russia’s most modernized version – almost completely new. It was fitted with new engines, replacing virtually all equipment and avionics systems. Su-25SM3 can fight back fighters or bombers, destroying unmanned aircraft with R-77 and R-27 air-to-air missiles. To increase survival on the battlefield, the Su-25SM3 was fitted with an “Vitebsk-25” electronic warfare system, which disturbed the self-guided warheads of the MANPAD mobile missile.
The A-10C being the large scale modernization for the USA. Upgrades including an improved fire control system, electronic countermeasures, and smart bomb targeting. The aircraft also received all-weather combat capability, and a Hand-on-Throttle-and-Stick configuration mixing the F-16’s flight stick with the F-15’s throttle. Other changes included two multifunction displays, a modern communications suite including a Link-16 radio and SATCOM.
The modernization of the A-10 allows it to carry precision guided munitions including laser and GPS guided bombs and cluster bombs, easier spotting and identification of targets and makes it possible to carry 3 smart bombs on the Triple Ejector Racks, allowing for a much greater payload.
The actual battlefield has proven, the A-10 and the Su-25 have their own strengths. They are the most powerful ground support aircraft in the world today. In general, although these two “flying tanks” are relatively similar, one can still see a difference in the strengths of each one considering how the internal systems are developed.
The A-10 has an advantage in very powerful automatic cannon fire, self-guided fire-and-forget missile. The Su-25 is strong in precision bombing, laser guided missiles. The Su-25 has the advantage of speed and maneuverability, while the A-10 excels in its payload.
Basically, these aircraft play a decisive role in victory in the war against guerrilla war, riot, as in Syria.
The Su-25 is one of the clearest evidence of the Russian Air Force’s strength. Since its first combat in the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, the Su-25 has been used in all Soviet and Russian conflicts, from Chechnya to Georgia and Syria.
Similarly, since serving in the US military, the A-10 has always been deployed to the battlefields in which the US has participated. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a nightmare for infantry and enemy tanks.
The US plans to retire the A-10 in 2022, while Russia continues to upgrade the Su-25 to continue on the mission for many more years.
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