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Sat, Oct 04, 2008

USAF Grounds A-10 Warthogs Over Wing Fatigue Concerns

Inspections Called For After Cracks Found In Older Models

Another storied aircraft in the US Air Force fleet has been grounded over concerns about age-related fatigue. The USAF announced Friday immediate inspections for 127 A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-support aircraft, after fatigue cracking was discovered on the wings of some aircraft.

"The inspections are a necessary step in addressing the risk associated with A-10 wing cracking, specifically with thin-skin wings. This risk is of great concern to the Air Force and is representative of a systemic problem for our aging Air Force fleet," the Air Force said.

CNN reports the cracks were discovered among -A and -C models at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, during routine maintenance. Newer A-10 models have reinforced wing bracing, and thicker metal to ward off small arms fire.

Originally manufactured by the now-defunct Fairchild Industries, the oldest A-10s first entered service in 1975. Today's fleet of over 400 A-10s has an average age of 28 years.

The Air Force stressed no accidents have occurred attributable to the fatigue cracks, and Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Paoli said the groundings "will be invisible to the warfighter."

Nevertheless, first priority for the inspections will be given to A-10s in theater in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the tank-busting aircraft -- dubbed "Warthogs" due to their ungainly appearance, and prominent nose-mounted 30mm Gatling gun -- provide ground support for troops in close combat.

The announcement marks the second time in less than a year the Air Force has grounded a prominent aircraft in its fleet. As ANN reported, the USAF grounded its fleet of older F-15C and -D models following a November 2007 in-flight breakup of a Missouri ANG Eagle.

Subsequent inspections revealed cracking, improper brace thickness, and materials contamination in longerons that run the length of the F-15 fuselage, and hold the aircraft together during high-stress manuevering.

FMI: www.af.mil, Read The USAF Factsheet On The A-10 Thunderbolt/"Warthog"

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