They say you "can't teach an old dog new tricks", but with cutting edge enhancements, perhaps you "can teach an old Hog new tricks". Often maligned for it's less than good looks, slow speed, and austere avionics, the legacy A-10 Thunderbolt II, a.k.a, Warthog, Hog, is getting a facelift. This is the first major overhaul of the A-10 and the only one that has led to a new designation, the A-10C. And while the upgrade won't necessarily make the Hog any prettier, it will make it more lethal.
The 175th Fighter Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard is now phasing in the new A-10C Thunderbolt II. Working closely with the 422nd Test and Development Squadron at Nellis AfB, the pilots and maintainers with the 175th were instrumental in brining the A-10C into service.
The Precision Engagement (PE) upgrade program will take the old analog A-10, and bring into the modern digital age. The improvements are significant in terms of tying together all the avionics and weapons systems making the Hog drivers life much easier. With this comes the ability for the newly designated A-10C to use weapons such as the GBU-31/32/38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) and the CBU-103/104/105 Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD). The A/OA-10C Prime Team consists of Lockheed Martin's Systems Integration group based in Owego, New York, as well as Northrop Grumman, Southwest Research Institute and BAE Systems.
While lacking the sex appeal of the new 5th generation, the A-10 is peerless as a close air support aircraft. Like its namesake, the P-47 of World War II fame, the A-10 has developed a reputation as being very tough, and very dependable. As has been well documented, throughout the first Gulf War, the A-10 maintained a mission capable rate of 95.7% flying more than 8,000 combat sorties. Hog's fired more than 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles that decimated Iraqi armored vehicles. These numbers equal almost 2,000 tanks and artillery pieces and more than 1,000 trucks. Official US Air Force documents state that the 144 A-10's that participated in the Gulf War flew 30 percent of the close air support sorties.
While tank and armor killing is the A-10's raison d'etre, it is also highly capable as a forward air control/airborne observation platform. Again, the Hogs' design attributes of long loiter time, armor protection and superb visibility make it a great platform for the additional mission. During the Gulf War, SCUD hunting was added to the A-10's mission set. Hogs saw action in the Kosovo conflict as well as in the ongoing war on terrorism. In the current Iraqi theatre of operations the A-10 had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. The vast majority of close air support requests made called for the A-10.