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A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II

Service Life

The original service life of the A/OA-10 was 8,000 hours, equating to approximately to FY2005. Based on its performance during the Gulf War, Congress extended the A-10 program until at least 2008. The revised service life was projected out to 12,000 hours, equating to approximately FY2016. The most recent long range plan has the A/OA-10 in the fleet through FY2028, which equates to approximately 18,000-24,000 hours.

Designed to last 4,000 hours, most A-10s have already flown between 6,000-8,000 hours and the Air Force wants to keep the Warthogs flying until around 2025. In order to do this the plane needs to be upgraded. The A-10 SPO is working on a number of A-10 Modernization and Sustainment Projects aimed at extending the aircraft's useful life well into the 21st Century (expected service life in the Air Force fleet until 2028) to include both the Hog Up and CUPID projects.

A/OA-10 modifications are aimed at improving the A/OA-10 throughout the its service life. All modifications are integrated between ACC, AFRC, and ANG, with the Guard and Reserve often funding non-recurring engineering efforts for the modifications and ACC opting for follow-on production buys. Budgetary constraints are often best overcome by this type of arrangement. Two types of modifications are conducted on the A/OA-10, those to systems, structures and engines, and those to avionics. Structure, system and engine modifications aim at improving reliability, maintainability and supportability of the A/OA-10 and reducing the cost of ownership. Avionics modifications continue the metamorphosis of the A/OA-10 from a day visual flight rules (VFR) fighter to a night-capable integrated weapon system.

A/OA-10 avionics modifications provide for greater interoperability between the Army and Air Force by improving situational awareness, tactical communication, navigation and weapon system accuracy, and providing additional capabilities in the areas of threat detection and avoidance, low-level flight safety, stores management and employment of "smart" weapons. In addition, modifications are sought to reduce cost of ownership and to remove supportability quagmires such as obsolete parts. Modifications to the A/OA-10 are nearly always interdependent-interdependence maximizes combat capability of the A/OA-10 by interconnecting modifications in distributed avionics architecture. Integral to the improvement of the A/OA-10 is a new acquisition strategy centered on a recently acquired prime contractor for the weapon system. The prime contractor will be the integrator of all major weapon system modifications and provide the continuity necessary to accommodate the downward trend in organic manpower and relocation of the System Program Office.

A large portion of the systems sustaining engineering is for contingency use throughout the fiscal year and is utilized to investigate mishaps, resolve system deficiencies, develop engineering change proposals, or to establish new operational limits. Specific requirements cannot be forecast, but general needs can be predicted based on actual occurrences since the A/OA-10 program management responsibility transferred to SM-ALC in 1982. The objectives of the sustaining engineering and configuration management programs are to reduce spares utilization, reduce hazard potentials and to increase the weapon system's effectiveness. Sustaining Engineering is mission critical and will be used to obtain the non-organic engineering services needed to maintain and improve the design and performance.

The A/OA-10 weapon system was originally designed for manual pilot operation and control. In 1990, the aircraft was modified to incorporate the Low Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancements (LASTE) System. This system provided computer-aided capabilities including a Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS) to issue warnings of impending collision with the ground, an Enhanced Attitude Control (EAC) function for aircraft stabilization during gunfire and a Low Altitude Autopilot system, and computed weapon delivery solutions for targeting improvements. The LASTE computer system installation added the requirement for an Operational Flight Program (OFP) to provide the computer control software necessary to perform the above functions.

Commencing in 1999, the A/OA-10 fleet was additionally upgraded with the installation of an Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (EGI). In conjunction with this aircraft modification, a replacement Control Display Unit (CDU) will be installed with its own separate OFP software.

Operational capability changes, mission changes, latent system deficiencies, and additional user requirements dictate the necessity of periodic OFP block change cycles (BCC) to maintain the weapon system operational requirements. The current BCC includes the LASTE OFP changes, but will additionally require the CDU OFP updates to be accomplished concurrently following the installations of EGI/IDM Modification. Following installation of the original LASTE System, corrections to original system deficiencies, added user requirements, and now the pending EGI modification program have increased the total requirements for the LASTE computer hardware to its maximum design capability. Implementation of the current OFP software change will result in maximum utilization of the computer's memory and throughput, precluding any further operational change requirements from being implemented. In anticipation of this hardware limitation, engineering Reliability and Maintainability (R&M) project was initiated in 1993 to develop options to correct this deficiency. This project is developing an engineering hardware unit, along with an updated OFP software program, for test and evaluation.

The A-10 Hog Up program will inspect, repair, replace and overhaul many structural and mechanical systems; it is the first step to enable the aircraft to remain viable until the year 2028. The Hog Up configuration is the required baseline for the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program, which will allow the A-10 to reach a service life of 16,000 hours. The eight year Hog Up Program/Project will replace the outer wing panel on all existing A-10 aircraft (a total of 368 each) and the center wing panel on 65% of the existing A-10 aircraft (a total of 240 each). Initially, A-10 aircraft that are located at AMARC will have their center and outer wing panels removed to serve as an initial rotable pool.

Hog Up refurbishment is the first of a three-phase program and took until fiscal year 2002, at which time the team was ready to commence HOG-UP production in phase three. Refurbishment is a program to bring wings out of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, bring the wings to Hill and have us bring them to current year configurations. The bulk of the work for the HOG-UP modification, in phase three, is adding a series of stainless steel straps into the center portion of the plane's wing, the internal structure of the wing. The way it works is an airplane would fly into LAO. They would take the wing off the A-10, get the refurbished wing from supply and hang the wing on the aircraft -- new and improved.

Concurrent with the Hog Up refurbishment phase, the team also built two HOG-UP prototype wings for testing by Northrop Grumman, the plane's manufacturer. The prototype wings are the second phase of the HOG-UP program. The test profile was scheduled for three years during which 10 years of wear and tear will be simulated. The majority of work in the HOG-UP program should be completed by fiscal year 2009. And because the work takes place during scheduled depot inputs, the impact to the A-10 fleet will be as minimal as possible.

The A-10 displays a larger signature on a radar screen than other jets. The A-10's current chaff and flare system works manually. Flares act as decoys for heat-seeking missiles, while chaff is used to confuse enemy radar. A new automated system is expected to be a key defensive weapon in a sophisticated game of hide and seek with the enemy. All active-duty, Guard and Reserve A-10s are expected to be equipped with the automated chaff and flare system by 2005.

Even new engines are in the works that would provide a dramatic performance and maintenance improvement. General Electric is marketing the 4,400kg thrust GE TF34-101 turbofan as a replacement engine for the existing 4,218kg thrust GE TF34-100 turbofans. The engines, for example, will be an engineering challenge. Any difference in weight between a new engine and the current engine will mean a change in the center of gravity and require a shift and/or addition of ballast. Likewise, because of the location of the engines, any additional thrust will add to the already significant nose-down moment. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise to the operators to find that the new engines will likely be detuned to approximate the current thrust, but will last almost forever because they will never be operated at the high end of the operating temperature range.



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