BAE Systems is to upgrade more than 100 US Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Fairchild A-10As to improve pilot situational awareness as an interim step before they are modified to A-10Cs under Lockheed Martin's precision engagement programme.
The US Air Force, meanwhile, has signalled plans to recompete the A-10 prime contract Lockheed has held since December 1997 and which is expected to expire at the end of 2008. Under the contract, Lockheed acts as system integrator for the close air-support aircraft.
Lockheed is completing software development for the precision engagement upgrade under its prime contract while supplying retrofit kits for the USAF for a total of 356 aircraft under a separate production contract. The first upgraded A-10Cs are now operational in Iraq.
Boeing in June won a $2 billion contract to rewing 242 A-10s, and says it plans to bid for the prime contract. Rewinging and other upgrades are intended to extent the fleet's life by 20 years. The USAF plans to retire the A-10 in 2028, but may retain the aircraft beyond that (Flight International, 28 August-3 September).
A draft request for proposals has yet to be released, but the new prime contract is expected to encompass further upgrades to the A-10. These could involve the self-protection system, datalink connectivity and data fusion. Re-engining continues to be discussed, but depends on funding.
The precision engagement upgrade is integrating the Lockheed Sniper XR and Northrop Grumman Litening AT targeting pods, new weapons and improved cockpit controls and displays on the A-10 to increase situational awareness and targeting capability. BAE's upgrade will integrate the targeting pod and multifunction display to reduce pilot workload as a stopgap.