L'articolo (con i commenti) ..... http://aviationweek.com/defense/usaf-de ... definitelyUSAF Depots Work To Keep A-10s Flying ‘Indefinitely’ .....
Lara Seligman - Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (AW&ST) - Oct. 24, 2016
Despite the U.S. Air Force’s stated plan to begin mothballing the A-10 Warthog next year, the service’s depots are ramping up capacity to keep the aging attack fleet operating well into the future, according to a top general.
“They have re-geared up, we’ve turned on the depot line, we’re building it back up in capacity and supply chain,” said Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski in an Oct. 24 interview.
“Our command, anyway, is approaching this as another airplane that we are sustaining indefinitely.”
Beloved by troops for the roar of its Gatling gun, the A-10 is the Air Force’s only asset designed solely for protecting soldiers on the ground.
The service has been trying to sunset the Warthog for years so it can move resources to standing up the fifth-generation F-35.
But each year the Air Force has caved to pressure from Congress and the public and postponed the fleet’s retirement date, most recently citing the A-10’s critical role in the campaign against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
This cycle is not likely to let up any time soon, and the prospect of a new administration next year lends even more uncertainty to the A-10’s fate.
Pawlikowski is not taking any chances.
As Air Force leadership and Congress hash out the details of the divestment plan, AFMC has begun rebuilding depot line capacity and the supply chain to accept more A-10 sustainment throughput, Pawlikowski told Aviation Week in an Oct. 24 interview.
“My approach from a sustainment perspective is to approach this as if we’re just going to continue to keep these airplanes operating.” Pawlikowski said.
“We will wait as the dust settles as far as what the strategy will be; that discussion continues to go on and I think it always will as we look at the fact that our demand signal for our airplanes continues to be high.”
The latest budget blueprint has the Air Force beginning to stand down Warthog squadrons in fiscal 2018, with the last aircraft heading to the boneyard in the early 2020s.
But the Air Force recently signaled it may once again postpone plans to sunset the A-10, with Secretary Deborah Lee James telling Aviation Week in a recent interview that the air arm is considering keeping the jets in inventory longer than planned.
If this happens, AFMC will be ready.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s A-10 division at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, does most of the maintenance and repair work on the Air Force’s fleet of 283 A-10s, and has drastically improved sustainment over the last year, Pawlikowski said.
The A-10s flew nearly 87,000 flight hours worldwide in fiscal 2015, at an aircraft availability rate of 67.9% - a 5% gain over the previous year.
Among other upgrades, the Air Force is currently rewinging the current fleet of Warthogs under a $2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in 2007 that was originally intended to keep the jets flying until 2028.
The depots are seeing some corrosion in the fleet, but that is to be expected in all aging aircraft, Pawlikowski said.
Right now, the A-10’s fate hangs not just on the Air Force’s fiscal 2018 budget request, but also the final defense policy bill.
Lawmakers have inserted a number of provisions into a draft version of the bill designed to keep the A-10 flying, most notably Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally’s provision to make retirement of the jet contingent on a flyoff with its slated replacement, the F-35.
However, given the November elections and looming administration turnover, the budget likely won’t be finalized until next year.
In the meantime, the Air Force also is looking at possibilities for the next generation of close-air support (CAS) aircraft as a whole.
Top service officials are kicking around a plan to pursue not one but two new aircraft programs to augment and eventually replace the A-10.
The controversial plan involves pursuing a low-end, light-attack “OA-X” to augment the A-10 in a CAS role in the short term, while simultaneously aiming for a more robust A-10 replacement that could operate in a more dangerous threat environment down the line.
“There is a discussion about what can we do to meet the capacity requirements that we have and whether a high-low mix, so to speak, might be a way to do that,” Pawlikowski said.
“The big question is, is that really an effective way as we go in the future? The question becomes in the broader sense, where do we think the threat is going to be?”
The Air Force is looking at doing a series of “experiments” designed to help planners better understand what kind of mix of CAS platforms will be needed in the coming decades, Pawlikowski said.
These experiments could include modeling, simulation and wargaming, or even a possible flight demonstration of existing, off-the-shelf aircraft, and could start as early as next spring.
The experiments are part of a larger Air Force effort to make informed decisions about several key replacement programs in the coming years, Pawlikowski said.
“The Air Force has been at war for a long time, and every time we think things are going to slow down for us something else happens,” Pawlikowski said.
“We struggle with, how do we find that balance between modernization and the sustainment of what we have?”
Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski ..... http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/D ... owski.aspx
AYOTTE (or McSALLY) for President 2020 .....