Exciting news for fans of the A-10 Warthog. The plane has had its proverbial neck on the chopping block for years, but two Air Force Academy cadets are breathing new life into the Warthog. The cadets are still in school, but are working on a way to boost the performance of the plane and make it more lethal.
Cadets 1st Class Jon Clegg and John Potthoff aim “to research decreasing maintenance requirements and increase munitions capability,” a press release states.
“We’re working together to investigate replacing the existing leading-edge slat system with a fixed leading-edge droop to reduce complexity on this important aircraft,” Potthoff said in the release.
The undergrads are being assisted by Dr. Thomas Yechout, their aeronautics professor. Yechout said the new design “uses a gap to accelerate airflow during flight.”
It has the added benefits of reducing stalls, too.
“But the cadets not only want to produce a smoother flight,” DoD Buzz reports, “they want to strap more rockets to the Fairchild Republic-made Thunderbolt II.”
More weaponry on the A-10? The plane is notorious for its ability to carry a massive load. The A-10, a plane designed for Cold War era tank busting, is designed for close ground support.
“The A-10 is a Cold War-era ground-attack plane known for its iconic gun designed to shred tanks and its tough titanium armor designed to take hits and keep flying,” DB writes.
Clegg and Potthoff believe the A-10 still has potential. “Their tasking was for us to evaluate and define the aerodynamic effects and the performance implications of tripling the number of rocket pods,” Professor Yechout said. “This included assessing the changes in aircraft range, endurance and maximum speed.”
So how long will the A-10 continue to fly?
“The service — facing financial pressure driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters,” DB notes.
Yet it is still flying, and fighting. The new design elements could be integrated into new planes to replace those in the ageing fleet. Clegg and Potthoff believe they have solved some of the plane’s problems.
“I was able to perform analyses on real-world problems and see how my work has the potential to impact those on the operational side,” Clegg said.
“We may have an entirely new project after the January briefing,” he said. “One thing is certain, we will continue to do research to support the A-10 and increase its combat capability.”