After nearly a decade of work, the U.S. Air Force has completed the task of re-winging 173 Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, sufficient to equip six combat squadrons. Over 100 further A-10s are currently in the Air Force inventory with three more squadrons, some of which may also be re-winged in a follow-on program that has yet to be launched.
Boeing was awarded a $1.1 billion contract in 2007 to start building replacement wings at its Macon, Georgia facility. Most of the installation work was performed by the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) at the Ogden Air Logistics Center (ALC) located at Hill AFB, Utah. Ogden fitted 162 of the wing-sets in what was known as the A-10 Enhanced Wing Assembly replacement program, the remaining 11 being installed at Osan AB, South Korea, from where the A-10 is operated by the 51st Fighter Wing.
Replacing the wings gives the A-10 another 10,000 hours of life without the need for a depot inspection, sufficient to keep the aircraft flying until the late 2030s. As part of the re-winging process, the wire harnesses were redesigned to facilitate wing removal and reduce the chance of damage during the process. As well as the new wing-sets from Boeing, the 571st AMXS had to make some new fuselage parts, and also raided A-10s stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.
The squadron began work in 2011, the first aircraft to be re-winged being 80-0173. The last machine, 80-0252, was flown on its first post-modification functional check flight (FCF) on July 25. Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Richardson, the commander of the 514th Flight Test Squadron that is assigned to the Ogden ALC, performed the FCF flight of the final re-winged A-10.
Despite repeated attempts to retire the type that have surfaced since the late 1980s, the A-10C remains a valuable asset that is popular with Air Force personnel and ground forces alike. In 2016 a retirement date of 2022 was announced, but that date has been pushed back indefinitely and maintenance work has been ramped up to meet continuing operational demands.
Later this fall the Air Force is expected to issue a contract for an unknown quantity of further A-10 wing-sets, if funds allow. The work to build the wings would be re-competed.