HILL AIR FORCE BASE — For nearly a decade, maintenance personnel at Hill Air Force Base have been replacing the wings on a big chunk of the Air Force’s aging fleet of A-10 aircraft.
Earlier this month, that work — part of a $1.1 billion program to keep the planes flying late into the 2030s — was finished.
According to a press release from the Air Force Materiel Command, workers from Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex installed new wings on 162 of the 173 A-10s that needed replacements. The other 11 wing sets were installed at Osan Air Base in the Republic of Korea.
The Air Force’s full fleet of A-10s consists of about 280 plans. The new wings, installed as part of a Boeing contracted replacement program that began in 2011, are expected to last for up to 10,000 flight hours without an inspection.
While the Air Force is highlighting the completed program, the A-10 and the defense branch has somewhat of a tumultuous recent past.
The Air Force has tried to retire the plane multiple times during the past decade, but those attempts were repeatedly blocked by Congress. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah has been a vocal opponent of the retirement plan, saying the plane is irreplaceable in combat situations where troops need close air support.
Sending the plane to the boneyard was part of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2016 budget and consisted of a four-year phase-out coinciding with the arrival of the F-35. At that time, the Department of Defense said the retirement would create more than $4 billion in savings over five years. Many defense insiders thought the F-35, with its sophisticated sensors and precision targeting capabilities, could replace the A-10 in the immediate term.
But the DoD ultimately decided against the retirement, as increased global threats like ISIS and growing instability in the Middle East and Africa created more need for the A-10’s services.
According to a Hill fact sheet, the plane has “excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. They can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and ... their wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines.”
The plane has been nicknamed “The Warthog” because of its rugged look and reputation as a preeminent close air support plane. It first began service during the mid-1970s.