Wing cracks ground one-third of USAF A-10s

Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

The US Air Force has grounded 127 Fairchild Republic A-10s that require immedate inspection and repairs for wing cracks, which the service calls a "systemic problem" for an aging fleet.

The USAF operates a total of about 360 A-10s, of which the oldest roughly 240 were manufactured with "thin-skin" wings. All of the grounded aircraft come from the thin-wing fleet.

The affected aircraft are grounded until they can be inspected and any repairs made, a US Air Force spokesman says. The first priority for inspections are A-10s based in US Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan, where the close air support asset is in heavy demand.

fairchild-republic-a-10-445 
 © www.af.mil

It was not immediately clear how long it would take for the entire fleet to be inspected.

The A-10 first entered service in 1977, and is now the target of several modernization programs.

In June 2007, the USAF awarded Boeing a $2 billion contract to replace the wing sets for all A-10s with thin-skin wings.

The USAF's tactical air fleet is showing increasing signs of brittleness as the average age rises well over two decades. The A-10s were originally expected to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35A, but are now being counted on to remain in service for at least 20 more years.

Last November, the USAF also grounded all Boeing F-15s after one fighter disintegrated during flight on 2 November. That issue was traced to longeron cracks caused by shoddy manufacturing, but was limited to affecting only nine remaining aircraft across the fleet.