Lockheed Martin has delivered the second major element of the US Air Force’s A-10C Precision Engagement (PE) upgrade. The digital stores management system (DSMS) has been delivered for flight testing as work continues to define an engine upgrade for the attack aircraft, writes Graham Warwick.
Replacing an analogue system, the DSMS automates management of the aircraft’s weapons and integrates its targeting pod – Lockheed’s Sniper or Northrop Grumman’s Litening – added to the Fairchild-produced A-10 in the first stage of the upgrade.
This first increment of the PE programme will undergo operational suitability assessment in the first quarter of next year, says Lockheed programme director Roger Il Grande.
The first increment upgrades the cockpit with two colour multifunction displays and expanded hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls.
The second increment, which adds smart weapons – Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munition and Lockheed’s Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser – and the SADL situational awareness datalink, will be released by the end of the year for flight testing in the first half of 2007, says Il Grande.
The USAF plans to upgrade all 356 of its A-10s over three years, with the first production aircraft to be inducted into the modernisation programme during April. Development of an upgrade for the type’s General Electric TF34 engine, primarily to increase thrust by using technology from the commercial CF34, is expected to begin in fiscal year 2007 and take three years, Il Grande says.
The planned upgrades to the A-10 fleet are expected to extend operations of the type until 2028.