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The A-10 will live on to 2030 as US Air Force installs new wings on 173 planes

Lt. Col. Ryan Richardson, 514th Flight Test Squadron commander and A-10 test pilot, after landing an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 25, 2019. . (Alex R. Lloyd/Air Force)
August 14, 2019

The U.S. Air Force concluded a mass installation of new wings on the last of 173 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, also known as the “Warthog.”

The mass overhaul completed this week consisted of 173 of the branch’s 282 Warthogs, and with the installation of the new wings, the aircraft is now able to keep flying until late in the 2030s, longer than previously expected, according to a press release by Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) on Monday.

“Boeing received a $1.1 billion contract in 2007 to build replacement wings at its Macon, Georgia, plant, and work began in 2011,” the Air Force Times reported.

The Warthog has become a beloved aircraft due to its reliability in supporting ground troops with strong and effective firepower, in addition to its aesthetics.

“The Warthog’s signature BRRRTTTTT sound from its 30mm GAU-8/A cannon became a rallying cry of sorts, sparking countless memes and fan videos,” Air Force Times explained.

The upgraded wings should last for up to 10,000 flight hours without requiring a depot inspection, AFMC said. Additionally, the wings have an improved, newly designed wire harness to make the wings easier to remove, and lessen the chance of damaging the wing during the removal process.

Lt. Col. Ryan Richardson, commander of the 514th Flight Test Squadron and an A-10 test pilot, flew the last A-10 to be re-winged on July 25 and declared it airworthy. That A-10 was from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

“It flew great and passed all the [functional check flight] checks,” Richardson said. “It’s unusual to have an airplane in production for as long as this one was and have it come out and fly as well as this one did.”

The 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah installed the wings for 162 of the aircraft, while 10 were serviced as Ogden Air Force Base, and 11 at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said, “As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure. That will depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress, but we plan to maintain the A-10 into the 2030s at least.”

With its ability to fly close to the battlefield and its unique Gatling gun that delivers tank-piercing rounds, the A-10 is popular with troops. Air Force leadership has argued in the past that it’s best to retire the A-10 to save money, but there are a lot of proponents in Congress who want to keep it around.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been in production since 1972 and more than 700 units have been built.