November 15, 2007: The
new upgrade of the A-10, the A-10C [PHOTO], has been in Iraq for two months now and has
been a big success. The upgrades give the A-10 the same goodies that most other
fighters have. These include the ability to drop JDAM (GPS guided) bombs, plus
a targeting pod, lots of color displays in the cockpit and a digital communications
capability. In practical terms, the A-10C pilots have a much better idea of
where they, and any other aircraft, are in the area. The targeting pod gives a
detailed, and up close view of what's going on down there, day or night. The
heat sensing night camera even makes it possible to detect recently buried
roadside bombs, and A-10C pilots have gotten pretty good at that.
The digital data link
gives the pilots the equivalent of battlefield Internet. Video, voice and text
messages can be quickly exchanged with other aircraft and troops on the ground.
This makes the planning of strikes go a lot quicker, and much reduces the risk
of friendly fire.
Although the A-10 is
built to take ground fire, the targeting pod and JDAMs allow the A-10 to be useful
outside the range of ground fire (10,000 feet and up). But the A-10 can still
come down low and use its 30mm cannon. With the upgrade, the A-10C can do
anything for the troops that an F-16, F-18 or F-15E can do, and do it more
cheaply (the A-10 is a less expensive aircraft to operate), as well as
providing services an F-16 cannot (a bullet resistant design,¬† a larger caliber cannon and slower speed).
The entire A-10 fleet
(350 aircraft) is being converted to the A-10C standard, at a cost of about $13
million per aircraft.