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Ogden ALC marks 100th A-10 wing assembly

Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander speaks at a ceremony marking the 100th A-10 completed in the Enhanced Wing Assembly Program by the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base. (Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander speaks at a ceremony marking the 100th A-10 completed in the Enhanced Wing Assembly Program by the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alex R. Lloyd)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- An A-10 Thunderbolt, fitted with new wings, got a ceremonial sendoff Aug. 20 as it marked the 100th aircraft completed in the Enhanced Wing Assembly Program by the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, Ogden ALC commander, handed the maintenance log for A-10 tail No. 78-0697, first flown in 1978, over to Col. Derek Oaks, commander of the 23rd Fighter Group, Moody AFB, Ga. The Enhanced Wing Assembly program is a joint effort between Ogden ALC, the 571 AMXS, Boeing Corp., the Defense Contract Management Agency and the A-10 System Program Office.

"From the depot team perspective, the 163 professionals who work on these aircraft were all the time improving the way they do business," Buhler said in his ceremony remarks. "The first A-10 took over a year to complete -- 442 days to turn it around. Today I'm proud to announce that this jet took 172 days -- an improvement of 207 days. That's nine months of aircraft availability given back to our warfighters.

"Along the way, this modification had twists and turns at every point. However, by working as a team with the SPO, flight test, DLA, DCMA, Boeing and our supply team leaders, this team used the Air Force Sustainment Center's leadership and production model known as the AFSC Way to turn constraints into opportunities, to overcome challenges, and to challenge every single assumption. By doing so, they achieved huge successes."

Col. James Flattery, A-10 System Program Manager for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, added during the ceremony that when the A-10 was first procured by the Air Force, it was estimated to fly about 6,000 hours.

"Over the years, they have learned what a valuable asset it is and how much we need it," Flattery said. "They have extended it to more than 16,000 hours -- almost three times the service life that was originally suggested. Who would have thought it would go three times more than expected and likely to go a whole lot more?

"Now, almost every combat unit -- Active, Guard and Reserve -- has an A-10 with the new Enhanced wing Assemblies installed in its fleet. Soon we will be able to say every unit has deployed this new wing in their fleet."

Speaking for Boeing during the ceremony, Turbo Sjogren, Vice President for Global Modernization, commented on the teamwork the project produced.

"There were challenges, no doubt, as we went through this program," Sjogren said, "but I will say that of our relationships with our customers, the transparency, the teamwork of our partners, our ability to meet the challenges together and the teamwork that was brought forth on both sides met those challenges in a constructive manner. It was one of the tenons of success in this program and we're proud to be part of it.

"The A-10 is a tremendous asset. As we come up on the 100th year of the Boeing Company and the Air Force celebrating its 68th years as an independent service, the endurance of this aircraft from the early 1970s until now is a testament to perseverance."

In July 2007 the A-10 Program Office awarded Boeing a $1.1 billion contract to develop and produce enhanced wing assemblies to replace the thin-skinned wings that had been on A-10 aircraft since the 1970s and 80s.  The 571 AMXG completed installing the first enhanced wing assembly in 2012, and will work on a total of 173 A-10s before the workload is completed.

"The entire assembly, wingtip to wingtip, is all brand new," said Monte Markos, Industrial Engineering Technician for the 571st. "The old wings had between 10,000 and 12,000 flight hours on them and their structural integrity was going down. The new wings will allow the aircraft to fly another 10,000-12,000 flight hours."

The wings are replaced in three pieces, Markos explained. Boeing manufactures the center wings in Georgia and the outer wing sections in Korea, while smaller components are subcontracted to companies in New York, Florida, Ohio and other areas.

All components are sent to Kitco Defense in Springville, Utah, who organize them into kits, then send them in crates to the Defense Logistics Agency. The 571st pulls its supplies from DLA.

"We remove the old wings as an assembly and put them back into the supply system," Markos said. "Based on the condition of the wings, some will get rebuilt and some will be sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office for scrap."

The new wings have been "beefed up" in some areas, based on lessons learned, Markos said.

"The aircraft's major design hasn't changed -- the new wings have stronger joints and the coatings are designed for better corrosion resistance," Markos said. They are also strengthening the fuselage so it will last as many flight hours as the wings."