One third of A-10s need new wings

The U.S. Air Force needs new wings for a third of the A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet. The Air Force has already received funding for wing replacement of 173 aircraft, but they need money for the other 110. From CNN:

The US Air Force is telling Congress to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to upgrading the venerable A-10 Warthog fleet.

As the service rolled out its budget this year, Air Force officials vowed there were no plans to retire the entire A-10 fleet — despite previous attempts — but that doesn’t mean all of the planes in the fleet are safe.

The Air Force has warned Congress that more than a third of the 283 A-10 attack aircraft fleet may have to be permanently grounded unless Congress increases the Air Force’s budget to restart the production line that makes new wings for the planes.

The Air Force has paid for new wings needed to extend the life of 173 A-10 aircraft, but does not have the funding for the other 110 in the fleet, and about 40 would have to be grounded by 2021 unless additional funds are allocated, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

I think it’s funny the Air Force is still flying the A-10. It was originally built to provide close air support to U.S. and NATO ground forces in western Europe against an invading Soviet land force. The plane was designed around the massive 30 mm rotary cannon, a gun with a single purpose: to kill Soviet tanks.

The only good Soviet tank is a dead Soviet tank

The A-10’s nose-mounted GAU-8/A Avenger autocannon fires depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. Depleted uranium because of its denseness. It’s what made the weapon so effective against tanks.

The A-10 was used in Operation Desert Storm in combat operations against Iraq. It killed around 900 Iraqi tanks, but it also destroyed over 2,000 Iraqi vehicles and 1,800 Iraqi artillery pieces. It even killed two Iraqi helicopters in air-to-air combat, a role it was never designed to do.

The U.S. military doesn’t engage in combat with tanks, artillery, or helicopters these days. What makes the A-10 such an effective combat weapon on today’s battlefield is its speed, or more accurately, its lack of speed. The A-10 is so slow that it can loiter over a battlefield. When it flies over a target, the pilot has the time to correctly find a target before it engages.

The A-10 flies at speeds that would cause other aircraft to stall out.

Ease of maintenance

Although I never got to work on the A-10, I did get to check them out when I was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I was working on F-4E and F-4G’s at the time. The A-10 was equipped with the same Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) equipment as the F-4E, but what impressed me was how easy everything was to get to. It was designed with maintenance in mind. The F-4 was not. The “quickest” Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) to swap out on the F-4 was the processor for the radar warning system. It was under a panel with only 36 screws. This same LRU on the A-10 was mounted in the front landing gear compartment. There were no panel screws to remove. If memory serves, it was held in place with two large thumbscrews.

The A-10 made me mad

I walked away from crawling around the A-10 feeling jealous. I walked away feeling mad. When I was in tech school and received orders to go to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, I was disappointed. I didn’t want to go overseas. I was the only one in my class assigned overseas. A classmate even offered to swap assignments with me, something the Air Force allowed back then. He had orders to Myrtle Beach to work on the A-10. I left the decision to my then fiance. She wanted to go to the Philippines. The reason? Because it was a lot cheaper to live. It was so cheap in the Philippines, she wouldn’t need to get a job. In fact, she wouldn’t even be able to get a job in the Philippines. Spouses of American service members were forbidden to work in the Philippines.

If we went to Myrtle Beach, she would have to get a job.

I wish I had gone to Myrtle Beach to work on the A-10. I wish I hadn’t gone to the Philippines. I hated the Philippines. I wish I hadn’t left such an important decision to someone else. Myrtle Beach is were I now go for vacation.

The A-10 is the girlfriend the Pentagon wants to break up with, but can never quite get it done

For as long as I can remember, the Pentagon has tried to retire the A-10. The idea of a single-mission aircraft grew out of favor with the powers that be a long time ago. For the longest time, the answer to every problem was the F-16, a plane originally designed for export to U.S. friendly counties. Most counties wanted nothing to do with a U.S. built single-engine combat aircraft that the U.S. didn’t use in its own combat fleet. That eventually changed. The Air Force began using the F-16 as a mainline tactical fighter, less costly to procure and maintain then the F-15.  The U.S. Navy even began using the F-16 in its aggressor squadrons, planes that take on the role of enemy aircraft for the purposes of training.

The F-16 is the safest single engine combat airplane

I’ve never been a fan of the F-16. It only has one engine. When it comes to aircraft, especially combat aircraft, the more engines, the better. Unlike every other combat aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, the F-16 only has one engine. Every other aircraft in the U.S. military can lose an engine and make it back to base. The F-16 cannot.

I was in Korea in the late 80’s and an F-16 there has crashed into a mountain. This incident happened shortly after another F-16 crash. Critics began questioning the safety record of the F-16. I remember reading a quote in the newspaper from an Air Force public relations officer who said, “The F-16 is the safest single engine combat aircraft in the Air Force.”

This was a ridiculous comment because the F-16 was the only single engine combat aircraft in the Air Force.

 

Author: Rick Rottman

This is my personal blog. It's where I write about things when I feel like it.

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