I was surprised to learn of an unusual maritime patrol aircraft currently deployed to the Philippines. The Washington Post reports:
The situation in the South China Sea has grown even more complex over the past week, with A-10 attack planes flying maritime patrols over a coral reef chain known as Scarborough Shoal. It’s less than 150 miles to the west of the Philippines, and considered a site where Beijing may carry out “land reclamation” and continue its military expansion in the region this year, prompting concern from the United States and its partners in the region.
The A-10 might seem like an unlikely plane for the mission, though. The heavily armored twin-engine “Warthog” has been in service since the 1970s, and was designed for close-air support, in which combat aircraft assist ground troops by attacking enemy tanks, vehicles and positions. There is none of that around Scarborough Shoal, and the plane is considered more vulnerable than other American military planes against surface-to-air missiles.
. . .
Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for Air Forces Pacific, said Wednesday that the A-10 has excellent loiter capabilities and maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude that are “necessary for conducting the air contingent’s air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery missions.”
There’s more at the link.
It’s an interesting choice for many reasons. The A-10 might also be pretty capable at maritime interdiction, if – if – it could get through the layers of modern air defenses carried by most navies. Its 30mm. cannon should be more than capable of turning the average frigate or destroyer into a colander, and it can carry up to 8 tons of bombs and missiles. If it can get close enough without being shot down, I’d hate to be on the receiving end.