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Subject: A-10 Forever
James Dunnigan    8/30/2006 1:06:00 AM

The U.S. Air Force wants to keep it's A-10 ground attack aircraft going at least another ten years. That means that over 300 of them have to be rebuilt and upgraded. That's because the A-10s were built three decades ago, with a service life of 4,000 hours in the air. Most have already got over 6,000 hours. So refurbishment will extend service life to 16,000 hours, and install an F-16 like cockpit, along with the ability to use a targeting pod and deliver GPS and laser guided bombs. This makes the A-10 the most versatile ground support aircraft in service. The A-10 still has its 30mm cannon, which, while designed to destroying armored vehicles, has proved useful against all manner of targets. The targeting pod also enables A-10 pilots to cruise around at night, and get a high-resolution view of what's going on down there. The infantry depend on the extra eye in the sky, and the ability to deliver anything from 30mm cannon fire, to Maverick missiles to 500 pound JDAM smart bombs.
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roninCoder    Deja Vu -- all over again   10/12/2006 6:47:14 AM
Hmmm, yes.  It does feel like deja vu all over again.
Seems like an annual rite in the A-10 SPO was to calculate the costs of regenerating AMARC
'd aircraft.  The figure would be breathtaking and the matter would be dropped...until the following year.
The aircraft in AMARC are far behind the current avionics baseline.  The cost to bring them up to the current baseline would, well, take your breath away.
There was a brief effort to try to replace the A-10s LASTE computer with the F-16's Fire Control Computer, you know, like a drop in replacement.  This came to nought when someone (ahem) pointed out that the severe mismatch in I/O capabilities (to the FCC's detriment) and, by the way, where on the airplane would it go without a (breathtakingly) large bill to re-wire the aircraft.  There was no way the FCC would fit in the A-10's LASTE location (if the bright-eyes who came up with the idea had bothered to look).
Which brings up another problem.  The A-10 is a large aircraft, but lacks room for avionics.  It was delivered with the minimum needed and upgrades over the years took up what little space was available.  I suppose a total redesign and repackaging might allow some enhancements but of course the cost would leave one sans breath.
There was room to replace the pave penny display with an MFD; I figured about a $50M program for the fleet.  Unfortunately, the previous CinC spent my 50 mill on an all expense paid tour of China with 1000 of his closest friends.  Well, you gotta have priorities.
I actually did a cost estimate to wire out to the pylons to support a smart weapons interface.  It turns out tearing the wings apart to run wires is amazingly expensive, apart from developing the avioncs/interfaces to feed the weapons.  I wasted a lot of paper on that, but not much breath.
The A-10 is desparately in need of new engines.  Some who have flown this aircraft have claimed to detect retrograde motion when flying into stiff headwinds. An engine upgrade was always in the planning but could never be funded because the cost estimate left air staff coughing and gasping for breath.
And to keep the fleet going for another 10 years?  If the regeneration and avionics overhaul did, by some miracle of a half trillion defense budget, get funded --> today <--, my back of the envelope schedule estimate shows less than half the fleet modded in 10 years time.  So we would send them from the mod dock to the boneyard in one trip a la the Pacer Strike F-111Fs?
Now that isn't to say that some clever cockpit drop-ins and maybe wireless data links to the pylons would do much to sweep away the technical challenges to realize the vision presented.
And, of course, things are relative, and what was a few million too far for the A-10 is 583 spare change for the F-22; I don't think that much has changed.
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