What a Picture: Why Did An A-10 Warthog 'Escort' an Ohio-Class Navy Submarine?

A-10 Warthog Ohio-Class Submarine.

What a Picture: Why Did An A-10 Warthog 'Escort' an Ohio-Class Navy Submarine?

Earlier this month, a rare sighting of A-10 Warthogs escorting the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska was reported with a rare photo that caused quite the stir. 


Summary: Earlier this month, a rare sighting of A-10 Warthogs escorting the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska was reported.



-The escort occurred while the submarine transited the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

-Photos showed four unarmed A-10s from Nellis Air Force Base and Whiteman Air Force Base involved in the operation.

-The joint exercise aimed to practice overwatch and protection of high-value assets.

-This unusual pairing underscores the unique capabilities of the A-10, which is being phased out, as is the Ohio-class submarine, soon to be replaced by the Columbia class.

A-10 Warthogs Escort Ohio-Class Submarine in Rare Military Exercise

Earlier this month, TWZ reported that a quarter of A-10 Warthogs were used to escort an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. The pairing of the Air Force’s A-10, a renowned close air support platform that made a name for itself supporting troops in the dusty conflicts of the Middle East, with the Navy’s largest submarine, was unexpected.

“What exactly the A-10’s mission included as part of the escort operation and how it came about remains unclear, although it was certainly a very rare sight to behold,” TWZ reported.

A-10 Warthog Escorting the Nebraska

The escort happened while the Ohio-class USS Nebraska was transiting the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, which leads from the Salish Sea to the Pacific Ocean in Washington State. Visuals were posted on social media. The photos clearly show four A-10s escorting the Nebraska. Two of the A-10s in question feature the ‘OT’ tail codes, which signify Nellis Air Force Base’s 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron. The other two A-10s feature the ‘KC’ tail code of Whiteman Air Force Base’s 442nd Fighter Wing. None of the four A-10s were armed with external ordnance.

Submarine Group 9, who posted the photos, noted that “joint operations, such as this one which involved the Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy, ensure the U.S. military is ready to meet its security commitments at home and abroad including commitments to our allies and partners.” The post did not clarify what exactly the “joint operations” included.


“While further details on the training event are unknown, for the A-10s it likely provided an opportunity to practice overwatch and protection of a rare and extremely high-value strategic asset,” TWZ reported. “The low-flying, slow-speed capabilities of the Warthog, combined with its loitering ability and extreme air-to-ground precision, make it a uniquely capable force-protection platform.”

The A-10 has been used in naval environments before. Previously, it was used to “target swarms of boats” and for “striking small naval vessels in past training exercises.”

The Nebraska was likely leaving on a nuclear deterrence patrol. The Nebraska, as part of the Ohio class, can carry up to 90 nuclear warheads, forming a vital third of America’s nuclear triad. Ohio-class submarines carry the Trident II, a Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile.

A moment in time for A-10 and Ohio-Class 

A-10s escorting an Ohio-class submarine is a configuration that won’t be possible for much longer.

The U.S. Air Force is beginning to phase out the A-10 after years of administrative purgatory in which the Air Force and Congress could not agree on the future of the aircraft. The A-10 retirement has begun despite protests that the airframe’s capabilities are unique and irreplaceable (see: submarine escort).

Similarly, the Ohio-class submarine is on the way out, to be replaced with the upcoming Columbia class. The Columbia, which will also carry the Trident II, should replace the Navy’s 14 Ohio-class submarines between 2027 and 2032. 

About the Author: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Image Credit: The main image is U.S. Government. All others are from Shutterstock.