GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- It's a familiar sound across the Joint Multinational Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area, also known as GTA, for the past 37 years. The sustained burst of live-fire from an A-10 Thunderbolt's GAU-8 Avenger gatling gun as it dived to kill a tank target in the GTA's impact area. A sound often described as the whir of a gigantic chainsaw.
April 24, 2013, the A-10 Thunderbolt (affectionately known as the Warthog or the "flying gun") took flight over GTA's impact area for the last time. The two A-10s were of the U.S. Air Force's 81st Fighter Squadron based in Spangdahlem, Germany.
The 81st Fighter Squadron, one of the few active-duty A-10 squadrons in the world, is being deactivated.
The airspace over the Grafenwoehr training area is ideal for pilots- it's unique in Europe." said U.S. Air Force Capt. Aaron Bigler, pilot. "Not just for the A-10 but for a wide array of aircraft -- it's a very busy airspace for training European- based pilots-- and we were glad to avail ourselves of it. It also has one of the best safety records you could find anywhere in the world."

Bigler and his wingman Capt. Josh Griedel made a total of three runs over the impact area, making steep dives then maneuvering the aircraft at low altitude for the last time.
The A-10 debuted at the Grafenwoehr Training Area on Aug. 25, 1977, before the international press, during an exhibition event.
The A-10 is designed to attack tanks, armored vehicles and military installations and provide close air support for ground forces. The A-10's maneuverability at low speed and low altitude allows accurate and effective targeting over all types of terrain.

Video footage of the historic last flight of the A-10s mentioned in this story can be found at
More photos from this story available for download on our JMTC Flicker site:

For more information, or to learn more about Europe's unique training mission visit the JMTC website: