A-10 Thunderbolt II gets technological 'thumbs up'

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
The precision engagement modified A-10C Thunderbolt II received its Initial Operational Capability Aug. 21 during a ceremony here.

The A-10C has received its most significant modifications in its 30-year history, said Lt. Col. Ralph Hansen, chief of A-10 requirements for Air Combat Command.

The modifications, give the A-10C pilots better battlefield capabilities. The now digital A-10C upgrades include: the "hands-on-throttle and stick," which allows the pilot to drop bombs or switch positions without taking his or her hands off the throttle or stick. The situational awareness data link, allows the pilot to link the targeting pod to a target and the new system will determine the coordinates.

Additionally, the new 1760 data bus that runs most of the weapons systems allows the A-10C to use the joint direct attack munitions, or JDAM, and wind corrected munitions dispensers. The new upgrades also include a digital stores management system. This computer system keeps track of the munitions loaded onto the aircraft and which of those are still on board.

The A-10 is best known for its missions of close-air support, airborne forward air controller, and combat search and rescue. The A-10C can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles. The upgrades will only enhance those capabilities, according to one pilot.

"The main benefit of the A-10C is the inter-connectivity between the pilot, the weapons and the targets," said Lt. Col. Timothy G. Smith, commander of the 104th Fighter Squadron for the Maryland Air National Guard. The 104th is the first to receive the new upgrades, just in time for the unit's upcoming deployment to Iraq, he said.

The advantage of all the new digital systems and weaponry is "the pilots can see much better than they have in the past and perform in all weather," said Stephen Ramsey, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration - Owego. "It is much more than subsystems working together -- it is actually all of them integrated together to perform seamlessly," he said.

The new wiring on the A-10C enables it to carry the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR or Northrop Grumman Litening AT advanced targeting pods. The targeting pods can link up two aircraft or even the air to ground forces below to locate and lock on to targets.
What normally could have taken several minutes to half an hour can now be done in seconds, said Lt. Col. Eric Mann, 104th FS operational requirements division chief for the Guard.

"The A-10C now has the ability to link up and identify targets as a collective with ground forces and any other sources without each individual aircraft having to search and find them," he said.

One of the key factors in the successful A-10 upgrade is the "total force effort where it includes all of our industry partners, includes the reserves, includes the active duty and certainly our Air National Guard brothers," said Gen. Ronald E. Keys, commander of ACC.

With around 75 A-10s currently upgraded, the project to modernize the 356 A-10As will cost around $500 million and is scheduled for completion by 2011.

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