More than a third of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of A-10 Warthogs will end up permanently grounded if the service doesn’t find the money to buy them new wings, and the senior civilian in charge of the A-10 says that’s not going to happen. Such a decision would be another nail in the coffin of the beloved close air support aircraft, which the service has been trying to retire for nearly three decades, Popular Mechanics reports.
The A-10 Warthog was first introduced in the late 1970s to counter Soviet tank formations that threatened to steamroll Western Europe. While the A-10 never flew in combat over Germany, it has flown thousands of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heavily armed, heavily armored twin-engine jet is a favorite of the ground troops, capable of laying down a protective barrage of cannon fire, rockets, missiles, and bombs.
In 2007, according to Flightglobal, Boeing won a $2 billion contract to deliver 242 new wing sets for the 280-strong A-10 fleet, replacing worn-out wings that would render the airplanes unflyable. Here things get a little confusing: Boeing says it has delivered 173 kits with several more on backorder, while the defense reform watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO) says only 171 have been delivered. Despite the 242 number, Boeing says the Air Force never extended the contract beyond 173 sets.
At any rate, that leaves approximately 110 aircraft that still need new wings. In December, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson supported the re-winging, saying that although it wasn’t in the Air Force’s budget the service would do it if the funds were included. Wilson concluded her remarks on the matter by saying, “I happen to be kind of a fan of the A-10 myself.”