By: Norm Goyer
Thanks to Wikipedia for history and specifications of the Fairchild Republic A-10 NG
I first saw the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt in action in the early 1990s at a Reserve Squadron at Barnes Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts where I was filming a Scale Masters Qualifying RC Meet. A flight of A-10 Warthogs or simply Hogs, some of the pet names of the A-10 Thunderbolt put on a brief air show for our benefit. Impressive, to say the least. Until I researched the A-10, I had no idea of exactly how old it was. It was first designed for close air ground support for Vietnam to replace the Douglas AD-1. Fortunately for the North Vietnamese Army it was not available for combat until the Vietnam Fiasco was in the record books. Almost forty years later, the A-10 is still in the inventory. Its life has been extended until 2040.
In May 1970, the USAF issued a modified and much more detailed request for proposals (Requests) for the aircraft. The threat of Soviet armored forces and all-weather attack operations had become more serious. Now included in the requirements was that the aircraft would be designed specifically for a special 30 mm cannon. The Request also specified an aircraft with a maximum speed of 460 mph, takeoff distance of 4,000 feet, external load of 16,000 pounds, 285-mile mission radius, and a unit cost of $1.4 million. The A-X would be the first Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.
During this time, a separate Request was released for A-X’s 30 mm cannon with requirements for a high rate of fire (4,000 round/minute) and a high muzzle velocity. Six companies submitted aircraft proposals to the USAF, with Northrop and Fairchild Republic selected to build prototypes: the YA-9A and YA-10A, respectively. General Electric and Philco-Ford were selected to build and test GAU-8 cannon prototypes.
The YA-10A was built in Hagerstown, Maryland and first flew on May 10, 1972. After trials and a fly-off against the YA-9A, the Air Force announced its selection of Fairchild-Republic’s YA-10A on January 18, 1973 for production. General Electric was selected to build the GAU-8 cannon in June 1973. The YA-10 had an additional fly-off in 1974 against the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair II, the principal Air Force attack aircraft at the time, in order to prove the need to purchase a new attack aircraft. The first production A-10 flew in October 1975, and deliveries to the Air Force commenced in March 1976. In total, 715 airplanes were produced, the last delivered in 1984. Only one experimental two seater was produced, then dropped.
Modifications to provide precision weapons capability are well underway. In July 2010, the USAF issued Raytheon a contract to integrate a Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT) system into A-10Cs. The Air Force Material Command’s Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008. The Gentex Corporation Scorpion “Helmet Mounted Cueing System” (HMCS) is also being evaluated.
The A-10 will receive a service life extension program (SLEP) upgrade with many receiving new wings. The service life of the re-winged aircraft is extended to 2040. A contract to build 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing in June 2007. Two A-10s flew in November 2011 with the new wing installed. The A-10 may eventually equal the long lived service life of the Boeing B-52 bomber.
The A-10 is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion flight control system; this engages automatically for pitch and yaw control, and under pilot control (manual reversion switch) for roll control. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base and land, though control forces are much higher than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator, and half of one wing missing.
The A-10 has been successfully used in the Gulf War, Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya with more wars sure to come.
Specifications Fairchild-Republic A-10
Length: 53 ft 4 in
Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in
Height: 14 ft 8 in
Wing area: 506 ft²
Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip
Empty weight: 24,959 lb
Loaded weight: 30,384 lb On CAS mission: 47,094 lb
On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb
Max. takeoff weight: 50,000 lb
Powerplant: 2 × General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf
Never exceed speed: 450 knots at 5,000 ft with 18 Mk 82 bombs
Maximum speed: 381 knots at sea level, clean
Cruise speed: 300 knots
Stall speed: 120 knots
Service ceiling: 45,000 ft
Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min
Wing loading: 99 lb/ft²
Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GAU-8/A Avenger gatling cannon with 1,174 rounds