The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, a single-seat, twin turbofan engine, straight wing jet aircraft is a tough old bird so ugly they call it the "Warthog." One of its developers called it the Rodney Dangerfield of aircraft because nobody has any respect for it. That is except for the pilots who fly it.
The Warthog entered service in 1976. There is only one airplane for close-air support and this is the Warthog. It's not sexy, but it's functional. Its airframe was designed for durability and its short takeoff and landing capability permits operation from airstrips close to the front lines and its simple design enable maintenance with minimal facilities.
The airplane was designed around a giant cannon, a seven-barrel Gatling gun capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute, making the Warthog lethal to tanks, artillery and other armored vehicles; pilots needed to fire only for a few seconds. The Warthog also carries Maverick anti-tank missiles that can be fired from 25 miles away from a target, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and a range of bombs. Its secondary mission is to provide forward air controller – airborne support, by directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets.
With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10's service life may be extended to 2040, although it is to be retired starting in 2022 after being replaced.
What's all this got to do with chess? Chess Master Raul Benedicto was one of the engineers who helped develop the plane in the 1960s. Benedicto was born on Valentine's Day in 1923 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He earned his engineering degree with honors at the University of Michigan and spent most of his career with military contractor Fairchild Republic Co. of Long Island, New York.
He rose to become chief engineer at the company before retiring, after 35 years, to Boca Raton, Florida in 1981. His wife of 38 years, Ines, described him as the best man in the world, a fantastic guy and claimed they never had a fight or an argument. After retiring Benedicto avidly followed news of the Warthog's successes in the first Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As a chess master Benedicto was good enough to win the New York state championship in 1966 and he and his wife were bridge enthusiasts who won a number of regional bridge tournaments in Florida. The couple also loved to travel and take cruises. He died at the age of 82 in Boca Raton in March 2005 after a brief illness and according to his wishes, he was cremated and his ashes scattered across the Atlantic Ocean.