Not many people are aware of its but the Fairchild Republic A-10 “Thunderbolt II”, the United States Air Force’s premier ground and tank attack aircraft, is participating in the aerial phase of this year’s “Balikatan” exercises.
The A-10 joins the American air contingent consisting of the venerable Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 “Hornet” jet fighter, Sikorsky CH-53 “Sea Stallion” combat utility helicopter, Bell Ah-1 “Cobra” attack helicopter, Bell UH-1H “Huey”, Lockheed P-3 “Orion” maritime and anti-submarine plane and Sikorsky H-60.
On the Philippine side, the Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” aircraft, C-130 cargo plane, “Huey” helicopter, McDonnell Douglas MG-520 “Defender” attack helicopter, Marchetti SF-260 ground attack plane and the SIAI-Marchetti AS-211 jet trainer will be flying during the aerial phase of the military maneuvers.
These planes will be based at Clark Field, Pampanga for the duration of “Balikatan 2014” which began May 5 and will this coming May 16.
The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and is a highly accurate and survivable weapons-delivery platform.
The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and visibility conditions.
The wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines.
Using night vision goggles, A-10 pilots can conduct their missions during darkness.
Thunderbolt IIs have night vision imaging systems (NVIS), goggle compatible single-seat cockpits forward of their wings and a large bubble canopy which provides pilots all-around vision.
The pilots are protected by titanium armor that also protects parts of the flight-control system.
The redundant primary structural sections allow the aircraft to enjoy better survivability during close air support than did previous aircraft.
The A-10 can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm.
Their self-sealing fuel cells are protected by internal and external foam.
Manual systems back up their redundant hydraulic flight-control systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power is lost.
The A-10 has received many upgrades over the years. In 1978, the aircraft received the “Pave Penny” laser receiver pod, which sensed reflected laser radiation from a laser designator.
“Pave Penney” has now been discontinued in favor more capable advanced targeting pods.
The A-10 began receiving an inertial navigation system in 1980.
Later, the low-altitude safety and targeting enhancement (LASTE) upgrade provided computerized weapon-aiming equipment, an autopilot, and a ground-collision warning system. In 1999, aircraft began to receive global positioning system navigation systems and a new multi-function display.
In 2005, the entire A-10 fleet began receiving the precision engagement upgrades that include an improved fire control system, electronic countermeasures, upgraded cockpit displays, the ability to deliver smart bombs, moving map display, hands on throttle and stick, digital stores management, “LITENING” and “Sniper” advanced targeting pod integration, situational awareness data link (SADL), variable message format (VMF) and global positioning system (GPS) guided weapons, and upgraded power systems.
The entire A-10 fleet has been precision engagement modified and now carries the A-10C designation.
The Thunderbolt II can be serviced and operated from austere bases with limited facilities near battle areas.
Many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable left and right, including the engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers.
Avionics equipment includes multi-band communications; GPS and inertial navigations systems; infrared and electronic countermeasures against air-to-air and air-to-surface threats.
And, it has a heads-up display to flight and weapons delivery information.
The A-10 can employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions or JDAM, wind corrected munitions dispenser or WCMD, AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, rockets, illumination flares, and the GAU-8/A 30mm cannon, capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute to defeat a wide variety of targets including tanks. PNA