The A-10C has a number of avionics and weapons system upgrades, designed to extend its service life until 2028. You read articles constantly about how the military just urinates money and where systems just fail to perform. This video shows some of the offensive capabilities of this craft, but that is 'only' half the story.
The Titanium Bathtub
The A-10A airplane was designed from its inception to a complete set of survivability requirements. As a consequence it incorporates over 100 features which significantly reduce its vulnerability not only to weapons that have been responsible for so many combat losses in past conflicts but also to the more potent weapons expected to be encountered in possible future conflicts. These major reductions in vulnerability have been verified by many ballistic test firings against all critical areas of the airplane. The ballistic tests were conducted both during the competitive prototype phase of the A-X program, in which two prototype aircraft were designed and built, and during the development, test and evaluation of the production program.
The A-10's survivability in the close air support arena greatly exceeds that of previous Air Force aircraft. The A-10 is designed to survive even the most disastrous damage and finish the mission by landing on an unimproved airfield. Specific survivability features include titanium armor plated cockpit, redundant flight control system separated by fuel tanks, manual reversion mode for flight controls, foam filled fuel tanks, ballistic foam void fillers, and a redundant primary structure providing "get home" capability after being hit.
All of the A-10's glass is bulletproof and the cockpit itself is surrounded by a heavy tub of titanium. Titanium armor protects both the pilot and critical areas of the flight control system. This titanium "bathtub" can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 37mm in size. The front windscreen can withstand up to a 23mm projectile. Fire retardant foam protects the fuel cells which are also self sealing in the event of puncture.
The redundant primary structural sections allow the aircraft to enjoy better survivability during close air support than did previous aircraft. Designers separated all of the crucial battle and flight systems. The wheels can roll in their pods, which lets the plane perform belly landings without significant damage to the aircraft. Dual engines are mounted away from the Warthog's fuselage; if one is destroyed, the other can propel the craft to safety. Dual vertical stabilizers shield the hot exhaust from Russian-designed heat seeking missiles. The A-10 has two hydraulic flight control systems, backed up by a manual flight control system. This redundancy allows the pilot to control a battle damaged aircraft, even after losing all hydraulic power. Furthermore, redundant primary structural and control surfaces enhance survivability. Lastly, the long low-set wings are designed to allow flight, even if half a wing is completely blown off. No other modern aircraft -- including the F-16 -- can survive such punishment. The wings themselves are set low to allow for more weaponry to fit beneath the aircraft.
The A-10/OA-10 have excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. The A-10 has half the turning radius of the Air Force's other primary CAS aircraft, the F-16. After initially leaving a target, the A-10 can turn around and hit the same target again, all in around 7 seconds. Due to its large combat radius, the Thunderbolt II can loiter for extended periods of time, allowing for the coordination required to employ within yards of friendly forces. They can operate under 1,000-foot ceilings (300 meters) with 1.5-mile (2.4 kilometers) visibility. Using night vision goggles, A-10/ OA-10 pilots can conduct their missions during darkness. The A-10s highly accurate weapons delivery system makes it effective against all ground targets including tanks and other armored vehicles.
The aircraft is capable of worldwide deployment and operation from austere bases with minimal support equipment. Their short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. In addition to its survivability, the A-10 has the ability to land on unimproved airfields and be flown and maintained near Army ground troops. Highly effective and efficient in combat, the A-10 is capable of sustaining operations on unimproved airfields near ground troops -- keys to success in conducting small operations against hostile forces. The A-10's rapid re-fueling and re-arming capability allows it to operate from forward bases close to the front lines. It is also capable of refueling in the air.
The A-10 is exceptionally hardy, to the point that some service men refer to it as 'an airborne tank.' 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 a wing torn off. Self-sealing fuel tanks are protected by fire-retardant foam. Additionally, the main landing gear is designed so that the wheels semi-protrude from their nacelles when the gear is retracted so as to make gear-up landings (belly landing) easier to control and less damaging to the aircraft's underside.
The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 900 pounds (408 kg) of titanium armor, referred to as a "titanium bathtub". The tub has been tested to withstand multiple strikes from 20 mm cannon fire. The thickness of the titanium varies from ½ an inch to 1½ inches determined by a study of likely trajectories and deflection angles. This protection comes at a cost, though; the armor plating itself weighs almost 6% of the entire aircraft’s empty weight. To protect the pilot from the fragmentation likely to be created from impact of a shell any interior surface of the tub that is directly exposed to the pilot is covered by a multi-layer Kevlar spall shield. The protection for the pilot from above obviously comes second to the necessity for the pilot to have good all-round vision. The canopy cannot protect the pilot as well as the titanium, but the bullet-proof diffusion-bonded stretched-acrylic canopy can withstand small arms fire and is "spall-resistant," although the canopy needs to be penetrable by the ejection seat. The front windscreen, however, offers shielding likewise resistant to 20 mm cannon fire.
Recent proof of the durability of the A-10 was shown when USAF Captain (now Major) Kim Campbell, flying a ground support mission over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq suffered extensive flak damage to her A-10. The hit damaged one of the A-10's two engines and crippled its hydraulic system, forcing the back-up mechanical system to operate the aircraft's stabilizer and flight controls. Despite this, the pilot managed to fly it for an hour and landed it safely at the air base in manual reversion mode.
The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program is an estimated $420 million dollar program that will see 356 A-10s upgraded with a new flight computer. New cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5 inch color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system. A second DC generator will be installed to provide the additional power these systems consume.
Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the JDAM and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING or Lochheed-Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP).
Structural improvements will feature an all new wing for the 242 A-10s that were originally built with "thin" wings. Long lead funding has also been provided for an improved higher thrust engine.
On 2 April 2007 the Government Accounting Office estimated the potential total cost of upgrading, refurbishing, and service life extension plans for the A-10 force at up to $4.4 billion.
The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later, when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II. The entire A-10 fleet is currently undergoing upgrades. The A-10 could stay in service longer due to its low cost and its unique capabilities which the F-35 simply cannot incorporate — such as its cannon, ruggedness and slow flying capabilities.
Now here is where Dee Illuminati Blogs, this is where the record makes that funny scratch sound.
You would think that somebody would be making another craft with these specifications, but they are not!
The F-35 Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine, stealth-capable military strike fighter, a multi-role aircraft that can perform close air support, tactical bombing, and air-to-air combat. The F-35 is descended from the X-35 of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Its development is being principally funded by the United States with the United Kingdom and other partner governments providing additional funding. It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems as major partners. Demonstrator aircraft flew in 2000; a production model first took flight on 15 December 2006. The United States Air Force plans to acquire 1,763 aircraft.
So to sum this up: Two engines are great, one is better!!!
I guess this has always amazed me, I mean how can one design team get it so damn right, and then an arms industry decide to ignore that success? I mean lets cut to the chase and ask, is there a better way to rain hell from the sky in air combat support and avoid some TV air time with an USAF airman hostage? I doubt it.
I guess this has always just demonstrated the oxymoron of military intelligence when this craft the A-10 was scheduled for retirement, subsequently re-decided to upgrade, saved billions, and still no replacement for a design equal is in progress!
I guess you would think all the survivability features would be incorporated into new models.
Go figure.. an engineering marvel, a milestone and standard that cannot be artifically made obsolete, unless you design with 'one engine' and that is why Dee Illuminati ranted today!