Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Latest antennas and sensors of the modern A-10

By Joachim Jacob


Commencing in 1999, the A-10 fleet was upgraded with the installation of an Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (EGI). The fuselage spine was fitted with the large GPS receiver which is the heart of the entire EGI system. The GPS dome receiver feeds GPS signals to the INS and weapons systems. This upgrade was completed in 2003 to the entire fleet.

The GPS dome, pictured in "The Modern Hog Guide - The A-10 Warthog Exposed", by Jake Melampy, Reid Air Publications, 2007.

See also:

These pictures were taken during the 103rd FW, 118th FS Open House at the Space & Aviation Day held at the Bradley International Airport. (Photo by Mike Stephens)

A-10 EGI/GPS dome and Triple Maverick Launcher

BTW: Sorry, but I've still to ask Mike Stephens for his permission.

AN/ARC-210 BLOS Antenna

Full size

A pilot from the 303rd Fighter Squadron taxis A-10 No. 144 past other aircraft from the 442nd Fighter Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. No. 144 sports a new antenna, just behind the canopy (inset), for the Beyond-Line-of-Sight Airborne Radio Communications-210 system. The new system will allow pilots to communicate via satellite to ground forces. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Tom Talbert)

A-10 radio upgrades limited to deployed aircraft

by 1st Lt. Natasha L. Waggoner
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

10/12/2006 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (ACCNS) -- Two hundred and ninety four of the Air Force's 356 A-10's will go without radio upgrades critical to their role in Iraq and Afghanistan because Air Combat Command, the lead funding agency, is short funds.

Approximately $60 million is needed to install and upgrade the AN/ARC-210 digital radios in the A-10 to ensure it continues to provide immediate, responsive and persistent attack in direct support of friendly forces.

"The Air Force has relied on the A-10 for over 30 years to provide unmatched capabilities in the close fight," said Maj. T. C. Coiner, A/OA-10 Realistic Training Manager here. "Ground commanders from all branches of the military and our coalition partners call on the A-10 first when their forces come under enemy fire."

Just like many legacy systems in the Air Force, the A-10 enhancement and modernization programs are experiencing funding cuts and delays, said Major Coiner. These shortfalls in supporting previously funded programs means serious impacts to expected operational capabilities, which also affects pilot continuation and conversion training.

The AN/ARC-210 is digitally reliable and software programmable, enabling instantaneous secure synchronization with external users. It initially replaces line-of-sight UHF/VHF, contains upgradeable features such as beyond-line-of-sight, supports interoperability with numerous other platforms using ARC-210, and it fulfills the 8.33 MHz frequency separation requirement for Europe.

"Clearly these radios are needed to enhance current operations, but the rest of the fleet needs radios to be able to train like they fight, be responsive to air support requests and lower the risk of fratricide or other incidents," said Major Don Henry, ACC A-10 Program Element Monitor here.

Instead, the command rotates its 51 radios among aircraft in the Afghanistan and Iraq Areas of Responsibility including spares and uses another 12 for test jets and for training at the weapons school.

"This rotatable pool of radios we have now is okay, but with all the wear and tear due to frequently moving them from jet to jet, their lives are shortened," said Major Henry. "In a few years, we'll need more radios to replace the 63 we already have, or we can just go ahead and buy enough for all 356 jets and reduce the wear and tear of what we have now."

The current radios the A-10's use work well in non-secure mode, but the current means used for secure capability is aging and is unreliable during extended use. The older technology also creates a high risk to ground support operations that require rapid synchronization during secure communication.

In the three to five seconds that it takes to synchronize secure radios between a transmitting and receiving war fighter, critical links of the "kill chain" must come together. The pilot must gain proper parameters to release a weapon, receives final clearance from a controller and ensures friendly forces are out of harm's way while providing expeditious targeting of hostile forces, according to Major Henry. The extra synchronization time also means the pilot remains exposed to air and ground threats that affect the war fighter's ability to ensure friendly forces are out of harm's way.

"Without clearance to release during this critical window of time, intended kinetic impact points may get positively identified, but the pilot must repeat the attack and be exposed to the threat again -- and possibly miss an opportunity if the pilot does not regain positive identification on a fleeting target," said Major Henry.


A-10 evolution continues with newest upgrades

by Tech. Sgt. Leo Brown
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/2/2008 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Pilots in the 303rd Fighter Squadron are enhancing their eyes and ears thanks to the two newest upgrades to the 442nd Fighter Wing's A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.

Outside the cockpit, the A-10 will be sporting a new antenna, which is part of an ongoing satellite communications system upgrade.

Inside the cockpit, new software will keep pilots' eyes where they should be, focused on ground targets by displaying information on the plane's heads-up display in addition to a small computer screen.

Communication via satellite

Thanks in large part to the Airmen of the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Specialist Flight, the new antenna being added to the top of the 442nd Fighter Wing's A-10s looks, according to one maintenance troop, "like the satellite-TV antenna on an RV."

Far from turning the A-10 into a "flying Winnebago," the antenna is part of the new Beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) Airborne Radio Communications-210 (ARC-210) system, which improves pilots' conversations with ground forces, enhancing the 303rd Fighter Squadron's ability to employ lethal force against America's enemies.

With the old radios, pilots had to have a clear line of sight between the aircraft and the person with whom they were communicating.

Mountains, for instance, would wreak havoc on such transmissions, but the new radios communicate through satellites, giving pilots, in the words of Tech. Sgt. Michael Price, an avionics technician, "the ability to talk with anybody - anywhere, anytime.

"They will enhance communications between the pilot and ground troops, forward air controllers, anybody," he said. "You could be in Bagram (Afghanistan) and literally call home."

"The primary reason we're getting the sat.-comm. radios is the terrain in Afghanistan, which is our primary theater," said Col. Steve Arthur, 442nd Fighter Wing commander. "We have eight aircraft right now that have the ARC-210. It's a great radio and the feedback is all good."

Lt. Col. John Marks, assistant director of operations for the 303rd FS, said the new radios are a big improvement over the old ones.

"Especially for Afghanistan, which has huge mountains, the sat.-comm. capability lets us talk to anyone," he said. "We generally talk to all the ground agencies and, of course, the JTACS (joint terminal attack controllers) who are controlling our strikes.

"In the past, we could only talk to them on secure radios and we used 1960s technology. It used encryption and there was a time delay," he said. "It worked and it was fine, but with the new radios, you can go secure on any frequency."

"On the non-modified aircraft, there's a radio for a UHF frequency and two radios for VHF frequencies," Sergeant Price said. "These are all built into the new sat.-comm. radio. It sounds good. It's very clear."

Colonels Arthur and Marks said that the new radios help bring the A-10 up to speed with other aircraft.

"Essentially, it's a more modern radio," Colonel Marks said. "It's been around quite a while and the Navy's F-18s have used it for several years."

"The A-10 is finally catching up," Colonel Arthur said. "The aviators here absolutely love it."

Software upgrades keep pilots' heads up

In addition to radio upgrades, Airmen in the 442nd Maintenance Group recently installed new software for the A-10s' smart multi-function color displays (SMFCD), located in the cockpit. According to pilots and maintenance troops alike, the upgrade will improve "situational awareness" for pilots.

"It's like upgrading your computer," said Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Lyon, flight chief. "Every year, you get new computers and systems and, basically, we're upgrading a computer that's a couple of years old."

This upgrade, according to Sergeant Lyon, will connect the targeting pod, the integrated-flight and fire-control computer and other systems, and "send them to the SMFCD and the heads-up display. In the past, these systems were independent of each other and now they're grouped together to report information."

"(The 1.3 version of the software) changed the operating characteristics of the SMFCD and it will give the pilot more information and better functionality within the SMFCD," he said. "It'll enhance communication and improve the pilots' ability to get their bombs on target and provide cover for ground troops. That's why it's important to get this done before the next AEF."

"The 1.3 speeds up the HOTAS (hands-on-throttle-and-stick) functions, so pilots don't have to look down," Sergeant Price said. "We want them to be looking out the cockpit window instead of looking down to switch settings. The stick is the same, but we reprogrammed the computer."

"Instead of being able to see my wingman and targets on my data link, I can now see things on the heads-up display," Colonel Marks said. "I can see where my wingman is, where other data-link players are, where targets are. We can see friendly locations on the ground a couple hundred miles one way or the other. This adds a huge capability."

Colonel Marks said the wing's pilots are becoming more comfortable with the upgrades.

"We have a two-sortie upgrade program, a two-ride checkout," he said. "It takes a few sorties for guys to adjust, but that's expected."

Solid support

Sergeant Lyon said the specialist flight Airmen completed the software upgrade in the wing's 27 A-10s in four days. As with some past upgrades, the flight's troops have been navigating through unknown waters.

"This, again, is self-taught," Sergeant Lyon said. "We're going into an area we've never been in.

"We were the first unit to do this," he said. "This is not something you do every day. In the magnitude of what we did, we broke new ground in the maintenance community with this."

Sergeant Lyon stressed that the success of these upgrades must be credited not only to the Airmen of the specialist flight, but also to the troops in the armament and weapons-load shops, and the flight-line section.

"It takes all the pieces of the puzzle to bring everything together," he said. "These shops are absolutely necessary components to getting this done and they have to do their processes to get the aircraft to mission-ready status."

"The A-10 community is pretty fortunate getting access to funding that allows us to do these upgrades," Colonel Arthur said. "That funding is driven by what combatant commanders need in theater.

"The bottom line is that we're very fortunate to have an Air Force Reserve Command commander (Gen. John Bradley) who has the ability to look into the future and get us what we need," the colonel said.


(Both pictures taken by Mariusz Krawczyk)

In comparison: Another 81st FS A-10 without the new antennae. (Photo by Mariusz Krawczyk)

BTW: I've still a problem with Jake's following photo caption (page 55 of his book): Behind the APU access doors, the bottom of the fuselage is home to many antenna. Below and right, from front to rear, is the VHF/FM lower antenna, a fuel overboard vent pipe, and the VHF/AM antenna. The VHF/FM antenna can either be of the swept variety, as show at right, or the straight, non-swept variety, far middle, depending on the manufacturer of the antenna. The straight, non-swept, antenna is more common. The A-10A+ and A-10C aircraft are equipped with the AN/ARC-210 secure voice radio, providing line-0f-sight secure communications between the pilot and grond forces. These aircraft have the AN/ARC-210 radio blade antenna in place of the VHF/AM antenna. This antenna, bottom right, has a slightly different shape than does the VHF/AM blade.

AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System

A-10C 81-0992 with new sensor in front of the left wingtip. (Photo by Mariusz Krawczyk)

The two new sensors on the rear tailcone of A-10C 81-0992. One looks back to six, the other looks down to ground. (Photo by Mariusz Krawczyk)

Sensor in front of the left wing tip. Very nice close-up shots of A-10 80-0217, 25th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Wing (PACAF), Osan AB, Republic of Korea. (Photos via http://xpm.gozaru.jp/photoreport/page/178.html)

The following close-up shots of A-10Cs 79-0207 and 81-0963 from the 81st Fighter Squadron were taken at KECSKEMÉT 2008 Air Show, Hungary:

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

(Photo by Zoltán Gyula)

See also:
New warning system has been identified as AN/AAR-47

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