One of the US Air Force's favourite fighters — the A-10 "Warthog" could lose on a third of its fleet if they do not get re-winged. More than a hundred fighters are on the ground and face a real possibility of never seeing action again.
The USAF, however, does not seem to be too interested in reviving them and want to see the warthog be retired, notes a report by Popular Mechanics (PM). They have been reportedly trying to retire the fighter for over three decades now.
First introduced in the 1970s, the Warthog was designed to counter Soviet tanks from rolling into Eastern Europe, but never really saw any action in the European theatre, notes PM. They did, however, play a vital role in providing close air support to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The A-10 is known for being a jet that can take serious punishment and is heavily armoured and armed with cannons, bombs and missiles. It is beloved by both pilots and ground troops alike for its reliability and its capacity to lay a protective barrage of fury against the enemy.
An earlier report by PM outlined why this plane was so loved in service and it all seems centred around the aircraft's main gun — a 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, positioned right at its nose. The jet also has its wings and twin engines configured in such a way that it makes for excellent low altitude, slow speed flying and manoeuvrability.
A-10's short straight wings also allow for the fighter to take off and land in small, often times rudimentary landing strips. Skins of the A-10's wings are not load bearing, so they can be easily swapped out if they are damaged in battle, sometimes even with materials that are locally sourced. Warthogs were famous for remaining flyable even if one of the wings takes heavy damage, notes the report. The aircraft was simply one of the hardest working members of the USAF.
Now, it is the production of these wings that has put the A-10 programme in the balance. In 2007, Boeing got a $2bn (£1.44bn) contract to build 242 new wing sets for the A-10 fleet which at the time was 280-strong, the PM report says. The wings had to be replaced or they would be left permanently grounded. Boeing has said that so far, they have delivered 173 sets, but defence reform watchdog- Project on Government Oversight (POGO) claims that only 171 have been delivered so far. Also, the PM report notes that in spite of needing 242 wings, Boeing has said that USAF did not extend the contract for more than 173 pairs.
That means about 110 aircrafts are likely to be grounded without wings. The report says that the majority of the warthogs have new wings and will remain in service and stay airworthy well into the 2030s, but about a third of the fleet might never see the skies again, considering the US government going into a shutdown, budget proposals will be pushed further into February, notes PM.
Meanwhile, the A-10's potential "replacement" has already started testing in dirt runways.