After years of trying to retire the Warthog, the U.S. Air Force is spending big to keep more of the attack jets flying for another decade.
Just weeks after the last of 173 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs received new wings, the Air Force on Wednesday awarded Boeing a $240 million contract to start installing new wings on 27 more aircraft — the first tranche of a project expected to re-wing a total of 112 aircraft for about $1 billion, according to a Pentagon contract announcement. The contract awarded on Wednesday runs through 2030.
“Boeing will team with Korean Aerospace Industries and other key suppliers to deliver the first wing sets to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah,” the company said.
The contract signals the Air Force will no longer try to retire the plane, known for its rapidfire 30-millimeter cannon. The Warthog was introduced in the 1970s to support troops on the ground, and has seen heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan since the U.S. invasions there. Yet over the past decade, the Air Force has several times called for retiring the plane and performing its close-air support mission with higher-flying planes like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or slower propeller-driven attack planes.
Earlier this month, a congressionally mandated Mitre Corp. report obtained by Air Force Magazine said the Air Force should retire A-10s as new F-35s are delivered. And the Air Force is buying planes like the Embraer Super Tucano and Beechcraft T-6 for special operations and training foreign air forces.
The Air Force started replacing the wings on 173 A-10s in 2011. That work finished earlier this month.