The A-10 Thunderbolt II — aka “Warthog” — started life as a tank-killer. Today it is the premier Close-Air-Support (CAS) aircraft in the US Air Force and USMC airfleets. Find the A-10 Thunderbolt II poster, framed art print, or 2009 calendar at The PatriArt Gallery. Or buy a box of A-10 Warthog greeting cards and provide your friends a little CAS this holiday season.
Air Combat Command maintenance Airmen will begin an immediate inspection of all A-10 thin-skinned winged aircraft for cracking following a Time Compliance Technical Order issued to ACC A-10 units on Oct. 3.
ACC is working closely with AFMC and other major Combat Air Force major commands to address all of the thin-skinned winged A-10s with a priority focus being the A-10s currently in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“The TCTO was released very early this morning and ACC maintainers have been actively complying with the requirements of that TCTO and the jets that were affected were pulled off the schedule and they are not flying as the maintainers are setting up their inspections and pressing forward,” said Lt. Col. David Trucksa, ACC A3 Chief of Flight Management.
Air Force flying and combat operations are inherently dangerous, ACC officials said. Aircrew and maintenance personnel mitigate risk by continuously applying Operational Risk Management principles.
“ACC maintainers will never provide an airplane to a pilot that is known to be unsafe, it will meet all safety standards,” said Colonel Trucksa.
Because of intense cross-checking of maintenance operations, Colonel Trucksa said he has full confidence in the inspection process.
Air Combat Command has 56 A-10 aircraft affected by this AFMC-issued TCTO. This risk is of great concern to ACC and is representative of a systemic problem of an aging Air Force fleet, they say.
“The airframe is 28 years old on average,” said Major David Ruth, ACC A-10 Weapons System Team. “Every weapons system has fatigue of some type. It’s just a matter of identifying it ahead of time and mitigating that through scheduled depot inspections and maintenance.”
As the aircraft are getting older, they will have different problems in different areas, said Colonel Trucksa. “It’s just a concern if the jet doesn’t meet the standards of safety.”
ACC A-10s will not be cleared for operational status until they have been inspected and any discrepancies found have been repaired or cleared. Command maintenance planners will work with AFMC experts on a timeline for repairs.
The location, size and orientation of cracks identified, will determine the length of time aircraft are down.
After engineers analyzed data, they determined the number of flight hours it took for the wing to suffer critical crack length.
“They apply a safety factor that basically guides them in developing the TCTO. This drives the current 450 flight hours in the current TCTO,” said Major Ruth.
Depot personnel who were working on a repair regarding the A-10’s thick skin fleet identified the cracks on the thin skin aircraft that drove the depot to evaluate crack criticality and identification of the thin skin fleet that are affected.
“For the thin-skin fleet, they did fatigue testing over the years,” said Major Ruth. “We are programmed to replace the thin-skins beginning in fiscal year 2010 through FY 2016. We already have contracts to replace those.”
To maintain combat readiness and support, ACC is working diligently with inspection data to minimize the impact this critical ground support aircraft provides to the warfighter.
“Right now we are looking at courses of action,” said Major Ruth. “We do have some capability within the mission design series, within the A-10 fleet to meet AOR commitments.”
Major Ruth explained that ACC is determining the proper courses of action needed to keep the A-10 combat ready for USCENTCOM requirements.