The US Air Force plans to replace the wings on its oldest Fairchild A-10s, in a move to keep its fleet of 356 of the ground-attack aircraft operational until 2028. The rewinging programme will follow the Lockheed Martin-led Precision Engagement (PE) avionics upgrade now under way.
"We are in the process of putting together a request for proposals," for the rewinging effort, says Col Jim Ratti, A-10 system programme manager, with production deliveries to begin in fiscal year 2010. The replacement wings will be based on the "thick-skin" design used in late-production A-10s, he says.
|The USAF wants to keep its A-10 ground-attack aircraft in the air until 2028|
The A-10 was designed for an operational life of 6,000 flight hours, later extended to 8,000h, but the fleet average is now 9,000h, says Ratti. The plan is to extend this to 16,000h, although a programme to upgrade the A-10's General Electric TF34 engines to increase hot-and-high performance is on hold because of funding constraints, he says.
The first production A-10C upgraded from an A-10A by the USAF's Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah under the PE programme was delivered to the Baltimore Air National Guard on 18 August. All 356 aircraft are to be completed by FY2011, with the first A-10C-equipped unit scheduled to be operational in May 2007.
The PE upgrade equips the A-10 with multifunction displays, digital moving-map, hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls and a digital stores management system. A new software release to enter flight test in November will introduce the SADL datalink, ARC-210 secure radio, 1760 digital weapons databus and Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition GPS-guided bomb. The programme also integrates either a Lockheed Sniper or Northrop Grumman Litening targeting pod, with a Rover video downlink to be added later.
Lockheed is now under contract to supply 189 of 356 PE kits to be delivered for around $168 million.