Warplanes: May 16, 2004


Due to the higher demand for A-10s around the globe, the U.S. Air Force is looking for workable accounting tricks to keep all of its  356 A-10s operational, rather than retiring some in order to free up money for upgrading the rest of the fleet. Air Combat Command says the full inventory is needed over the long term. One option is to shuffle maintenance actions to be performed as they are due, rather than performing everything at once. Planners had hoped to bring in A-10s for upgrades and do all the maintenance at the same time.

Among the next set of enhancements under the Precision Engagement Plus program also called Platinum Pig, Superhog, and Silver Sow, will be an overhaul of the A-10s TF-34-100A engines to a B standard with a new fan and upgraded components that can withstand higher operating temperatures. The TF-34-100Bs would allow an A-10 to carry 5,000 lb. more payload on a hot day and add 5,000 feet of ceiling for operations above 20,000 feet. These improvements will also improve climb time at higher altitudes and make aerial refueling easier. With the current engines. A-10s cant fly as high and fast as the tankers would like. Other enhancements include an integrated "blue force tracker" identification system displayed in the helmet-mounted cueing system (to mark friendly vehicles transmitting the proper satellite signal) to cut back on friendly fire incidents and an improved IR protection system. Warthog drivers favor the Tadircm laser-based countermeasure system over expendables such as flares because it would cut back on the need to constantly reload the flare containers on the aircraft. Another interim upgrade would add more communications gear to communicate with ground troops, including a color multifunction display supporting a locational datalink between pilots and ground controllers. Doug Mohney


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