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A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II

Service Life

Replacing the wings on 173 Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt IIs gave the A-10 another 10,000 hours of life without the need for a depot inspection, sufficient to keep the aircraft flying until the late 2030s. Over 100 further A-10s are currently in the Air Force inventory with three more squadrons, some of which may also be re-winged in a follow-on A-10 Enhanced Wing Assembly program that had yet to be launched.

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 would 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 would 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) would 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 would 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 would 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 would 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 would allow the A-10 to reach a service life of 16,000 hours. The eight year Hog Up Program/Project would 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 would 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 would 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 would 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 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, would be an engineering challenge. Any difference in weight between a new engine and the current engine would 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 would 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 would likely be detuned to approximate the current thrust, but would last almost forever because they would never be operated at the high end of the operating temperature range.

The 2012 "Air Force Strategy and Force Structure Overview" plans to rebalance its overall ratio of regular, Reserve and Air National Guard forces at about 60 installations in 33 states and retire 227 aircraft to support a new defense strategy. The Department of the Air Force planned to retire 164 A-10 aircraft in fiscal year 2016. For fiscal year 2015, the Department of the Air Force proposed the retirement of 100 A- 10 aircraft and in H.R. 4435, the Howard P. “Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, included a provision that would prohibit the use of funds authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Defense to be obligated or expended to retire A-10 aircraft.

Section 133 of the FY16 House Armed Services National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibited the use of funds to retire, plan to retire, or place in storage or backup aircraft inventory an A-10 aircraft and requires the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 171 A-10 aircraft designated as primary mission aircraft inventory.

Air Force Material Command issued Request for Information SPRHA4-16-R-1002 "New A-10 Wing Assembly Production" on 17 September 2015 to gather comments and potential sources for production of new wing assemblies for the A/OA-10A to support operational requirements through 2021. The benefits of having replacement structural assemblies is to mitigate the increasing inspection and repair costs necessary to maintain aging structural items.

The wing assembly consists of a center panel with one left hand and one right hand outer panel. The total assembly length is approximately 58 feet long; the center panel is 18 feet long and each of the outer panels is approximately 20 feet long. Estimated production is approximately 10-25 ship sets per year at a production rate of approximately 1-2 wing assemblies per month.

This announcement constitutes an official Request for Information (RFI). This is not a Request for Proposal (RFP) or an Invitation for Bid (IFB), nor is it to be construed as a commitment by the government. The government does not intend to make an award on the basis of this RFI or otherwise pay for the information solicited.

Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle said in November 2015 that the retirement of the A-10 Warthog will likely be delayed by two to three years due to the global threat environment now faced by the US. He recommends using the A-10 in Turkey to combat Islamic State militants. The service was aiming to cease operating the plane in 2019. Some A-10 squadrons will be retired sooner and replaced by F-16s coming out of Hill Air Force Base.

By February 2016 the US had put off the retirement of a 1970s era fighter plane, citing its effectiveness in the fight against the Islamic State military group among the reasons for keeping the jets flying. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Congress the A-10's usefulness combating IS in Iraq and Syria is one reason the Pentagon wants to keep the plane.

"I saw some of the A-10s that are flying bombing missions against ISIL when I was at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey last December, and we need the additional payload capacity they can bring to the fight," Carter told a House Appropriations subcommittee on 25 February 2016. "We're pushing off the A-10's final retirement until 2022 so we can keep more aircraft that can drop smart bombs on ISIL."

In March 2016 Flight Global reported that a "combat air force study” was to "considering alternative CAS aircraft: everything from the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, and the Textron AirLand Scorpion on the “low end” of the capability spectrum to more sophisticated clean-sheet attack aircraft or AT-X derivatives of the planned T-X next-generation trainer."

By 2017 as many as 109 of the service’s 281 A-10s needed replacements to extend their wing set’s lifespan to 16,000 flight hours. “Our current grounding projections show first groundings in FY18 with approximately 55 aircraft by FY25,” Mike Walton a spokesperson Air Force Materiel Command told Task & Purpose in September 2017.

The Air Force Materiel Command issued Solicitation Number: FA8202-18-R-1001 for the A-10 Thunderbolt Advanced-Wing Continuation Kitting (ATTACK) on 22 December 2017. The A-10 SPO has a current and critical need for additional A-10 Wing Sets. The current wing assembly (i.e. those not yet replaced by the Enhanced Wing Assembly (EWA)) has reached and surpassed its design life and has been depot overhauled many times. This anticipated acquisition will ensure continued usefulness of the proven A-10 Weapons Platform.

On 08 February 2018 the Air Force released draft documents for plans of a rapid program to replace the wings on 116 A-10s over the next seven years, at an estimated cost of about $10 million to re-wing a single aircraft. Because sources of supply for all material and parts have recently been established, it was not expected that obsolete materials will present a challenge to the contractor.

While many updates to the Legacy configuration have already been incorporated (e.g. process specification updates, sheet metal consolidations, substituting machining for forgings where appropriate, etc.), the prime contractor may identify materials, processes, or manufacturing methods within the TDP that are not cost effective due to improvements in technology or are non-preferred. In these cases, the prime contractor may propose alternative design and/or process specification changes for approval.

Government Furnished Property contains available tooling from the last wing procurement effort. While considerable effort has been placed in identifying this tooling, the list may not be final or all-inclusive. The contractor may utilize this tooling or develop their own. The tooling is located and packaged at AMARG (Davis Monthan AFB, AZ).

Boeing had provided the wing sets previously, but their contract ended, and they had no plans to submit a new bid. The award was expected by 25 March 2019.

On Aug. 21, 2019 The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded a $999,000,000 (ceiling) indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for A-10 wing replacements. This contract provides for up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and up to 15 wing kits. Thi was in addition to the 173 A-10s that received new wings over the past decade. Work will be performed at multiple subcontractor locations in the U.S. and one subcontractor location in South Korea and is expected to be complete by Aug. 23, 2030. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received. Fiscal 2017, 2018 and 2019 procurement funds in the amount of $239,578,025 and are being obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8202-19-D-0004).

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Page last modified: 22-08-2019 18:30:58 ZULU