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C-model A-10 takes first flight
C-model A-10 takes first flight
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The newly designed C-model A-10 Thunderbolt II was flown for the first time here Jan. 20. The aircraft, modified with precision engagement technology, can now accept more high-value target missions. (Courtesy photo)

by 1st Lt. James Madeiros
96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

01/28/2005 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- The newly designated C-model A-10 Thunderbolt II, modified with precision engagement technology, was flown for the first time here recently by a 40th Flight Test Squadron pilot.

Precision-engagement technology allows the Air Force’s premier close-air support aircraft to also use smart weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions and wind-corrected munitions dispensers, incapable in the previous model, officials said.

“We have taken the world’s greatest close-air support platform and made it even better by adding a wide array of laser and Global Positioning System-aided munitions, the latest in targeting pods and the infrastructure to support data link,” said Maj. Michael Rawls, the pilot who made the flight.

The increased capability also allows for the A-10C to accept more high-value target missions.

Despite some speculation into whether to retire the A-10 in full or in part in years past, its performance in recent conflicts and its program enhancements make it an invaluable part of the Air Force fleet, officials said.

“The A-10 provides a ground commander with a capability no other platform can in terms of survivability, loiter time and array of weapons,” Major Rawls said. “Bottom line, it means (it) is here to stay for awhile.”

For those who have seen an A-10, the new model looks identical from the outside because the modifications are largely in the software and cockpit hardware. The appearance would be different, though, when loaded with a new array of munitions. The new capability will enable the A-10C to carry six smart munitions, with a standard load of four, Maj. Rawls said.

Although it has not yet flown with a new payload including smart munitions, Maj. Rawls said he felt that the modifications had not affected the performance of the aircraft.

“The modification moved the center of gravity slightly forward in the aircraft, but it was not distinguishable,” he said. “The jet handled very well.”

The estimated $300 million program has been a joint Air Force and industry effort that leaders said they believe will breathe yet more life into the 30-year-old aircraft.

“We are moving the A-10 into the 21st century with the capability to deliver the latest precision-guided weapons to the battlefield,” said Col. Robert Nolan, 46th Test Wing commander.