Ukrainian Pilots Already Training For A-10s


Congress hasn’t formally offered them and the Ukrainian brass says it doesn’t want them but a Ukrainian unit, with help from some retired USAF Warthog pilots, has been secretly training pilots on simulators to fly A-10s in the hopes they will be donated by the U.S. government, according to an exclusive story in Time Magazine. “You will see the difference in the number of targets we’d be able to hit. You’d see that in the weakening of their offensive positions,” Alexander Gorgan, the low-level Ukrainian infantry officer spearheading the effort, told Time. “And you’d see that in the confidence of our infantry in moving from defense to offense.” Time was granted exclusive access to the top-secret facility in July.

As we reported last month, the Air Force floated the idea of donating its fleet of A-10s to Ukraine but Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s Defense Minister, dismissed the idea, saying its air force would much rather have F-16s. Sak may not have consulted Gorgan and his fellow groundpounders who, like their American counterparts, have a great fondness for the 50-year-old airplane-shaped cannon with its signature BRRRRT sound. For Gorgan it’s personal. He spent some time lying in a field under intense Russian fire imagining what it would be like to hear that cannon.

Gorgan got on the internet and found two key pillars of his plan. There’s an immense aerial gaming community and a spirited segment devoted to the Warthog. He also found some comments by former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker and retired Air Force Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, advocating the donation of A-10s to Ukraine. Gorgan managed to get hold of Breedlove to discuss an audacious, perhaps impossible plan.

Gorgan may be a grunt (he’s a lieutenant and 46-year-old Kyiv lawyer and family man), but one of his high school chums is an influential Ukrainian businessman and another is the deputy minister of defense. Together they talked their own government and “foreign allies” into creating a tiny bunker with five off-the-shelf gaming computers with virtual reality goggles and basic panel setup with throttle and stick. The setup is apparently not that much different from what USAF A-10 pilots use for training.

USAF really wants to get rid of the A-10s but has been consistently blocked by Congress, which instead has approved billions of dollars to upgrade them. But the Ukrainian brass is unsure it wants to be saddled with them for the same reasons the U.S. wants to get rid of them. They are cannon fodder for modern antiaircraft systems and only work in uncontested airspace, which Ukraine is definitely not.

But Gorgan insists he and his secret cadre can make it work and his buddy Oleksandr Polishchuk, the deputy minister, is frantically pushing buttons at his end. The bunker was the first step. “When it comes to the planes, there’s no question we need to start the training well in advance,” Polishchuk told Time. “We don’t yet have the political decision, but there are some political signals that we might get these weapons at some point. For us that means: start training to use them.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. On the one hand, I’d LOVE to see 20 or 25 A-10’s given to the Ukrainians so that — once and for all — the value of these airplanes (the GAU-8) against the Soviet bloc could be demonstrated and embarrass senior USAF brass. On the other, I don’t want to see the USAF get rid of any of the less than half of original numbers built that still are on active or in Guard duty; the congress IS correct in ongoing efforts to keep these airplanes active. The fixation on getting rid of them by the USAF brass is myopic AND a giant mistake. These airplanes were purpose built, fulfilled the intended grunt mission and DO work … just ask any Army ground pounder who was ‘saved’ by one (I did just this year!). Just the sound of their engines is enough to scare the bejesus out of bad guys. And the notion that they’re cannon fodder is — likewise — baloney. EVERY airplane is vulnerable to those sorts of weapons. You use tactics, techniques and procedures against ground-based threats. Let’s just say … “there are vays!”

    The original USAF F-4 had no gun because the numbskulls running the USAF then thought that all aerial warfare would use missiles and where did THAT wind up … by adding a gun to the F-4. The F-22 was gonna be the replacement for the F-15 and where did that wind up … with early production stop of the F-22 (less than 1/3 of original total numbers ordered were produced) while NOW the F-15ex is being ordered (a story unto itself). In fact, there’s talk of retiring the F-22 because upgrading them is too costly. In Viet Nam, simple weapons were often the ones that worked. B-2 production was stopped at 20 airplanes (vice 132) because the Soviet Union “disappeared.” Yeah, right! And now AFSOC wants to order Air Tractor airplanes w/ hard points why … they already have the A-10 ? I stood not 20 feet away from the GAU-8 INSIDE the McKinley Climatic hangar at Eglin AFB in 1975 when 30 test rounds were fired into a bullet catcher and am here to tell ya’ll … you DON’T want to be on the receiving end of that weapon. And the Guard proved that landing them on roads in the Upper Peninsula works just fine, too. I’d bet the Ukrainians would do that, as well.

    Sometimes, high technology is needed to face sophisticated threats (spell B-2). And sometimes simple weaponry which is either massive OR built in numbers impossible to counter are called for (spell A-10). As I said several weeks ago, the military needs a big warehouse filled with “toys” specifically built when fighting bad boys. Let the Ukrainians have a small number, I’d vote. Hell … give ’em some mothballed F-117A’s, too. THAT’ll get ‘ol Vlad’s attention right quick 🙂 .

    • Good read thank you. Correction tho, the A-10’s were landed on M-32, 6 miles west of Alpena, in northeastern lower Michigan (not the Yuper U.P.) last summer. About 1 mile from my office at KAPN. Big expensive show, but served zero purpose. The grandstands were built, and the “special” invitations sent out, before anything else. Very public display. The same stuff that comes out of the south end of a northbound horse. It is laughable to believe this was the “first” time A-10’s were landed off-airport. What a gut buster that statement was.

      Everyone is quick to blame ol’ Vlad for the war in the Ukraine. Is there anyone breathing that thinks ol’ Vlad would have invaded the extremely corrupt Ukraine if Donald Trump were our president? Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know the Russian election collusion scandal started in the Ukraine?

      Ahhh, no A-10’s for Ukraine please. Send food, water, medical, and clothing. No bullets, no A-10’s

      Don’t forget that the USA supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russians. A payback for the Soviet involvement in Vietnam. That Afghan war bankrupted Russia. Don’t think for a minute that ol’ Vlad will let that happen again, no more that he let the Ukraine join NATO. A cornered, bankrupt, and defeated country with a nuclear arsenal is a real concern.

      God bless.

  2. Isn’t it about time our nation stops helping people kill each other? Aren’t the biggest threats to our nation the invasion of illegal aliens, violence in the streets of major cities and runaway spending by our government that is destroying our currency?

    • Nope!!

      Ukraine didn’t start this war.

      U.S. isolationist attitudes is what allowed the German takeover of Western Europe and greatly prolonged the war in the ETO. I’ve often wondered if the attack on Pearl Harbor would have happened if we had shown an inclination to engage Germany sooner.

      Failure to study and understand history allows us to make the same mistakes in later generations.

    • Our country has hundreds of thousands of jobs that people don’t take and you are worried about people being in the country illegally?

      • That’s your reason that makes it okay? You don’t see any other potential problems or issues beyond filling a job no one else wants?

    • This biggest threat to our nation, is Americans voting for democrats. They literally hate America and love their tyrant like power.

    • No, because those aren’t the biggest internal problems our nation faces. Those are just the symptos of the real problem, but that’s a discussion for a completely off-topic subject.

      The war in Ukraine is just a modern-day proxy war with Russia, like in the “good old days” of the cold war. Technology may have changed, but the A-10 is still the aircraft best suited to this type of warfare. Though as has already been mentioned, their use also requires air superiority, which I don’t believe is the case here.

  3. Everybody who has been around airplanes for a little while comes to understand that some airplanes do some things very well and some other things, not so much. But other airplanes do those other things well, so the need is filled. It’s the same with cars, motorcycles, and small arms. For that matter just ask somebody coaching pee wee football. I don’t understand why the military/design/procurement process persists in trying to come up with a single solution aircraft that will fit all intended and discovered uses. Of course, their reason is MONEY, and standardization saves MONEY, but the consequence is spending huge amounts of money on equipment that still does a few things well and everything else, not as well as a purpose-built & designed aircraft. Having as many specialized, effective tools as possible in the toolbox would seem to be an asset to military commanders in the field. Maybe the USMC wants the A-10s the USAF is so eager to dump. Or do they figure their helicopters can do the same tasks?

    • Our military leaders and generals have become politician generals, they are more interested in the latest greatest thing, and lots of shiny new bling. The A-10 doesn’t fit that role for them, perhaps they need to be put back in combat where their survival in a hot fire fight depends on the A-10.

  4. Sounds a LOT like DCS and their A-10 module to me…

    I find great irony in the fact that, more than 30 years ago, Eagle Dynamics, the publisher, was originally founded by Russians in Moscow. In the meantime, it has relocated to Switzerland and has become quite an international company, with a huge following.

    DCS as a platform is well worth a look for anyone interested in military aviation. Their A-10, F/A-18C and AH-64 packages, among others, are second to none and have a steep learning curve (they are so realistic, you can e.g. read the real NATOPS manual for the F/A-18C and find it simulates most of what’s in there quite accurately).

  5. Leave it to the USAF brass to find another way to try to get rid of their A-10’s.

    Ukraine does not yet have, nor are they likely to have, air superiority. Without air superiority, using A-10’s is just a quicker way to lose the few qualified UAF pilots that they now have. As a former “ground-pounder” having excellent close air support is often a deciding factor in winning the ground battle. The A-10 is an excellent anti-tank weapon, given appropriate circumstances permitting it’s use, but so is the Javelin and the other anti-tank missiles that the Ukrainian forces have been using with great effectiveness, and the risk is considerably less than using A-10’s.

  6. As with most things with aircraft, training pilots in secret sounds good, but not one mention or thought is given to the maintenance personnel…….train pilots as much as you want, they will be sitting in the cockpit making pew, pew,pew, gun sounds because the aircraft are down with no one trained to do maintenance.

  7. “60 year old airplane-shaped cannon” – ? USAF’s RFP which included the GAU-8 went out in 1970, first flight of the YA-10 in 1972.

  8. This comment is not about the A-10. I have no problem with an aircraft that provides close infantry support for US troops. This comment is about the reason there is talk of providing Ukraine with offensive air capabilities. Natural gas.
    The tendency is to focus on the conflict between Russian and Ukraine because the fighting is front and center in media reports with political interests also issuing press releases to keep it on the front burner.
    This is the second time there is open hostilities between the Russians and the Ukrainians over natural gas. Why? The short answer is the money that can be made selling natural gas to Western Europe. Somebody wants to push the Russians out of the European market.
    If they are successful, the price of natural gas for US commercial and residential customers is going to rise as the demand for US natural gas increases overseas. Does the US natural gas consumer really need to pay more for energy because one gang is fighting another for control of the other’s turf? And, all while financing the fight with US deficit tax dollars?

    • Huh?

      Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
      Russia claims Ukraine is really part of Russia.
      Putin is playing the same ‘culture’ game as Adolf Hitler did.
      Putin is following Stalin’s expansionist lead. Tyrannies try to expand, democracies do not as they want to trade values.

      Your comment is especially stupid given that Ukraine has large reservoirs of natural gas, mostly undeveloped. And farmland and coal deposits and …. all of which Russia would get.

      Marxist conspiracy theorists should not be in aviation.

    • Can you imagine if in early 1942 you’d laid out the coldly logical reasons Japan attacked at Pearl Harbour a few months prior? To power their empire plans by securing fuel sources from the bottom of Asia while scaring the US out of the western Pacific? Some would already know it. Some would angrily dismiss it because they are emotionally welded to the first thing they read in the paper. Some would realize it was drawing aside the curtain of propaganda and BS and revealing some of the coldly logical reasoning on our side also.

      Regular people relate to regular people. The hard heads see interests, threats and opportunities in which regular people are mostly just useful or distracting.

    • So many many different opinions, so many sure this is all about the tyrannical Russians denying freedom to the oppressed Ukrainians instead of businessmen engaged in the usual pursuit of economic gain. Well, I guess we can all agree to disagree.

      When Obama/Clinton used the CIA to start the first dust up between Ukraine and Russia there was George Soros, and others, coveting the European natural gas market. The first conflict was thought to almost be a slam dunk for those looking to take over the European natural gas market. That is, until it became apparent that the Russians were not going to give up their pipelines or their naval base on the Black Sea. The current conflict is just a continuation of the same old stuff.

      I suspect many who believe that this conflict is centered around such lofty ideals as democracy thought the civil war in Syria was about removing Assad. Many missed the planned 4 Points Pipeline proposal where Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Syria intended to build the pipelines to take their oil and natural gas to the European market across Turkey. No pipelines can be built from Syria to those other countries, or in any country for that matter, while a civil war is raging. The 4PP is dead. Whew, mission accomplished.

      There are also those who believe that our incursion into the Middle East was about democracy. As I had a very close up view of the situation I can say that was just another business deal. The presence of US troops was an excuse to sell stuff to the US taxpayer. If anyone thinks it was anything more feel free to explain why we bolted from Afghanistan on short notice and left a better trained, better equipped Taliban running the country.

      Most people seem to think the US military is about defense of the USA. This is partially true. Most people do not understand that our military is really the enforcement arm of US economic policy. Most people do not really understand who influences our economic policies.

      These same people believe that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which oversees our central banking system, is another branch of our Federal government. These same people do not understand that the Federal Reserve Bank is a privately held corporation and almost nobody knows who are the stockholders.

  9. Modern SAMs and air launched missels have already nullified the A-10.
    That’s the downside of being sucessful for decades; the other team adapts.

    • Which is why Ukraine has been seeking long-range missiles.

      Seems to be getting/making some beyond basic HIMARs, given damage to the Russian air base in Crimea looks 500 pound warhead size, not just sabotage or Ukrainian operatives.

      And getting anti-aircraft and anti-radar weapon systems.

  10. IMO this won’t result in airframes in use. But this is how you win. Lots of people enthusiastically doing lots of potentially useful things. I think of it a bit like the best football teams, rock bands, etc. Each player is in their position but also helping everyone else while nursing a bunch of their own ideas and theories. The pool of knowledge, skills and abilities will grow faster and wider. People will make connections and run with the resulting concepts. And the Ukraine has only just started to come out from under a stifling blanket. Some exciting things are and will come out of that part of the world, putting our gentrified, self-satisfied corporations to shame.

  11. I don’t understand the view that A10s will do significantly better than the ground attack aircraft which have already had serious issues in the theater where MANPAD and other air defense missiles proliferate. Sure the A10 may be more survivable, but a damaged airplane is still a combat loss. Without SEAD the A10 is just as much or a sitting duck as an SU25