Monday, February 1, 2010

A-10 Thunderbolt II C-models take flight, improve wing's capabilities

by Senior Airman Tracy Brown
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

December 22, 2009 marked the first 442nd Fighter Wing flight in the newly acquired A-10 Thunderbolt II C-models. The new models posess enhanced radio communication systems and text messaging capabilities. The 442nd Fighter Wing is an Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Danielle Wolf) Hi-res

2/1/2010 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The 442nd Fighter Wing received the first A-10 Thunderbolt II C-model Dec. 2, 2009 at Whiteman Air Force Base.

One of the three A-10Cs currently assigned to the wing took its first flight, a local sortie, Dec. 22, 2009.

The c-model upgrade brings state-of-the-art avionics to the A-10A plus currently flown by the pilots of the 303rd Fighter Squadron.

"For our pilots, having the opportunity to fly the A-10A plus was a stepping stone to the c-model and will make the transition easier," said Maj. Abel Ramos, mission planning cell chief of the 303rd Fighter Squadron.

"In Bagram, (Afghanistan) the 75th (Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.) replaced our guys, and they could not fly our aircraft and we could not fly theirs," he said.

"Over the next year and a half all of our jets are expected to make c-model (conversions) and every c-model (upgrade) will be across the board," he said. "This upgrade will significantly benefit our mission and should eliminate that issue."

"The upgrades are essential to the avionics, and the brains of the aircraft are getting swapped," Major Ramos said.


The upgrades will bring the A-10 up to date with technology. Prior to the upgrade, a single action may require a pilot to use up to eight cockpit switches, but will now take as few as three or four.

The cockpit has also been upgraded with two multifunction color displays as well as a new control stick and throttle.

The A-10A plus was an introduction to the situational awareness data link, which improves pilot situational awareness by providing critical information about friendly and enemy air and ground assets. With the c-model the new SADL will allow the pilots to communicate what weapons they have on board more effectively.

"The c-model makes communication easier," Major Ramos added. "The A-10C eliminates the confusion of switching (to different radios.)"

The new design determines which radio will be used by a four-way switch on the throttle.

The c-model upgrade will allow aircraft to send mission assignments and mission-essential information from one aircraft to another via text message.

"The upgrade is bringing the A-10 to the digital age, not just for the aircraft, but now for ground troops as well. The c-model allows JTACs (joint terminal attack controllers) to communicate to pilots via the data link, opening the lines of communication from the ground to the air," Major Ramos said.


"The new means of communication, made possible by the upgrade, increases the element of surprise by making it possible to pass information quickly and eliminates having to read coordinates over the radio," he added.

This new means of communication will allow 442nd pilots to detect friendly forces more quickly and accurately.

The new design of the cockpit also implements the hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS).

The HOTAS allows for an easier manipulation of the switches, making the weapons system more effective.


"The biggest advantage to the A-10C is the integration of the weapons system to HOTAS; it helps to eliminate possibilities of making small mistakes," Major Ramos said.

The upgrade to the A-10C allows the aircraft to support "smart munitions" such as joint direct attack munitions and wind-corrected munitions dispensers.

The c-model can also still deliver its current inventory of munitions along with the global positioning system-aided munitions.

"The c-model modifications allow pilots to offset further out instead of being right over the target area allowing a safe area," Major Ramos said. "You no longer have to be directly over your target."

This feature will make targeting enemy forces more safe for the pilots.

"The upgrade brings less confusion during night missions and helps to eliminate weather interference. Previously, with dumb-bombs (free falling ordnance), it was difficult to drop on something you could not see. With smart munitions you can drop (regardless of the) weather," Major Ramos said.

"The upgrade has changed the environment of the cockpit drastically. We now have the armament heads up display control panel," said Master Sgt. John Mallas, an avionics technician from the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Specialist Flight technician.

"The biggest benefit to the specialist flight is the fact that we can now run a bit test (for troubleshooting) on any individual system that runs through the central interface control unit. The CICU is the brain of the c-model."

In the A-10C, anything that runs through the multi-functional color display is stored in the CICU, which acts as a memory.


Along with the high-tech advantages, however, there are a few challenges.
"The biggest challenge to the specialist flight will be the learning curve," Sergeant Mallas said. "Right now we have no additional training, although we are getting information from other units and learning as we go."

The quality assurance office is assisting in the transition - and finding a few of its own challenges with the new systems.

"Our main focus right now is going to be to analyze and assist in any problems. We want to learn, educate and then evaluate to make the transition to the c-model as easy and painless as possible," said Master Sgt. James Kirksey, quality assurance weapons/egress inspector.

"The biggest benefit of the c-model is its ability to bring a more modern and sophisticated array of weapons to the battlefield," Sergeant Kirksey said. "But our biggest challenge of the c-model is going to be the learning curve; this is an obstacle we will have to overcome. We will need to get everyone spun up on (technical) data."

For Master Sgt. Shaun McCrea, 442nd Weapons Flight standardization load crew, the c-model is basically learning a new aircraft inside the cockpit.

"The upgrade to the aircraft increased our weapons and the biggest challenge will be getting everyone trained in the short amount of time before the follow up (operational readiness inspection) and getting them efficient," Sergeant McCrea said.

Training for the 442nd AMXS Weapons Flight has included one week at field training detachment (FTD) school, and one week for the munitions loading portion of weapons training. Six members of loading from flight line and back shop participated in the FTD school and three members of loading participated in the week-long munitions loading training.

Weapons load crew chiefs will also be required to participate in cockpit familiarization in the munitions loading training bay. Each crew will also become certified on all new munitions once the new munitions list has dropped; the 10th Air Force authorizes munitions capable of being loaded by the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"The c-model allows us a greater capability to support ground troops," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Bolander, loading standardization crew member.

According to Master Sgt. Robert Boye, the first 442nd FW crew chief assigned to the c-model, the crew chiefs are relatively unaffected by the upgrade.


During the January unit training assembly, pilot training was the top priority in the 303rd FS.

Along with two days of academic classroom training, the pilots had the opportunity to use the desktop simulators to train on the HOTAS as well as try out the new 360-degree A-10 Thunderbolt II simulator.

"I think (the training went great)," said Maj. Preston McConnell, 303rd FS chief of weapons and tactics, who conducted the classroom training. "Everyone was well-prepared and attentive, and ready to learn."

Major McConnell said the academic training consisted of covering the full breadth of the conversion of the A-10C from the backbone of it to the weapons delivery to the datalink communication and the digital capability.

The pilots will now be required to conduct four training sessions in the 360-degree simulator as well as an unlimited amount of training on the desktop trainers.

"Having flown two of the initial upgrade rides, I can say the training has been tremendous," Major McConnell said. "(This sort of training) allows our pilots to go to a higher level. We can move past the initial training now and really begin learning the system completely."

The training syllabus was created by the 303rd FS and will now be used at all Air Force Reserve Command units that have the A-10C.

Major McConnell said he thinks the 303rd FS was selected to create the syllabus because of the level of experience of many of their pilots. As of the January UTA, eight pilots from the squadron were fully A-10C-qualified.


Related info:
A-10 Thunderbolt II C-Model [photo release]

1 comment:

  1. Has anyone else heard of the possibility of A-10 Warthogs being converted to U.C.A.V.'s? See