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