The US Air Force plans to re-open a contract to produce new wings for the Fairchild Republic A-10 and preserve at least some of the three squadrons of fighters now facing early retirement in the absence of the structural upgrade, a top commander says.
The fate of a subset of the close air support and anti-armour aircraft fleet seemed in doubt last week after a report was published by the Project on Government Oversight, which warned that a Boeing contract to re-wing the A-10 fleet was ending with more than 100 fighters still lacking the upgrade.
But Boeing’s role in the programme is ending because the contract “was no longer cost effective” for the manufacturer, Air Combat Command chief Gen Mike Holmes says on 25 January, speaking during an appearance at the Brookings Institution.
Indeed, Boeing later this year is closing the Macon, Georgia, facility where the new A-10 wings are assembled, with the outer wing panels delivered from Korea Aerospace Industries. The USAF will have to create a new assembly line and select a different contractor to finish the job.
The USAF plans to buy more wing sets for the A-10 with funding available in the current budget and in the Fiscal 2019 budget request that will be released in February, Holmes says.
The USAF, however, has not decided how many of the remaining 109 A-10s should be persevered along with the rest of the fleet into the 2030s, he adds. That leaves open the possibility that a substantial number of the A-10s still lacking the strengthened wing modification will be retired.
Meanwhile, the USAF is leaving the schedule open for making that decision, Holmes says. Boeing has delivered enough wing-sets to support six of the nine A-10 wings. It’s possible the USAF will decide to retire some A-10s as their squadrons are replacing by incoming Lockheed Martin F-35As. So far, new F-35A squadrons have stood up to replace F-16 units.
“You’ll know when we’re talking about retiring A-10s when we start replacing them in those decisions,” Holmes says. “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away.”