Skip to comments.Upgrades To Bring A-10 Into 21st Century
Posted on 06/24/2002 7:43:50 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
The Air Force is working on a series of upgrades to the A-10 Thunderbolt II that will add new avionics, digital communications links and satellite-guided precision weapons to the service's premier close-support aircraft.
The modifications are aimed at marrying advances in computer technology with the raw power of the largest, most powerful cannon ever mounted in an aircraft, the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun. The Air Force plans to keep the A-10, which was first deployed in 1976, in service until 2028. A-10s are currently stationed in Bagram, Afghanistan, and played an important role supporting Army troops during the recent Operation Anaconda.
"The A-10 doesn't get the glory, but it gets the mission done and the Army couldn't do without it," said Lt. Col. Rhett Taylor, chief of the A-10 Weapons Systems Team at Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Va.
"They did Anaconda," she said. "They're what saved the day."
The upgrades, which will encompass all of the service's 363 A-10s, will add the precision and standoff capability of the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser to an already potent arsenal of bombs and laser-guided missiles.
"You're taking an analog airplane into the digital world," Taylor said.
Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, N.Y., is the primary contractor for the A-10 Precision Engagement Modification, as the upgrade is known. Currently in full-scale development, the program has a full value of about $285 million, said Jeff Zeppetello, a support contractor to the program who works for Anser Analytic Services, Inc., a research institute based in Arlington, Va.
Originally, the program was projected to cost around $380 million, Zeppetello said, but Lockheed Martin and the Air Force shaved that figure about $100 million by combining several subprograms into the Precision Engagement Modification.
The system will "vastly improve precision engagement" for the A-10, allowing it to fire modern precision weapons from higher altitudes and farther away than is currently possible, he said.
The new displays and an upfront controller will "allow the pilot to see exactly in front of him and operate the controls on the upfront controller versus heads-down in the cockpit," he said. `We are going to be definitely high tech in this battlefield."
Produced by Republic Fairchild, the A-10 has the distinction of being the only U.S. aircraft designed specifically for close air supportproviding firepower to ground troops engaging an enemy force. Known as the Warthog, it is beloved by ground troops for its ability to loiter for long periods in a target area and destroy anything from enemy soldiers to the heaviest tanks. A-10 pilots are fiercely loyal to their craft, an ungainly looking, subsonic creature with a legendary ability to absorb battle damage and still make it home.
Taylor and Zeppetello noted that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper was a key supporter of the new modifications while he was commander of Air Combat Command.
A-10 advocates like to emphasize that their airplane, while often overshadowed by the service's sleeker fighters, such as the F-15 and F-16, is second to none in the close air support mission. A-10s are responsible for covering 30 percent of the Air Force's Combat Search and Rescue missions and performing 30 percent of its close air support duties, Rhett said.
"It's low profile because we're not unmanned and we're not stealthy," she said. "We just get the job done."
"What the A-10 gives that the F-16 can't, and we're not degrading the F-16, but the firepower that the A-10 carries and the loitering time can do a lot more than what an F-16 can ever think of doing," Zeppetello said.
An A-10 can loiter from two-and-a-half to four hours, depending on how it's configured, he said. Then it can top off at an aerial tanker and stay another four hours. Fast moving jets, on the other hand, measure their loiter times over a target in minutes, not hours.
Paving the way
The precision engagement upgrades, scheduled to begin installation in early fiscal 2006, will follow two programs that are already underway to get the A-10 ready for the new cockpit. The first is a better navigation system that combines a modern Inertial Navigation System with the Global Positioning System.
Zeppetello said three quarters of the A-10 fleet had already received the new INS/GPS system, which replaces the aircraft's old "basic INS 101 system."
The other modification is an Integrated Fire Flight Control Computer, which gives the A-10 the capability to deliver advanced precision weapons.
"Those are all precursors to the Precision Engagement modification," Zeppetello said. "Those are our baselines that have to be done prior to the PE modification."
The boxes for the integrated computer are already in production. Installation is slated to begin in February 2003 and take about two years, he said.
Desert Storm A-10 Mission Results Targets Confirmed Destroyed
Command Vehicles 249
Military Structures 112
Helicopters (Air to Air) 2
Scud Missiles 51
Anti-Aircraft Artillery 50
Command Post 28
Frog Missiles 11
Fuel Tanks 8
Fighters (Air to Ground) 10
A pair of Thunderbolts, new and old, closing with the enemy and tearing his liver out since 06MAY1941. Enjoy.
Maybe they mean the only current US aircraft designed specifically for close air support. Although the AD was actually originally designed as a divebomber. Too bad they can't modernize these! See http://skyraider.org.
I'll see your 30mm and raise a 105 (AC130). I'm thinking it also has twin 40mm, too.
All the (accurate) references to 105, 40, 37, (there was even a 3incher tried out in B-25 if I remember correctly), guns as being more powerful skip the changes in technology that make the original quote true.
Count the barrels, note the description of a sound "like a zipper", remember that this is where all that depleated uranium came from (to penetrate tanks); that mother creates an absence of solid things like few others, and none of those mentioned, could pretend to.
These political generals, these perfumed princes soundly in the pockets of the aero-industry and high tech vendors were determined to relegate the the A-10 to minor Air Guard units, primarily to allow for the obtaining of required flight time or, in the alternative, to give the airplane to the Army. If the latter, the AF officers flying the bird and the crews keeping it flyable were going to be given the option of changing services or changing aerial platform communities. Neither of these "Hobson Choices" would have been acceptable or feasible.
Of course, that would have put the Army back into the jet flying business, something both prohibited by law and anathema to AF brass. Such a move, even if permitted by Congress (itself a doubtful move), would have been a bad military decision of monumental proportions and even worse public policy.
Once the aircraft arrived in Saudi, the A-10 went on to prove itself a valuable low-intensity conflict weapons and killing platform. It isn't going to win any air-to-air victories although it will make hostile troop carrier or offensive choppers who venture out wish they'd stayed at the Officers Club drinking beer and enjoying a good cigar--or whatever our rag-headed enemy pilots do at their O clubs.
The A-10's loitering time and lethality will be among the most valuable tools in our armament inventory during the forseeable continuation of the asymmetrical hostilities in which we are now involved. The F-15, F-16, F-14 and F-18 along with the use of B-52s in their respective tactical roles (asymmetic conflict is blessed with few strategic targets) are excellent tools for interdiction and elimination of the enemy's ability to fight on the ground. Those high-performance fighters do the same for an enemy's inability to use the air. The A-10 in its vehicle and troop killing role at the van of the enemy's forces is the quintessential weapon to deliver the "in terrorem" effect that so effectively eliminates an opposing force's very important will to fight. A combat force lacking will and motivation is reduced to a large body of dead men walking.
A conflict in which the enemy is deprived of its supply and logistical pipeline, command and control, and is also information-starved cannot conduct orderly or efficient operations. Being thus reduced to essentially an isolated force of those combatants having to rely on only the fighting tools on hand, a morale and incentive killer like the A-10 quickly destroys any remnants of a disorganized and headless fighter's will. And, while this rapid reduction occurs much quicker in a van composed largely of conscripts such as the Iraqi regular forces, it will also occur in even the most dedicated and fervent ideological fighter over a relatively short time.
Faced with the knowledge that resupply, replacement and logistical support is not going to happen and that the on-coming force of Americans, British and other allies is well equiped, well fed, well led, not exhausted because of close battlefield delivery by tactical air and motor transport and possessed of close air support by A-10s and interdiction air forces, even the most zealous warriors will be rendered irrelevant and an ineffective fighting force rapidly. It's the Air Force A-10 (and Army offensive choppers) that become the force of dis-equalization and dis-proportion in that senario. Thus we have the realization of the admonition attributed to General George Patton about allowing the other poor SOB to die for his cause or ideology.
The A-10 modernization and battlefield enhancement program should be not only a net money saving efficiency, but also an always welcome net gain in lethality and extension of an airframe that has a cadre of well trained flight and ground crews as well as a proven and established training and operational syllabus.
We patterned much of our A-10 policies after him. Col. Rudel visited our country 5 times and sat in seminar,for a week each time, with a small group of very high ranking defense planners.
Godspeed, The Dilg
Dang right! Depending on whether the pilot chooses single or double hydraulic motor drive on the old Gau, the firing rate is either 2500 or a skosh over 4500 rounds per minute! Projectiles weigh 13 ounces and they leave the barrel at about 3300 fps!
When they take them out of service, can I have one?
First time I ever saw one on TV they did a slow-motion shot of an old tank on a target range. Those 30mm slugs were going right through it and it was melting from the induced heat.
He bought his in Romania where it was taken apart, re-engineered and remanufactured. They pluck off the wings and send them, two at a time in a container to Vermont where the wings are put back on.
My friend decided to fly his home to NC. All was well until he got near the DC airspace. Did I mention it was painted like a war bird? with Russian stars?
He glanced up out of the bubble canopy when a shadow passed over him and saw the ugly belly of an A-10, glancing down he saw another under his little Yak.
He had neglected to tune his radio to the correct freq and they were checking him out.
The AC-130 may carry bigger-calibre cannon, but in terms of kinetic-energy-on-target-per-second, the Warthog is pretty impressive