Pollux III AKS-4 - History

Pollux III

(AKS-4: dp. 13,910; 1. 459'2"; b. 63'0"; dr. 26'5"; s. 17 k.;
cpl. 199; a. 1 5", 4 3"; cl. Castor).

The third Pollux (AK~4) was laid down hy the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearney. N.J. as SS Nancy Lykee 2 October 1941, Iaunched 5 Februiry 1942, acquired by the Navy 19 March, transferred to the Robbins Dry Dock and Repair Co., Brooklyn, N.Y. for conversion; and commissioned 27 April 1942; Capt. E. J. Kidder in command.

After a shakedown cruise, Pollux operated as a unit of the Service Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She supplied forces afloat and Allied bases at Guantanamo, Cuba, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Trinidad and Jamaica, West Indies; Colon, Panama Canal Zone; Recife and Bahia, Brazil; and Bermuda. She operated out of the East Coast ports of New York, Bayonne, Baltimore and Norfolk.

Pollux sailed 24 August 1943 for duty in the Pacific, sailing independently from the Canal Zone to Sydney, Australia. During the next 15 months she supported the Eastern and Western New Guinea Campaigns, and the Admiralty Islands Campaign. During this period she made numerous trips replenishing her stores from Sydney and Brisbane, Australia; Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides; and Oakland, Calif.

Pollu2 then supported the Philippine Liberation Campaign. Operating out of New Guinea she ran a shuttle service between the islands servioing forces afloat and bases at Leyte Gulf; Mangarin Bay, Mindoro; Lingayen Gulf, Subic Bay, Tawitawi, Sulu Archipelago, Moratai, Parang, Mindanao, Taloma Bay, Davao Gulf, Zamboanga, Puerto Princessa, Palawan; Iloflo, Panay, Cebu City, Cebu, and Manila. On 18 February 1945 Pollu2 evacuated 124 repatriates from Lingayen Gulf. These men were the first POW's to be freed by our troops in the Manila area. During World War II Pollu2 steamed 136,152 miles, generally on unescorted supply lines. Althouyh she received no battle stars, her services permitted our fleet to operate far in advance of normal bases.

After World War II she operated in thePacific with Service Squadron 1 earning the Navy Occupation Service Medal, 9 October to 12 November 1945, participating in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, and earning the China Service Medal for periods from 29 March 1947 to 6 August 1949.

Pollu2 was placed in commission in reserve 3 April 1950, but recommissioned 5 August 1950. She served in Korea during periods from 13 October 1950 to 19 July 1953. From July 1953 through 1957 her operations continued between the West Coast of the United States and ports of the Far East, including Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.

After an extensive overhaul and modernization in 1958, Pollu2 wis assigned the homeport of Yokosuka' Japan, with Service Group 3, never to see the U.S. again. Wlth the outset of the Vietnam conflict, Pollu2 served almost continually in the South China Seas supplying the various task groups of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

Pollux decommissioned at Yokosuka, Japan, 31 December 1968. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 1 January 1969.

Pollux received four battle stars for Korean War service.


This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    Castor Class General Stores Issue Ship
    Keel Laid May 26 1939 as "COMET" a Maritime Commission type (C2-Cargo) hull
    Launched December 16 1939
    Acquired by the U.S. Navy January 16 1941 and converted to a General Stores Issue Ship

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.


This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.

Measurements conducted by the Hipparcos astrometry satellite estimate that Pollux is around 33.78 light-years / 10.36 parsecs away from the Sun but other measurements put it at 34 light-years away. Around the same distance as the red giant Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation of Boötes.

Being an evolved giant orange star, Pollux is considerably larger than the sun. It has almost 9 times the sun’s radius – 8.8 solar radii, almost eighteen times its diameter and around 2 times its mass – 1.91 solar masses.

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Star Facts: Pollux

Image Credit:

Pollux is the brightest star in the constellation Gemini, and the 17th brightest in the entire night sky. However, contrary to convention, Pollux bears the designation Beta Geminorum, which by rights should apply to Castor (Alpha Geminorum), which is the second brightest star in Gemini, and only the 23rd brightest star in the night sky. At a distance of just 33.78 light years away, Pollux also has the distinction of being the closest giant star to the Sun.

Since 1943, this orange giant has been one of the stable standards by which other stars spectra are classified, and along with Castor, Pollux features prominently in literature throughout history, including in a romance-era poem by Shelley called ‘Homer’s Hymn to Castor and Pollux’ in which Pollux is referred to thus:

“Ye wild-eyed Muses, sing the Twins of Jove,
Whom the fair-ankled Leda, mixed in love
With mighty Saturn’s Heaven-obscuring Child,
On Taygetus, that lofty mountain wild,
Brought forth in joy: mild Pollux, void of blame,
And steed-subduing Castor, heirs of fame.”

Quick Facts

• Constellation: Gemini
• Coordinates: RA 7h 45m 19s | Dec +28° 1′ 35?
• Distance: 33.78 light years
• Star Type: Orange Giant (K0 III)
• Mass: 2.04 sol
• Radius: 8.8 sol
• Apparent Magnitude: +1.14
• Luminosity: 43 sol
• Surface Temperature: 4,666
• Rotational Velocity: 2.8 km/s (One rotation = 558 days)
• Age: 724 million years
• Other Designations: Beta Geminorum, 78 Geminorum, BD+28°1463, GCTP 1826.00, Gliese 286, HD 62509, HIP 37826,

Pollux is the brightest star in Gemini, a northern constellation that can be seen from latitudes of between +90° and -60°. It is a first magnitude star (+1.14), which together with the star Castor (+1.58), mark the heads of the legendary twins from Greek mythology. The rest of the stars in the constellation represents their bodies, with Gemini easily located northeast of Orion, with other nearby constellations including Leo to its east, Taurus to its west, and Canis Minor to its south.

Since there are no other bright stars immediately around either Pollux or Castor when observing from low to mid-northern latitudes, the two stars are conspicuous and therefore easily spotted. However, since the two stars are relatively close to each other, it is easy to confuse one with the other, so to make sure the right star is observed bear in mind that Pollux appears as pale yellow, whereas Castor is white, with a pale blue tinge at times. Pollux is also the brighter star of the pair, which makes its identification easier.

Pollux becomes visible for most northern observers from about mid-October, when it rises above the north-eastern horizon before midnight, with the actual time depending on the observer’s location. It can then be seen throughout winter and spring in the northern hemisphere, with its best time for viewing during its midnight culmination around the 15th of January each year when the star is visible right through the night. On that day, Pollux crosses the meridian at around local midnight, which means the star crosses an imaginary line drawn from due north through the zenith, to a position due south, during which it can be seen high in the sky from much of the planet’s surface. Bear in mind also that Pollux is a circumpolar star from central Alaska, the northern reaches of Canada, and northward of central Scandinavia.

Physical Properties

Size, Mass, Luminosity

Apart from being more than forty times as bright as the Sun, Pollux has just more than twice the Sun’s mass, and almost nine times its size. Having consumed all, or most of its hydrogen fuel, Pollux, has now evolved off of the main sequence into a giant star with an effective surface temperature of 4,666K, which is typical of K-type, orange giant stars.

Metallicity and Magnetic Field

Pollux’s metalicity (which refers to elements in a star other than hydrogen and helium), is still somewhat uncertain, with some investigators estimating the total metal abundance to be no more than about 85% of that of the Sun, while others have shown the total metal abundance to be as high as 155% of that of the Sun. Investigations are continuing.

Recent studies have revealed the presence of weak magnetic activity on Pollux, based on measurements of X-ray emissions from the star that were made with the ROSAT orbiting telescope. Interestingly, the detected 1027 erg s-1 X-ray emission from Pollux is about the same as that produced by the Sun. Nonetheless, the magnetic field of Pollux turns out to be well below 1 Gauss in strength, which is the weakest magnetic field ever to have been discovered on any star. By comparison, the magnetic field of Jupiter is on average about 10 Gauss, which is roughly 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s 0.5 Gauss-strength magnetic field.

The presence (and strength) of Pollux’s magnetic field suggests that Pollux was once an Ap-type main sequence star, which is a chemically-peculiar class of main sequence stars (hence the “p” in the classification) that display large overabundance of metals such as strontium, chromium and europium in their spectra. Together with Bp-class stars, Ap-type stars typically have very low rotational velocities, which in the case of Pollux rotates at 2.8 km/sec, seeming to confirm Pollux’s past life as a chemically peculiar Ap-class star.

In June of 2006, the presence of a planet with an orbital period of 589.64 ± 0.81 days was confirmed. Named Thestias, the planet has just more than twice the mass of Jupiter, and orbits Pollux in a nearly circular orbit at a distance of 1.64 astronomical units. Interestingly, Thestias was the grandfather of Pollux in Greek mythology.

Image Credit: Greg Parker

According to Greek Mythology, Polydeukes and Kastor, whose Latin names are Pollux and Castor, were the identical twin son’s of Queen Leda of Sparta, whose other children included Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra, who later became the wife of King Agamemnon of Mycenae. While Castor was the son of Leda’s husband King Tyndareus, Pollux was the offspring of the adulterous Zeus, and was therefore immortal.

Castor was a skilled warrior horseman, while Pollux was a formidable boxer, and throughout their lives, Pollux and Castor were inseparable, and enjoyed many adventures together, including helping Jason and the Argonauts steal the Golden Fleece. In terms of etymology, Polydeukes means “very sweet” or even “charming” (according to some sources) in Greek, which is difficult to reconcile with the brutal and bloody sport that boxing was in ancient Greece.

On account of their striking appearance together, the stars Pollux and Castor have symbolized twins in many cultures throughout history. In ancient India, for instance, they represented the Ashwins, or twin horsemen of the dawn in Persia they were Du Paikar, the two figures in Phoenicia they depicted two gazelles or kid-goats while in China they symbolized Yin and Yang, the opposite but interconnected forces of nature.

On 18 February 1942 Pollux grounded during a storm at Lawn Point off Newfoundland and was wrecked with 93 fatalities. USS Truxtun (DD-229) was also wrecked, at Chambers Cove, off St.Lawrence harbour with 110 fatalities. USS Wilkes (DD-441) grounded at the same time, but made way with no fatalities.

At 04:14 on the 18th, searchlights were sighted revealing land 2 points on the port bow. The Commanding Officer of Pollux had just entered the bridge from the chart house, and immediately gave the order for full speed astern, hard right rudder and sounding collision quarters. But it was too late and 3 minutes later the ship grounded. Realizing that she was hard aground and starting to go down slightly by the head, the Commanding Officer ordered full speed ahead to prevent the ship from sliding off and sinking in deep water.

Due to the extremely difficult surf caused by the gale raging in the Atlantic and the bitterness of the winter weather loss of life was heavy on both Pollux and Truxtun. Heroic efforts to swim lines ashore failed due to the inability to handle them when they became oil soaked. Some of the crew attempted to swim ashore, many unsuccessfully. Finally lines with a boatswain's chair were rigged to a ledge and the remaining personnel were conveyed ashore. Truxtun broke up almost immediately after grounding and soon thereafter Pollux did likewise. The survivors owed their rescue in large measure to the tireless, efficient and in many cases heroic action of the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence, Newfoundland.

Pollux was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 March 1942.

The total loss of life between both the USS Pollux and the USS Truxtun was 203 victims.

The Consul Incitatus and Other Batty Moments

The first seven months of Caligula&rsquos reign went well. The new emperor paid Tiberius&rsquos legacies promptly- and wooed the already adoring Roman people with lavish gladiatorial games. He also ruled ‘democratically&rdquo consulting the Senate before all decisions and avoiding too many honorific titles. Caligula recalled all exiles, poured money into public works such as a new aqueduct in the Tiber region and passed laws that restored popular control over the magistrates. Then, in October 37AD, he fell seriously ill. For a time, his life was uncertain, but to the great joy of all, he lived. That joy was short-lived, however, when it became apparent that Caligula was significantly changed.

Certain of the emperor&rsquos behaviors could be regarded as eccentric, if not outright &lsquobatty.&rsquo For one of the first things Caligula did was to announce his divinity. The Senate had deified Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus after their deaths. However, it was unprecedented for a living Roman to claim such an honor. Caligula, however, had decided he was one of the most ancient Roman deities, Jupiter Latiaris. He immediately established his own priesthood and a temple- complete with a life-sized golden statue for worshippers to adore.

Roman Marble Equestrian Statue of Caligula, British Museum. Google Images

Caligula&rsquos divinity was mutable. One moment he was roaming the palace as Jupiter, complete with a false golden beard and a thunderbolt. The next, he had armed himself with a trident to become Neptune, or a serpent-entwined staff when he was Mercury. Caligula even donned a woman&rsquos gown and slippers when he became Venus. To reflect his divine omnipresence, the emperor had all the heads of the statues of the gods removed and replaced with his own. When he was not imitating the gods, Caligula subdued them. He reduced the divine twins, Caster and Pollux to the status of doormen when he had their temple incorporated into the Imperial Palace. He even claimed to have blackmailed Capitoline Jupiter into sharing his temple- and to have forced the moon goddess to sleep with him every full moon.

Caligula&rsquos mad behavior was not confined just to religious matters. In 39 AD, he decided to go to war. He attacked the Germans- or rather the trees of their forests. Once he had collected enough branches as booty, he moved onto the coast of Gaul. There, Caligula lined up his soldiers and artillery to face the channel. The emperor&rsquos commanders presumed he intended to invade Britain. Instead, Caligula gave the order ‘gather seashells.&rsquo His troops were then forced to walk the seashore, filling their helmets and tunics with seashells that were presented in chests as &ldquoplunder from the ocean.&rdquo

However, arguably the craziest stunt Caligula pulled was with his favorite racehorse, Incitatus. Incitatus had his own staff, house, and stable. Guards were posted the night before the horse was racing so that Incitatus could have a good nights rest. The horse slept in an ivory stall, with purple blankets and wore a jeweled harness. Caligula denied Incitatus nothing. He even organized dinner parties in the horse&rsquos name. However, Caligula managed to top all of this when one day, he assembled the Senate and announced he intended to make Incitatus a consul.

Castor (AKS-1) Class: Photographs

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Underway on 26 May 1941 after initial conversion at the Brewer Shipbuilding and Drydock Co, Staten Island.
This ship was wrecked on the Newfoundland coast in February 1942.

Photo No. 19-N-24140
Source: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

Off Oakland, California, on 1 June 1943 after an overhaul there.
Her 5"/51 gun aft was replaced with a 5"/38 during this overhaul.

Photo No. 19-N-52289
Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

Off Oakland, California, on 1 June 1943 after an overhaul there.

Photo No. 19-N-52290
Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

Photographed circa 1944, possibly after a minor overhaul at Seattle.

Photo No. 19-N-70688
Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

Underway on 21 October 1944 in San Francisco Bay after an overhaul.
The superstructure of this later C2 cargo ship was shorter and more compact than that of the two earlier ships in this class.

Photo No. USN 91585
Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

At the Marine Terminal Pier at Subic Bay, Philippines, on 7 April 1959.
Note the additional fittings on her kingposts for the rapid transfer of cargo while underway.

# Resources

    This describes in detail how everything works. On a flow as well as API level If you want to try out AKS, Azure Kubernetes Service, you will need a free Azure account One of the best resources to learn about Kubernetes is at this official Kubernetes site by Google. An overview of Kubernetes, all its parts and how it works Do you feel you know everything about Kubernetes already and just want to learn how to use a managed service? Then this link is for you Azure Kubernetes Service, a managed Kubernetes You already know AKS and want to learn how to use it better?

So in our last part, we talked about desired state. That's an OK strategy until something unforeseen happens and suddenly you got a great influx of traffic. This is likely to happen to businesses such as e-commerce around a big sale or a ticket vendor when you release tickets to a popular event.

Events like these are an anomaly which forces you to quickly scale up. The other side of the coin though is that at some point you need to scale down or you suddenly have overcapacity you might need to pay for. What you really want is for the scaling to act in an elastic way so it scaled up when you need it to and scales down when there is less traffic.

Horizontal auto-scaling, what does it mean?

It's a concept in Kubernetes that can scale the number of Pods we need. It can do so on a replication controller , deployment or replica set . It usually looks at CPU utilization but can be made to look at other things by using something called custom metrics support , so it's customizable.

It consists of two parts a resource and a controller . The controller checks utilization, or whatever metric you decided, to ensure that the number of replicas matches your specification. If need be it spins up more Pods or removes them. The default is checking every 15 seconds but you can change that by looking at a flag called --horizontal-pod-autoscaler-sync-period .

The underlying algorithm that decides the number of replicas looks like this:

A-10 Warthog: The Warplane Nobody Wanted

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 75th Fighter Squadron honing its skills in the skies over the training ranges at Ft. Irwin, Calif.

The A-10 story is a painful illustration of just how much flag-rank military thinking is driven by ego, selfishness and greed and how little of it is relevant to war-fighting.

In 1972 the Fairchild Republic A-10 came out of the big aluminum womb ugly, misbegotten and ignored. It seemed fated for a life as the awkward stepchild of its F-plane playmates, the pointy-nose F-15 and F-16, eventually to be joined by the rapacious F-22 and voracious, obese F-35.

The Warthog, as the attack airplane came to be known, finally had its day when it was a 19-year-old virgin with a mustache and, yes, warts, about to be put out to pasture. The A-10 was scheduled for retirement—for the first of several times—when the battle against Soviet T-55, T-62 and T-72 tanks that it had been designed to fight finally erupted. Only not in the Fulda Gap but in Kuwait and Iraq, and the tanks belonged to Saddam, not Stalin. It was called Desert Storm and thankfully not World War III, but overnight the ugly stepchild became the most vicious and powerful armor-killer ever to fly.

Ground attack from the air and what’s today called close air support (CAS) has a surprisingly long history (see “The First Ground-Pounders,”). We think of World War I airplanes as dogfighters and balloon-busters, but the Junkers J.I was the world’s first airplane designed from the wheels up for ground attack. Also the world’s first all-metal production aircraft, it was an enormous sesquiplane with a corrugated, Quonset-hut upper wing twice the span of a Sopwith Triplane’s. It had a tall, vertical exhaust stack that made it look like a flying locomotive and, presaging the A-10’s structure, featured an entirely armored cockpit bathtub. Like the Warthog, it too got an unflattering nickname: the “Moving Van,” thanks to its size, weight and 96-mph top speed.

Though J.Is managed to immobilize a few thin-skinned British tanks, the first effective anti-tank aircraft was the Russian Polikarpov I-15, an open-cockpit biplane fighter flown by the Republican Loyalist side in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. I-15s carried four wing-mounted, rapid-fire 7.62mm machine guns, and the total of 50 armor-piercing rounds per second could do serious damage to what passed for armor in that era. Several I-15s created enough chaos among Italian tanks advancing on Madrid that the attack was then broken up by Loyalist infantry.

This caught the attention of the Soviets and led to the legendary Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik tank-buster of World War II, an airplane that turned out to be so useful it was produced in greater numbers—more than 36,000—than any other combat aircraft ever built. The Shturmovik also had a heavily armored cockpit plus another valuable characteristic that would show up in the Warthog: It could carry a wide variety of underwing ordnance, including machine guns, cannons, bombs and rockets.

The Germans had also seen the need for a CAS airplane, the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka (see “Screaming Birds of Prey,” from the September 2013 issue). The Luftwaffe’s raison d’être, in fact, was entirely to provide ground support. It was the Wehrmacht’s air arm, and Stukas were initially used as flying artillery working in league with the army’s panzers as they blitzkrieged through Europe. Though the Messerschmitt Me-109 would soon take the title, Stukas were for awhile the most important arrows in the Luftwaffe’s quiver.

Knowing that the Ju-87 was becoming increasingly obsolescent, the Germans tried their best to develop a more modern tank-buster, the little-known Henschel Hs-129. Its parallels with the A-10, however, are interesting. Both airplanes are twin-engine for redundancy, though the Hs-129’s power plants were not very good. Both the Henschel and the A-10 utilized true “armored bathtubs” for cockpit protection—not just steel-plate fuselage skinning but an internal structure that, in the case of the Hs-129, had sloped sides to increase the effective thickness of the armor. And both carried enormous guns. The Hs-129 is said to have been the first airplane to fire a 30mm cannon in anger, and its final version mounted a 75mm cannon.

But what about the A-10 Thunderbolt II, as it’s officially (but rarely) known? Let’s back up and look at what was behind this shotgun marriage of World War II technology, turbofan engines and a massive piece of artillery, the 30mm Gatling gun that became the A-10’s best-known weapon. Has there ever been an airplane conceived under such miserable conditions? The A-10 story is a painful illustration of just how much flag-rank military thinking is driven by ego, selfishness and greed and how little of it is relevant to war-fighting. Dwight Eisenhower had already called its practitioners the military/industrial complex.

When the Air Force was released from its traditional service as an obedient part of the Army in September 1947, it became a separate and independent branch of the armed forces. The brand-new U.S. Air Force immediately foreswore serious duty working for soldiers on the ground. Let the Army and Marine Corps take care of their own, said the Air Force, our job is flying at the speed of heat, gunning enemy jets, making aces and dropping bombs, preferably nuclear. “Not a pound [of airframe weight] for air to ground” became an Air Force fighter-development principle.

This deal was further ratified in March 1948 by the Key West Agreement. The chiefs of staff and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal sat down in, obviously, Key West and agreed that the Navy could keep its tailhookers (some of which the Marines would of course continue to use for close air support), but that the Army was done forever flying fixed-wing aircraft in combat. They were welcome to play with helicopters, which seemed at the time to be of little consequence, but flying real airplanes was the Air Force’s job. The Army could continue to use aircraft for minor logistics, medevac and recon, but no weapons were allowed to be mounted aboard them.

The U.N. “police action” in Korea saw the Air Force grudgingly dedicating its obsolete F-51D and its least effective jet fighters, the Lockheed F-80C and Republic F-84, to the unglamorous job of going down low and helping grunts hold off raging Chicoms and North Koreans. But the most effective CAS missions were flown by Marine F4U Corsairs. Oddly, the Air Force had retired or given to the Air Guard all its P-47s, the workhorse American ground-support airplanes of WWII. No Thunderbolts flew in Korea.

Vietnam was the real wake-up call. North American F-100 Super Sabres and other jets were assigned the CAS mission and did the best they could, but finding targets hidden in thick jungle while flying too fast at altitudes too high with too little fuel to hang around for a second look didn’t work. “One pass, haul ass” became the CAS mantra.

To the dismay of the speed-of-heaters, the Douglas A-1 Skyraider proved to be the most effective CAS airplane of the war. Not only was the Spad old enough to have almost made it into WWII, but it was a Navy plane, forgodsake. Still, it was the best the Air Force could find for CAS.

The Army, meanwhile, was developing helicopter gunships into serious (albeit still vulnerable and delicate) CAS birds. Serious enough, in fact, that in 1966 the Army began work on a ground-up design for an armed and armored attack helicopter, the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. The Cheyenne was a compound helo, with rigid rotors for VTOL and a pusher prop for pure speed. It was so complex and sophisticated that had it gone into production, each Cheyenne would have cost more than an F-4 Phantom. That will never do, the Air Force said that’s money we should be getting.

The Air Force set out to develop its own fixed-wing close air support machine. Even though they didn’t want the CAS mission, letting the Army take it over was worse. All the brass wanted was for their ground-attack bird to be better and cheaper than the Cheyenne. So began the 1966 A-X (Attack Experimental) program. Six airframers wanted in, but only two were selected: Fairchild Republic and Northrop.

Northrop’s contender, the YA-9, was conventional and unimaginative—its high wings made loading ordnance more difficult, the low-mounted engines were vulnerable to groundfire and a single vertical tail offered neither redundancy nor shielding of the engines’ infrared exhaust signatures. Fairchild Republic, however, had the help of an unusual civilian maverick, French-born systems analyst Pierre Sprey. The Air Force loathed Sprey, for he’d been one of the key developers of the much-reviled “lightweight fighter” that became the F-16 the Air Force preferred the big, expensive, electronics-laden, multiengine F-15.

But Sprey knew the importance of CAS, had some big ideas on how to do it best and had written scholarly papers on the subject. He’d studied the Stuka, and one of his heroes was Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the ultimate ground-attack pilot (with more than 2,000 vehicles, trains, ships, artillery pieces, bridges, aircraft and landing craft destroyed, including 519 tanks). Sprey is said to have required every member of the A-10 design team to read Rudel’s autobiography, Stuka Pilot.

Tasked with leading the A-10 team and writing the specs for the prototype, Sprey interviewed every Vietnam Spad pilot and forward air controller he could find. As a result, he prioritized long loiter time, good range, excellent visibility, low-and-slow maneuverability, survivability and lethal weapons “the very sight of which will turn an enemy soldier’s bowels to water,” wrote Robert Coram in his book Boyd, an excellent study of the “fighter mafia” led by iconoclasts John Boyd and Sprey. Still, as Coram put it, “the A-X was a leprous project led by a pariah.”

Sprey pretty much got his way, since the Air Force simply wanted to put a stake through the Cheyenne’s heart—which they did when the Lockheed program was canceled. Two A-10 features that Sprey didn’t like were its twin engines and enormous size he had wanted a smaller, lighter, more maneuverable airplane than the Warthog turned out to be. After all, it is a single-seat attack aircraft with a wingspan only 5 feet shorter on each side than a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber’s, and fully loaded for a CAS mission an A-10 weighs 6 tons more than a grossed-out B-25.

Yet the A-10 is a simple airplane, and until post-production upgrades beginning in 1989, it even lacked an autopilot—just like a WWII fighter. Nor does it have radar, and the main landing gear is only semi-retractable, like a DC-3’s. Half of each mainwheel protrudes from its fairing in flight, which some have assumed is to enable the Warthog to make safer gear-up landings. That’s true, but the design was really chosen because it allows the wings to remain free of wheel wells, making construction simple, straightforward and strong. Same goes for the protective cockpit structure, which is not a forged bathtub-like piece at all but several plates of titanium bolted together.

By zoomy blue-suiter standards, the A-10 is painfully slow. It can do just over 365 knots but usually flies strikes at 300 knots or less. The typical jokes are that A-10s don’t have instrument panel clocks, they have calendars. And bird strikes from behind are a big risk. (Those of us who flew the original Citation 500 business jet—often referred to as the Slowtation—were subjected to the very same snark.) But if the A-10 has a basic shortcoming, it admittedly is underpowered. A-10 pilots say the airplane has three power-lever positions: off, taxi and max power.

The A-10 was also designed around a specific weapon—the General Electric GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling cannon, which, with its huge 1,174-round ammunition drum (mounted behind the pilot), is as big as a car. It fires 30mm cartridges nearly a foot long, and though its firing rate is typically quoted as 3,900 rounds per minute, that’s a meaningless number. An A-10’s gun is fired for one- or two-second bursts, so a delivery of roughly 60 to 65 rounds per second in intermittent bursts is what “will turn an enemy soldier’s bowels to water.”

The rotating-barrel cannon is mounted exactly on the A-10’s centerline, resulting in the Warthog’s odd stance, with its nose-gear strut displaced well to the right to clear the barrel. A popular myth has it that firing the gun results in recoil so strong it could stall the airplane, but you’d have to be flying just a knot or two above stall speed for that to happen. What is a consideration, however, is that the gun’s recoil is strong enough that any off-centerline positioning of the firing barrel would result in yaw that could cause the firing pattern to be scattershot rather than firehose.

The cannon fires high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds, in addition to target-practice rounds in peacetime. The armor-piercing incendiaries have depleted-uranium cores, which have the advantage of being extremely dense—1.67 times as dense as pure lead—and thus have enormous hitting power. But DU has two other potent characteristics. It is “self-sharpening,” meaning the projectile doesn’t squash or flatten as it pierces armor but fractures and remains relatively pointed. The other is that DU is pyrophoric—it spontaneously ignites upon contact with the air. As an A-10’s DU rounds penetrate a tank’s armor, its fragments, some as tiny as dust, all become intensely incendiary particles scattering through the tank’s interior, with grisly effects on the crew.

By the end of the 1990s, it again seemed the Hog’s day was done. Seven hundred and fifteen A-10s had been built, but the active fleet was down to 390 units, what with weary and excess A-10s sent to the Davis-Monthan boneyard. (Many returned to base almost unflyable, but only seven Warthogs have ever been shot down or crashed due to combat.) Production had been shut down since 1984, and zero effort had been put into coming up with a direct replacement. It looked like the Hog would be makin’ bacon in the boneyard.

But wait. Saddam came back, and now we also had the Taliban to deal with. Hog pilots suited up and headed not to retirement but to the Mideast again, where A-10s continued to rule the anti-armor and CAS roost. The distinctive sound of an A-10’s engines was sometimes enough to make an enemy throw away his weapons and run. If he heard the even more distinctive sound of its GAU, it was already too late.

By 2008, most of the still-active A-10s were C models, with glass cockpits, upgraded sensors, video targeting and many other enhancements. Gone was some of the original Hog’s steam-gauge simplicity. Some pilots didn’t like the optical/FLIR imaging and called the video screen a “face magnet,” sucking the pilot’s view into the cockpit. The most frequently used metaphor was that viewing the battleground through a camera’s eye was “like looking through a soda straw.” Like looking through a toilet paper roll might be closer to the truth, but it was a far cry from a good pilot’s 360-degree physical scan.

Blame Congress and sequestration, not the USAF, but the Air Force has been told to lop a big chunk off its budget. They have chosen to do this by scheduling the A-10 for total retirement in 2015—not by just reducing the fleet size but by eliminating the airplane, the pilots, ground support, training, spare parts supply, logistics, upgrading and every other vestige of the Warthog. Total fleet and infrastructure removal is the only way to save serious money, which in the case of the A-10, the Air Force calculates, will come to $3.7 billion.

But some legislators want the Air Force to find another way to save that money. In May the House Armed Services Committee came up with a defense spending bill that specifically blocked plans to retire the Warthog, and it was approved a month later by the House of Representatives. If the Senate agrees—which as we go to press doesn’t look likely—the A-10 will fly on at least a while longer.

When the Hog does make that final fight to Davis-Monthan, what will replace it for the CAS mission? The Air Force version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Opponents of the way-over-budget F-35 program say that the JSF acronym actually stands for Joke Still Flying, in light of the F-35’s problems and presumed failings, and some have called for its cancellation rather than the A-10’s. But let’s assume the F-35 eventually meets all of its performance targets and goes into service as one of the world’s best fighters can it replace the A-10? The Air Force claims that with sophisticated targeting systems under development and even in existence, there will no longer be a need to get down in the weeds and use binoculars—a favorite Hog pilot tool—to find and identify targets. CAS will necessarily be done from altitude and at speed, since nobody is going to risk a $200 million fighter to small-arms fire.

An excellent article, “Tunnel Vision,” by Andrew Cockburn in the February 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine, however, described a May 2012 CAS mission by a two-ship of A-10s over Afghanistan, controlled by a video-viewing JTAC (joint terminal attack controller) from a forward position. The JTAC sent the two A-10s to four different grid coordinates, one after the other, in a confused search for Taliban troops supposedly in contact with American forces. At the fourth location, the A-10 flight leader reported that yes, now he could see through his binocs people around a farm building, but there was no sign of weapons or hostile activity. He refused to attack, so the JTAC assigned the CAS mission to a loitering B-1 bomber that used satellite-guided bombs to obliterate an Afghan husband, wife and five children. Apparently, remote targeting systems still need work.

A-10 enthusiasts—including every pilot who has ever flown one in combat—argue that the Warthog is cheap to fly, is already in operation, has substantial loiter capability that the F-35 will lack, is extremely survivable and can put Mark I eyeballs on the target. Only an A-10, they say, can put ordnance “danger close” to ground troops, which in extreme cases means 20 feet away from them. And many A-10s are currently getting brand-new Boeing-built wings and center sections, which will allow them to operate for another quarter-century.

F-35 proponents point out that their airplane is stealthy, which the A-10 definitely isn’t that the A-10 is slow and vulnerable to sophisticated anti-aircraft systems and that, just like the WWII Stuka, it requires air superiority before it enters a target area. A point they especially stress is that the F-35 is a multirole aircraft: It can achieve air superiority, it can bomb and it can do the CAS job. The A-10, they say, is a single-mission aircraft, and the Air Force can no longer afford such specialized machines. (Though there is a forward air control version, the OA-10, it is simply a designator difference, as the airframes are identical and they are all part of the CAS mission.)

Inevitably, the last-generation multimission aircraft, the General Dynamics F-111, is brought up, for the Aardvark was largely a failure, a jack-of-all-trades that was master of none. “If history tells us anything,” Ian Hogg wrote in his book Tank Killing, “it tells us that can openers are better than Swiss army knives for opening cans.”

The A-10 has gone to war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. Where it hasn’t gone to war is Russia, China or North Korea. If we could be guaranteed that our future opponents will be Somalis with AKs or Syrians with RPGs, the A-10 will continue to get the job done at the lowest possible cost. But if the U.S. needs to face off against a wacky Putin or a crazed Kim Jong-un, the stakes will be higher and the weapons vastly more deadly.

Perhaps the F-35 isn’t the perfect mud-mover, but could this be a case of perfect being the enemy of good enough?

For further reading, frequent contributor Stephan Wilkinson recommends: Warthog: Flying the A-10 in the Gulf War, by William L. Smallwood A-10 Thunderbolt II: 21st Century Warthog, by Neil Dundridge Tank Killing, by Ian Hogg and Boyd, by Robert Coram.

This feature originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe here!

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