Wow. I had no idea how big and lethal this A-10 cannon was.
It was developed by General Electric, the "We bring good things to life" people.
First there was this gun...
It's one of the modern-day Gatling guns.
It shoots very big bullets. It shoots them very quickly.
Someone said, "Let's put it in an airplane."
Someone else said, "Better still, and let’s build an airplane around it."
So they did. And "they" were the Fairchild-Republic airplane people.
And they had done such a good job with an airplane they developed back in WWII...
...called the P-47 Thunderbolt, they decided to call it the A10 Thunderbolt.
They made it so it was very good at flying low and slow and shooting things with that fabulous gun.
But since it did fly low and slow, they made it bulletproof, or almost so. A lot of bad guys have found you can shoot an A10 with
anything from a pistol to a 23mm Soviet cannon and it just keeps on flying and shooting.
When they got through, it looked like this...
It's not sleek and sexy like an F18 or the stealthy Raptors and such, but I think it's such a great airplane because it does what it does
better than any other plane in the world. It kills tanks. Not only tanks, as Sadam Hussein's boys found out to their horror, but
armored personnel carriers, radar stations, locomotives, bunkers, fuel depots...just about anything the bad guys thought was
bulletproof turned out to be easy pickings for this beast.
See those engines. One of them alone will fly this puppy. The pilot sits in a very thick titanium alloy "bathtub."
That's typical of the design.
They were smart enough to make every part the same whether mounted on the left side or right side of the plane, like landing gear,
for instance.Because the engines are mounted so high (away from ground debris) and the landing gear uses such low pressure tires,
it can operate from a damaged airport, interstate highway, plowed field, or dirt road.
Everything is redundant. They have two of almost everything. Sometimes they have three of something. Like flight controls.
There's triple redundancy of those, and even if there is a total failure of the double hydraulic system, there is a set of manual flying
Capt. Kim Campbell sustained this damage over Bagdad and flew for another hour before returning to base.
But about that gun...
It's so hard to grasp just how powerful it is.
This is the closest I could find to showing you just what this cartridge is all about. What the guy is holding is NOT the 30mm round,
but a "little" .50 Browing machinegun round and the 20mm cannon round which has been around for a long time.
The 30mm is MUCH bigger.
Down at the bottom are the .50 BMG and 20x102 Vulcan the fellow was holding. At the bottom right is the bad boy we're discussing.
Let's get some perspective here: The .223 Rem (M16 rifle round) is fast. It shoots a 55 or so grain bullet at about 3300 feet/sec,
give or take. It's the fastest of all those rounds shown (except one). When you move up to the .30 caliber rounds, the bullets jump
up in weight to 160-200 grains. Speeds run from about 2600 to 3000 fps or so.
The .338 Lapua is the king of the sniper rifles these days and shoots a 350 grain bullet at 2800 fps or so. They kill bad guys at
over a mile with that one.
The .50 BMG is really big. Mike Beasley has one on his desk. Everyone who picks it up thinks it's some sort of fake, unless they know big ammo. It's really huge with a bullet that weighs 750 grains and goes as fast the Lapua.
I don't have data on the Vulcan, but hang on to your hat.
The bullet for the 30x173 Avenger has an aluminum jacket around a spent uranium core and weighs 6560 grains (yes, over
100 times as heavy as the M16 bullet, and flies through the air at 3500 fps (which is faster than the M16 as well).
The gun shoots at a rate of 4200 rounds per minute. Yes, four thousand. Pilots typically shoot either one- or two-second burst
which set loose 70 to 150 rounds. The system is optimized for shooting at 4,000 feet. OK, the best for last.
You've got a pretty good idea of how big that cartridge is, but I'll bet you're like me and you don't fully appreciate how big the
GA GAU-8 Avenger really is.
Take a look...
Each of those seven barrels is 112" long. That's almost ten feet. The entire gun is 19-1/2 feet long.
Think how impressive it would look set up in your living room.
Oh, by the way, it doesn't eject the empty shells but runs them back into the storage drum. There's just so dang many
flying out, they felt it might damage the aircraft.
Oh yeah, I forgot, they can hang those bomb and rocket things on ‘em too, just in case. After all, it is an “airplane”!
Like I said, this is a beautiful design.
A-10 THUNDERBOLT II
Since 1997, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin-led A-10 Prime Team have worked
closely to significantly digitize the A-10A Thunderbolt II close air support fighter to its
A-10C configuration, enabling employment of new GPS and inertially-guided munitions,
fingertip control of aircraft avionics and integration of Litening and Sniper Advanced
Targeting Pods through a program called Precision Engagement (PE).
The improvements automate many functions (navigation, weapons employment and
communications) previously performed manually by the pilot, while also providing enhanced
situational awareness and the ability to deliver precision-guided air-to-ground weapons.
The upcoming addition of a Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS) in Suite 7 will allow for
even greater efficiencies in targeting and situational awareness.
The most extensive upgrade in the A-10's celebrated 35-year history, Precision Engagement
combined multiple upgrades into a single contract award.
Awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2001, the government-industry partnership has enabled
the modifications to be completed earlier than planned and at lower cost.
2007 - The Department of Defense and the National Defense Industrial Association recognized
the success of the A-10 Precision Engagement program in October 2007 when Lockheed Martin
and the U.S. Air Force were awarded a Top 5 DoD Program Award for excellence in systems
engineering and program management.
2007 - U.S. Air Force A-10 Depot at Hill Air Force Base (AFB), UT, wins the "Fox Award";
Lockheed Martin was invited to participate in the receipt of the prestigious award due in
part to our assistance in providing continuous process improvement for the A-10C modification
2008 - Lockheed Martin wins the A-10 program a Nova Award, the highest Corporate Program
Achievement Award, for exceptional performance on the A-10 Precision Engagement program.
With 13 years' experience with A-10 modernization and sustainment, Lockheed Martin has the
knowledge of the U.S. Air Force processes and procedures necessary to support the A-10 for
the remainder of its life.
Systems Integration Lab
In February 2004, Lockheed Martin opened the first-ever A-10 Systems Integration Lab (SIL).
The SIL duplicates the aircraft's wiring and cabling infrastructure and is outfitted with actual
weapons hardware, missile seekers, suspension racks and rocket launchers to emulate an A-10
aircraft on the flight line.
The Precision Engagement program has benefited significantly during systems development by
allowing pilots and engineers to "fly and fix"; software and hardware updates in the SIL before
aircraft installation and test.
A-10C is the only Combat Air Forces’ aircraft that receives an avionics modernization and
sustainment update (called Suites) on an annual cycle. This rhythm brings critical combat
capability to the warfighter.
The U.S. Air Force at Hill AFB, Ogden, UT, is upgrading each A-10 aircraft from a kit of parts
supplied by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration - Owego, in Owego, NY. The Air Force
expects to upgrade the fleet of 356 aircraft by 2012.
Each kit includes:
January 2005: First A-10C test jet rolls out, Eglin AFB, FL
August 2006: First production A-10C rolls out, Hill AFB, UT
August 2007: Air Force declares A-10C operationally capable, Langely AFB, VA
September 2007: First A-10C wing deploys
October 2007: First Joint Direct Attack Munitions employed in combat from A-10C
June 2009: The first annual software suite upgrades was delivered on schedule