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Has the A-10 Thunderbolt ever flown without the GAU-8? Can it be done with a ballast in place of the gun? I'm not referring only to the combat role of the A-10, a plane used for training or a ferry flight would also qualify.

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Near as I know, the answer to the first question is no. The aircraft requires that a tail stand be fitted to it when the gun, magazine and electromechanical drive mechanism is removed for maintenance. Operation of the A-10 without the gun would exceed the weight and balance envelope for the aircraft, making flight, as well as ground operations hazardous.

The A-10 has been proposed for use as a converted water bomber to fight forest fires but this balance problem without a counterweight installed in this region would make this very difficult.

http://fireaviation.com/2014/09/25/a-10-warthog-proposed-again-as-an-air-tanker/

If one was going to remove the gun for a ferry flight, it would have to be fitted with some kind of counterweight in its place, which would defeat the original purpose of removing the gun.

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  • $\begingroup$ You are a bit short sighted in your conclusion. An airframe in need of repair could be returned to the factory, but if the gun was usable it could be placed on another airframe in flyable condition. $\endgroup$
    – Eric Urban
    Dec 29, 2016 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric Urban I'm not sure what your point is here. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ @EricUrban the airframe could not be returned to the factory as the factory no longer exists. If you mean it could be stripped for depot level maintenance, sure. But it wouldn't be airworthy and would have to be moved by other means (probably truck and/or loaded on a C-17 with the wings removed). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Dec 29, 2016 at 8:11
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The A-10 has already been used as a fire fighter. I don't know what mods were made but I know it didn't have a tank killing cannon in the nose.

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    $\begingroup$ As I stated above in my answer an A-10 water bomber has only been proposed; no aircraft has yet been retrofitted this way. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 3:17

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