Washington (AFP) – The US military has deployed a dozen A-10 ground-attack planes to the air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey, a US official said Tuesday.The 12 planes, famed for their tank-destroying capabilities, arrived over the weekend and have already been scheduled to fly missions in support of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, the official told AFP.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the move had “added capability” to the coalition’s efforts against IS.
Known by troops on the ground as “Warthogs,” A-10 planes are heavily strengthened and designed to withstand direct hits from armor-piercing rounds.
The planes typically fly lower and slower than F-16s, which also puts them more in harm’s way.
“There’s more significant risk than other aircraft due to the flight path they typically fly,” the official said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the US-led coalition has already used A-10s during its bombing campaign of IS jihadists, which has been going on for more than a year.
The move comes three weeks after Russia launched its own bombing campaign in Syria. Officials from the Pentagon and Moscow are due to finalize an “understanding” over air-safety rules to avoid planes from the two powers flying into each other.
The official said the A-10s could potentially be used to support rebel groups fighting IS in northern Syria, including a group called the “Syrian Arab Coalition” that received a massive airdrop of ammunition this month.
Turkey in July allowed US planes to use Incirlik Air Base to attack IS positions in Syria.