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The first re-winged A-10 Thunderbolt II of the US Air Force finally rolled-out at the Hill Air Force Base. It is the first aircraft out of the 233 units that Boeing are commissioned to fix up with new set of wings. All the re-winged aircraft is set to be delivered by 2018.
According to Mark Bass, Maintenance, Modification, & Upgrades vice-president and general manager for Boeing Defense, Space and Security, “This enhanced wing assembly will give the A-10 new strength and a new foundation for its continued service into 2040.” He adds that Boeing is committed to the US Air Force to ensure that the A-10 is always ready and capable to serve.
The A-10 Wing Replacement Program is one of the aviation company’s foray into non-Boeing platform work. The A-10 was originally developed by Fairchild Republic. The wings sets are manufactured in Boeing’s production facility in Georgia with the help of Korean Aerospace Industries. The wing sets are then delivered to Air Force’s Ogden Air Logistic Center.
Boeing delivered the first wing set in March 2011. After mating to the aircraft and after a series of testing, it took the first test flight in November last year. And now, the A-10 Thuderbolt II and its new set of wings are ready for service.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was introduced to the Air Force service in March 1977. It provides close-air support and attacks tanks and other ground vehicles. It is expected to be in service until 2028.
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It’s rare that a 14-year-old boy, putting together model jets with a buddy, gets to grow up and fly those same jets. But that’s exactly what Lt. Col. John Marks of the U. S. Air Force gets to do.
About a year before graduating from the University of Kansas, Marks went to an Air Force recruiter and said, “I want to fly airplanes!” And the recruiter told him “Yeah, yeah, you and everyone else.”
Initially, Marks was turned down by the Air Force, he said, so he pursued the Navy. A couple of days after being accepted by the Navy, Marks said the Air Force recruiter called and told him a pilot position had opened. And since he really wanted to fly a fighter airplane, and the idea of being on a ship for six months at a time “wasn’t as exciting” to Marks, he pursued the Air Force.
Maj. Raymond Laffoon, II, a retired Air Force navigator, said that Officer Training School, by itself, could take “a little more than three months” to finish. After that comes Undergraduate Pilot Training, which is “very rigorous” and can last a year for pilots. According to Laffoon, the whole process of becoming an Air Force pilot could take between two and two-and-a-half years to finish.
In 1987, Marks joined the Air Force and started his training. He was able to pick the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, or “Warthog,” for short, as his specialty. This was the same jet that he and his buddy had put together as a model.
After completing his training, Marks was then assigned to the 76th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which was a part of the 23rd Fighter Group, and was stationed in Alexandria, La.
The “Flying Tigers” was the nickname for the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941-1942. In July 1942, the 23rd Fighter Group replaced the AVG. The shark-faced fighters of this group remain among the most recognizable of any combat aircraft of World War II, although the A-10s of today do not have the shark painting.
While he was based in Louisiana, the Cold War was still going on. But the United States was not involved in any conflict at the time. So it was a shock to Marks’ unit when it was told, “You’re deploying to Kuwait.”
This was a time before 9/11, when deployments weren’t an every-day thing for the military. Nobody had heard of this “Kuwait” place. Marks said they pulled out a “big map,” and saw the “tiny little” state of Kuwait.
Before being told this, according to Marks, everyone had thought if they were deploying, it would be “World War III or the Soviets,” not the Middle East.
Marks said that “everybody was shocked” when they taxied down the runway at the King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia, a civilian airport. He hadn’t seen this kind of environment before. Marks remembered that after landing in Saudi, upon opening the canopy, there was a “wall of hot air hitting you, just like opening an oven door.” This country was “very dry and amazingly hot.”
According to Marks, a lot of the “Army guys” were in tents, but he and his unit got to stay in small trailers that made up the airport workers’ quarters. The trailers had air conditioning units in the rooms. Four men to a room. Very close quarters.
Before Desert Shield became Desert Storm, Marks and his unit stayed in Saudi Arabia for six months, flying a few missions for training, but mostly trying to find something to do to pass the time.
They didn’t have the Internet during Desert Storm, so the men had to write a lot of letters. They also built gym equipment out of stuff they had lying around. According to Marks, “The communication, and the ability to stay in touch with people, was completely different” than it is now.
Marks and his unit had six months to get to know each other before flying out to combat, so the question of trust wasn’t really there. The men flew their A-10’s in formation for a reason. They HAD to trust each other. Marks said the question that was really in the men’s minds was, “How am I going to react to this?” The generalizations that had been made about who was going to react a certain way in combat, and who was going to act the opposite, “weren’t necessarily true.” Marks said in his experience, for combat, “You can’t judge by your impression “ of people.
Marks said he can “clearly remember on the way back.” He was flying his A-10, on which he had painted the “devil woman” that was painted on the WWII fighter planes. He was on the last leg of the journey home, “feeling depressed, even angry” that what he “figured would be the biggest adventure” of his life was over. But at the same time, he was excited to return to his parents, his brother and his sister.
For Marks, the feelings that every combat deployment brings out are “hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.” But he tried, saying that a soldier “holds two completely opposite thoughts at the same time.” They are excited about the possibility of combat, “but at the same time the self-preservation part” doesn’t want to go at all, because of all the preconceived thoughts one has.
“It’s great to be home,” Marks said, “but at the same time, you miss the excitement and adrenaline rush of combat.”
Marks was not married when he deployed for Desert Storm. But for the eight months he was deployed in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, he had a wife, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the same unit, and three kids who were very hard to leave behind. Marks also deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008 for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hearing Marks’ boyhood story could make one wonder what a young man imagines while putting the last swipe of paint on the model A-10. Marks can remember the A-10 clearly, because he still gets to fly them. He said that he will wait until he is 60-years-old to retire, and will “try to find a way to fly one after that.”
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The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has cut funding for the $2 billion contract to build to rewing the A-10 after Boeing incurred a 10-month delay.
The program is supposed to extend the life of the U.S. Air Force’s ground attack jet, the A-10 Warthog, according to the service. The Senate Appropriations Committee cited problems and unspent prior funding when it entirely cut the Air Force’s $145 million fiscal 2012 request for the program.
The A-10 program has experienced “significant delays and has not delivered a new wing” since the program began procurement in fiscal 2010, the committee wrote in a Sept. 16 report accompanying its fiscal 2012 budget.
Boeing spokesman Forrest Gossett said the company has put in place a “recovery plan”.
“We experienced issues during the initial manufacturing of the program,” Gossett said in an e-mail. The first A-10 wing was delivered “with no major deficiencies but there were items to work through as would be expected with any development program.”
“Boeing has worked with the Air Force to create a recovery plan and the program is on target to deliver the first of four new wings” before Oct. 31, Gossett said.
The new wings are needed to extend the life of the A-10 aircraft, some of which have been in use since 1975 after previous modifications. The new wings will keep the A-10s flying until about 2030 at a lower cost than buying new aircraft, according to the Air Force.
The Senate committee cut the Air Force’s entire $145 million request because the delays meant little of the $351 million in A-10 wing money appropriated since fiscal 2010 has been spent, according to service figures.
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MOODY AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force A-10C pilot assigned to the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base ejected from the aircraft moments before it crashed during a routine mission at approximately 2:45 p.m. Monday in a non-residential area in Cook County.
The pilot was transported by ambulance to Memorial Hospital of Adel for medical evaluation.
Moody and Cook County emergency response personnel were dispatched and proceeded to the accident scene, where reportedly the aircraft and surrounding area were burning.
Area resident Dale Warlick lives nearby and gave his account of the accident.
“I’m wondering if it was a bolt of lightning or something. I was in my house when I heard the pop and ran out and saw the plane,” said Warlick. “He was low flying at the time. I knew the plane was going down but thought there wasn’t any good spot for him to land back there (behind his house). ”
Another nearby resident, Larry Taylor, rode out on a golf cart with his nephew to check on the accident.
When Taylor and his nephew arrived on the scene, an ambulance was already present, along with law enforcement officials. He said the pilot was in a small clearing in what used to be a Scruggs Concrete Inc. sandpit with his parachute lying at his feet. Taylor ended up transporting the pilot and emergency staffers back to the main road in his golf cart.
“(The pilot) said that both engines quit; he said he coasted for two miles apparently,” said Taylor. “He seemed shaken up, but was laughing and carrying on. He was shaken up, but that seemed natural considering what happened.”
According to Taylor, the A-10‘s wingmate circled the crash site for about an hour at low speed and low altitude. Taylor said he could see the pilot in the cockpit while he circled.
The incident is still under investigation.
Col. Billy D. Thompson, commander of the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, provided a few scant details during a press conference Monday at approximately 8:25 p.m.
According to Thompson, the pilot is in stable condition and is currently located at the MAFB Flight Clinic.
“Over the next few weeks, a trained safety investigation board will focus their exclusive efforts on collecting and protecting evidence from the scene, gathering and analyzing all relevant data with the specific purpose of preventing future mishaps,” said Thompson. “As commander of this wing, the safety of the local community and our airmen is one of my top priorities.”
The name of the pilot has not been released in order to preserve the interests of the family, Thompson said.
Thompson confirmed that there were two aircraft units, although he did not clarify specifics on the location or whether an explosion or fire was involved with the incident. He also failed to disclose information about the cost of the aircraft, whether the aircraft would be salvageable or when press would be allowed to photograph the scene.
Thompson also claimed to have no information about the training of the pilot or whether a distress call was made. He also said he had no information about the pilot’s medical condition, nor did he release any information about the mission of the pilot.
“We do as part of the initial response, we have environmental officers from Moody Air Force Base that will assess the site and make a recommendation on that,” said Thompson. “The final report should take 60 days; really don’t know how long cleanup could take.”
“I do not know where the aircraft’s at,” said Thompson. “The A-10, as a whole, is a highly reliable aircraft. The A-10 is a wonderfully reliable aircraft. All of our aircraft are obviously inspected before each flight, but I don’t have any further data at this point.”
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The USAF West Coast F-16 demo team will join a Belgian OV-10 and a L-39 to perform aerobatics display at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany this weekend.
The aerial demonstration — with maneuvers more complex than a flyby — is the first to be performed before the public on a U.S. military base in Germany since a 1988 air show crash at Ramstein Air Base, where 67 spectators were killed and more than 500 others injured, U.S. Air Forces in Europe officials said.
Since that disaster, military air shows of the type held at Ramstein have been banned in Germany. Highly restricted air demonstrations are approved for open houses only after review of detailed plans, and German rules and restrictions must be adhered to.
Therefore, the flying portion of the Spangdahlem open house will be on a much, much smaller scale than the Ramstein shows, once a huge draw on the European flying circuit with aerobatic teams from all over Europe.
“We carefully selected things that we knew were safe maneuvers and have been practiced over and over again,” said Lt. Col. Steve Horton, 52nd Operations Support Squadron commander at Spangdahlem.
At Spangdahlem’s last open house in 2008, an F-16 and A-10 assigned to Spangdahlem’s 52nd Fighter Wing did “fly-bys” but no aerial maneuvers like those planned for this weekend, according to Spangdahlem officials. Approved maneuvers include a Cuban 8, Double Immelman, Aileron Roll, and High-G turns.
This time, the base invited an F-16 from Air Combat Command’s West Coast “Viper West” team at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; an OV-10B Bronco from Belgium; and an L-39, a former German military aircraft, to perform.
Coordination was worked through many channels, including USAFE headquarters, U.S. Air Combat Command and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, according to USAFE officials. Approval was granted by the German Air Staff, said USAFE spokesman Mike Kucharek.
“We recognize the sensitivities of the survivors,” Kucharek said. “This is a far different type of event than an air show, because we’re essentially going to be flying basic aircraft maneuvers.”
Source: Stars and Stripes
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USS Mount Whitney, At Sea - A U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft and guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52), engaged Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria and two smaller craft March 28.
The vessels were engaged after confirmed reports that Vittoria and accompanying crafts were firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misrata, Libya.
The P-3C fired at Vittoria with AGM-65F Maverick missiles, rendering the 12-meter patrol vessel ineffective and forcing it to be beached after multiple explosions were observed in the vicinity of the port.
Two smaller Libyan craft were fired upon by the A-10 using its 30mm GAU-8/ Avenger cannon, destroying one and forcing the other to be abandoned.
Barry provided situational awareness for the aircraft by managing the airspace and maintaining the maritime picture.
The P-3C, A-10 and Barry are currently supporting operations for Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn.
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces.
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SOUTHWEST ASIA – Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations June 3, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.
In Afghanistan, a flight of Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs hunted enemy snipers near Shahidan. Using smoke rounds to verify targets followed up with 30mm cannon strafes of each hostile position, the aircraft ended the sniper’s attack on Afghan and coalition forces.
Near Asadabad, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and A-10s engaged during two anti-Afghan forces attacks on Afghan and coalition personnel. The F-15s used guided bomb unit-31s and a GBU-38 to take out a group of heavy grenade launchers manned by enemy personnel, then escorted a convoy with a damaged vehicle back to base. Nearby, A-10s dropped a series of GBU-38s to strike enemy forces in fighting positions along a treeline. The A-10 also performed a show of force to deter a second attack.