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The A-10 - Not Dead Yet?
Inside Nellis Week: New weapons, fuel tanks, displays, and more are being added to the A-10 to make it a key player in a high-end conflict.
“The big effort we are pushing for in the A-10 today is quick and simple modernization efforts to help the Air Force better posture to fight tomorrow,” says Maj. Kyle “Metric” Adkison, A-10 Division Commander at the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. “As long as the A-10 is in service, we want to develop it to help the Air Force successfully fight however we can. Today that means supporting fifth-gen fighters.” Proponents such as Adkison are keen to emphasize that the A-10 is much more than just an airframe and a 30mm gun. “It has 10 weapons stations, a very long loiter time, and a significant and robust austere capability to operate from highways and dirt strips, plus it doesn’t need lots of support infrastructure — so the overhead for us to affect the battlespace is low. Essentially, we can carry a lot of things that will help others achieve their desired effects.”
One of the things that we found that you're always going to need more of is standoff weapons, and the A-10 it turns out is a pretty good candidate to provide these because we have a lot of weapons stations and if you combine that with the agile combat operations we’ve been training to [...] it made a lot of sense.”
The Agile Combat Employment maneuvers brought F-35s and F-16s to a jungle airstrip in the western Pacific.
After touching down at Northwest Field, the Lightning IIs participated in “hot pit” refueling, in which the jets were topped up at the austere base with their engines still running. As well as using R-11 fuel trucks, the F-35s were refueled by a C-130J transport aircraft assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Central to this A-10 enhancement effort is a plan for the integration of the ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD), and the GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), a 250-pound-class precision-guided bomb that can glide dozens of miles to strike its target. Testers are also looking at adding the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) further down the road. “No one wants to spend billions of dollars on the A-10,” Vincent explains, “but if we can find ways to add capability and make platforms more survivable and more effective, then we are going to do this the best we can.”