It’s All Downhill From Here

The active duty A-10 Warthogs of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., are nearly halfway though the conversion process to the newer and more capable A-10C configuration, according to Col. Kent Laughbaum, the wing’s commander. In a June 2 telephone interview, Laughbaum said the wing currently has 84 A-10s in its inventory and eventually will have about 90. Of these, 31 have already been upgraded to the C-model configuration, giving them new cockpit controls and displays and the ability to deploy more types of precision weapons. An additional 15 of the wing’s aircraft are currently on the conversion line at the depot at Hill AFB, Utah. “We deliver two [aircraft] to Hill and pick up two per week roughly,” he said. The wing’s transition began back in 2006 when the first A-10C was delivered to the 357th Fighter Squadron, one of three squadrons within the wing, for pilot training. The 357th’s upgrade is complete; the wing is now converting the 354th FS out of its legacy A-10As. The 354th FS, which returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in Nov. 2007, expects to receive the last of its upgraded A-10s in August, Laughbaum said. The wing’s third squadron, the 358th FS, is the last in store for the aircraft modifications. Due to the accelerated demand for the upgraded Warthogs, the maintainers at Hill streamlined the production and quality-control process significantly, meaning that it now takes only about 75 days to convert an airframe as opposed to 100 days early on, he said. An upgraded A-10 is now cleared to fly within three-to-four days once back from the depot, whereas about a year ago, roughly two weeks would be set aside to do inspections. “What they have accomplished in quality and efficiency is extraordinary,” Laughbaum said of the Hill and his own maintainers.