A request for proposals to build new wings for the aging but heavily used A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air-support aircraft is slated to be issued in the current April-to-June quarter, service officials said April 12.
The A-10 fleet consists of 282 aircraft, of which 173 have already received new wings. When the Air Force was considering retiring the fleet, the wing production contract expired, leaving 109 aircraft without new wings. But the Air Force now intends to keep flying the A-10.
The fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations act, which Congress passed last month, contains $103 million to restart wing production and build wings for four planes. The Air Force’s FY 2019 budget request would re-wing another eight to 12 planes.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's tactical air and land forces panel, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a former A-10 pilot, asked why the Air Force does not plan to build the wings at a faster pace.
Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, replied that the Air Force intends to produce them at a low rate until it conducts a congressionally mandated test comparing the A-10 with the Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II.
The comparison test, which is required by the FY 2017 defense authorization act, is supposed to focus on close air support, combat search and rescue and forward air controller airborne missions. It will occur during the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation, which is slated to run from September to May.