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Old "hogs" get new life

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- The Air Force awarded a contract valued at approximately $1 billion to Boeing on June 29 for the production of 242 replacement A-10 Thunderbolt II wings.

The A-10, also known as the Warthog, is the first Air Force fighter specifically designed for close air support operations, and is a major asset in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom said Brent Berrett, Director of the 538th Aircraft Sustainment Group.

Boeing is scheduled to deliver the first wing July 2010. These wings will have the same form, fit, and function as the current wings that are flying on later production lots of the A-10 fleet, but will incorporate some reliability and maintainability improvements culled from 30 years' experience flying and sustaining the A-10.

The A-10 Wing Replacement Program will be managed by the men and women of the 538th ACSGS.

"Wing replacement, along with the ongoing precision engagement avionics upgrades, will bring the A-10 into the twenty-first century and keep it flying safely and effectively throughout its service life," Mr. Berrett said. "I'm proud of the excellent work the wing team has done throughout the source selection and look forward to continued positive results."

Achieving contract award was a major endeavor spanning nearly 3 years and involving dozens of people from across the Air Force. The program office required assistance throughout Team Hill, including contracting, financial management, the acquisition center for excellence, and senior leaders from across the base. Representatives from Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base Va., also helped to create and justify the requirement.

The A-10 was originally designed to meet a 6,000-hour service life; that service life requirement was later extended to 16,000 hours. Meeting this extended service life required numerous structural enhancements, modifications, and periodic inspections. Even with these repairs and preventative measures, thin-skin wings coming into depot are failing at a high rate, Mr. Berrett said. It was clear the weapon system would run out of serviceable wings by 2011, resulting in grounded aircraft and lost capability to the warfighter.

The development of new technical repairs would be more expensive than replacing the wings, he continued. The Fleet Viability Board, which provides the Air Force with an independent assessment of fleet longevity, recently evaluated the A-10 weapon system and estimated a net cost avoidance of $1.3 billion by replacing, rather than repairing, the wings. Due to strong support from senior Air Force leadership, the A-10 Wing Replacement Program quickly received funding to begin procuring new wings in 2007.

The source selection took place from Jan. 17 to June 4. Multiple major aircraft and airframe manufacturers submitted proposals for the procurement. Boeing was selected by a multi-functional team as the winning contractor based on a best value decision integrating price and past performance.