While the U.S. Air Force fiscal 2022 budget request proposes reducing the A-10 “Warthog” close air support (CAS) fleet from 281 to 239 as part of a retirement of 201 planes across the service to help pay for a $2.2 billion increase in research and development, the Air Force also plans to continue to finish a rewinging of 218 A-10s and install a new computer for them.
In 2019, the service said that it wanted to redesign the computer, the Central Interface Control Unit (CICU), to improve processing power and reliability of the unit, which manages pilot graphics and communications.
The Air Force has said that the CICU box’s electronics are prone to vibration effects from the A-10’s General Electric [GE] GAU-8/A Avenger 30 mm cannon. The Air Force has looked to put the unit, located outside the gun, in another place that is not as vulnerable to heat and vibration
The new computer is to be the Central Interface Control System (CICS).
“The Air Force plans to award a developmental contract for CICS in FY22 as a replacement for the CICU, the A-10’s current central processor,” the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio wrote in an Aug. 13 reply to questions. “The CICS delivers a state-of-the-art processor affording a reliable, maintainable and capable foundation should there be future A-10 modernization programs.”
Boeing [BA] built new wings for 173 A-10s under the 2007 A-10 Enhanced Wing Assembly Replacement program worth $1.1 billion. The company delivered the first wings under that contract in 2011 and the final set in 2018.
Nearly two years ago, Boeing won a new Air Force contract potentially worth $999 million to re-wing more than 100 A-10s (Defense Daily, Aug. 21, 2019). Now, however, the service plans to maintain and modernize just 218 of the planes.
The A-10 has been a target of proposed cuts by the Air Force before, including in 2014, when the service requested the retirement of the then-fleet of 334 planes to save $4.2 billion over five years–a proposal that Congress rebuffed.
“The Air Force remains committed to the CAS mission because it’s a very critical mission in our mission set of responsibilities as an Air Force,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Dale White, the program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, told reporters on Aug. 12 in response to a question. “The A-10 will be central to that…We are re-winging those platforms and have other things going on with the central computer and things of that nature. We’ll continue to make those platforms ready to fight.”
In addition, the Air Force is considering the CAS capabilities of other aircraft, including Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35s and F-16s, as the A-10s retire.
“The other part of it is is the question of as we start to move away from some of the more asymmetric fights we’ve had over the last 20-plus years, how much of a CAS do we need? One of the things we have to look at is the multi-role aspects of that from some of our other platforms that we can leverage, while maintaining the capability that is the A-10 with both the re-winging, the central computer, and some of the other upgradability things we have going on with that platform,” White said.