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U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Is Getting Some Lethal Upgrades

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Is Getting Some Lethal Upgrades
An A-10 Thunderbolt II prepares for maintenance in the 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron hangar on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 8, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob T. Stephens)

As we have earlier reported that air Force completed A-10 re-winging to keep Warthog in the air until the late 2030s.

The A-10 Warthog ground-attack jet, already in the is also set for a series of improvements including new weapons, cockpit upgrades, and helmet-mounted controls.

The improvements, as described by Combat Aircraft, are part of the A-10 Common Fleet Initiative. The improvements include standoff bombs that destroy enemy air defense systems at a distance, allowing the Warthog to close in and destroy enemy tanks up close.

The initiative will keep the Warthog relevant as a tank-killing ground attack aircraft, even as the air defenses of high tech adversaries become deadlier than ever. One of the most important is the incorporation of the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.

The GBU-39 is a 250-pound high explosive bomb fitted with wings and a guidance system, allowing it to engage individual ground targets at ranges up to 40 miles. According to Combat Aircraft, the Warthog can carry up to 18 GBU-39s, theoretically giving it the ability to engage up to 18 different targets.

Upgraded A-10s, coupled with unmanned aerial vehicles, could work together to suppress enemy air defenses and bomb tank columns.

UAVs could be used to locate enemy air defenses such the Russian Tor and Pantsir S-1 short-range air defense weapons before being shot down, passing on the coordinates of those weapons to A-10 crews.

The A-10s in turn could then unleash GBU-39s against those weapons before closing in and engaging enemy tanks and armored vehicles with AGM-65 Maverick missiles, high explosive bombs, and of course the GAU-8/A “Avenger” 30-millimeter seven barreled Gatling gun.

Additional A-10 improvements will include the improvements for the Scorpion helmet mounted display, an augmented reality system that superimposes targets on the ground over the A-10 pilot’s field of view. This allows A-10 pilots to identify and engage enemy forces on the ground as quickly as possible, minimizing their exposure to enemy fire.

The Initiative could also include Link 16 datalinks for sharing information with friendly forces and a synthetic aperture radar pod capable of scanning the ground and identifying tanks and armored vehicles at night and through adverse weather such as clouds or fog.

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