by ANNie | AuxBeacon News Contributor
[Editor’s Note: Oh the things we do to honor the wishes of our contributing readers. This is a Blast from the Past.]
Today is the 3rd anniversary of AuxNewsNow’s satire piece on CAP getting A-10 Warthorgs as if they were T-34 Mentors or Blanik gliders. The funny thing about this is- a few drooling CAP members actually believed it was true and where calling Maxwell to find more information. Here’s the blast from the past.
CAP Slated to Receive Aging A-10 Fleet From USAF
Tom Highway –
WASHINGTON DC — In a stinging blow to the Army, Air Force Lt Gen Carl Greer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements (AF/A3), announced that the Air Force will transfer its entire remaining fleet of A-10 ‘Thunderbolt II’ aircraft to the Civil Air Patrol. This will be the largest such transfer of aircraft to the Auxiliary since shortly after the end of World War II, when hundreds of Aeronca L-16s, North American L-17s, Piper L-4s and Stinson L-5s were acquired from the Air Force.
The Civil Air Patrol greeted this announcement with enthusiasm.
“We’ve been talking to the Air Force for several months about obtaining surplus aircraft,” says CAP National Flight Operations Director Caleb Webster. “There was some talk about other platforms, like the Cirrus SR220, gliders from the Academy, or even the new Beechcraft T-6A Texan II, but we’ve been lobbying hard for the A-10. They’re the only thing in the inventory slow enough.”
But the ability of the Thunderbolt to fly slowly – ‘loiter’, in Air Force terms – isn’t the only thing that attracted the Auxiliary to the aircraft.
“The gross weight limits are outstanding. It’s no secret that not all of our pilots are young and lean. Once we have the GAU-8 30mm cannon removed, we’ll have weight allowance for our largest pilots,” Webster says. “Plus, they’re rugged and simple to repair. They’ll handle Solo Encampment a lot better than the 172s ever did. No more bent firewalls from botched landings.”
Captain Andy Doldrill, a former A-10C instructor with the 335th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, and a current CAP instructor pilot for the CAP A-10 Formal Training Unit -East, homed at a former Air National Guard A-10 base outside Philadelphia, agrees. “I put a solo student in that cockpit after 10-12 hours in a 172, and he’s at home. I only need twenty minutes hanging over the edge of the cockpit to brief on the MFDs, throttle response, and how to work the ejection seat, and off he goes! And if he clips a hangar with a wingtip, the Hog just shrugs it off and flies on. In a 172, that would be a Class C mishap. In the A-10, its some duct tape and paint. And maybe a new hangar.”
With the inclusion of electro-optical sensors on the A-10’s wing stations, on-board observers will be a thing of the past, making the single-seat jet the right platform at the right time.
Maj Paula Stormer, a CAP Incident Commander and Air Operations Branch Director, was thrilled with the capabilities the A-10 will bring to the Auxiliary. “A solid data-link, a couple of video screens, a dozen cadets, and an endless supply of Monster are all we need,” she explained. “At this point, with aerial refueling, we are only limited by the pilot’s bladder, and we have piddle packs for that.”
Initially, Civil Air Patrol refused the transfer of the A-10 due to the age of the avionics.
“While the A-10 is a good SAR platform – low, slow, good visibility out of the cockpit – not a lot of people realize that the avionics in an A-10 are about fifteen years behind our 172s,” Webster explained. “We didn’t want to take that step backward. Especially not after we just managed to get most of our pilots G1000 qualified.”
After some politicking on Capital Hill, Congress authorized in the 2015 Omnibus Defense Spending Bill a line item for one-time modernizations of the A-10 for CAP’s use, referred to as “Warthog Lipstick.” The modernization effort includes removal of the A-10’s gigantic GAU-8 30mm rotary barrel cannon and the installation of modern MFD cockpit displays.
“We originally started working with Garmin to create a custom G1000 solution for commonality to our new-build Cessna fleet, allowing CAP pilots to pre-train on the faster 182s before transitioning into the A-10,” said Lt Col Travis Ramirez, A-10C Modernization Officer at CAP National Headquarters. “Ultimately, however, Garmin wanted more money than we were willing to spend, so we opted to install the same Aspen MFDs that we’re currently retrofitting in our steam-gauge 172s. In our fleet, the Aspen-equipped 172s will serve as the lead-in trainers for the A-10.”
Other planned modifications include a visible light and FLIR-based sensor ball in place of the cannon muzzle, an L3-supplied Miniature Common Data Link Transceiver, several antennas, and a 406mhz Emergency Locator Transmitter.
The operational evaluation has revealed that adding the A-10 to CAP’s fleet will not be pain-free. Two have already been transferred and are going through certification for observation and SAR use, and CAP’s pilots are getting their first hands-on with the Warthog.
“Those gigantic TF-34s take forever to spool up, and there’s no mixture knob in the damn thing!” groused an unnamed CAP pilot who was one of several participating in the OPEVAL at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Ariz. He went had a list of concerns about the A-10, including the location of the throttle quadrant on the left of the cockpit, which is reverse of the normal civil aircraft arrangements, and the A-10’s cramped single-pilot cockpit.
“It’s an underpowered pig compared to a Cessna 206,” said another pilot, complaining about the difficulty of maintaining the pace of the Warthog while flying chase in a CAP Cessna. “Even with 40 flaps, I kept flying past the damn thing. I nearly mid-aired it from behind at one point.”
A significant problem with ground marshalling became clear during the OPEVAL this past June when Arizona CAP’s Cadet Technical Sergeant Kenny Jones was sucked into the intake of an A-10 he was directing to parking. The Auxiliary has since issued a prohibition on cadets marshalling the Warthog if they weigh less than 100 pounds.
“We will memorialize Kenny by referring to this new safety rule as the ‘Jones Rule’,” said CAP’s Chief of Flight Safety, Colonel Roy Hathaway. “It’s the least we can do for the little guy.”
Rumor has it that former NY Wing cadet and CAP pilot Major Shannon Self is slated to take over command of the CAP A-10 Formal Training Unit-West, to be designated the “Major Kim Campbell ‘Killer Chick’ Composite Training Flight Wing Squadron” at the former Wendover Air Force Base in Wendover, Utah.
Experiments are also underway to determine the A-10’s suitability for glider towing and cadet orientation flights using specially modified multiple-ejector rack to give several cadets an intense opportunity.
While it might be controversial to transfer front-line combat aircraft to a noncombatant civilian auxiliary, Lt Gen Greer is quick to correct what the Air Force sees as a misconception. “The A-10 is not a front-line aircraft. It’s old. It doesn’t even talk to the JDAM, which means that our pilots have to toss bombs using the HUD. That’s just not feasible, even in today’s permissive environment. Plus, F-35.”
ANN reached out to Major General Lucas Perry, the Branch Chief of Army Aviation at his office at Fort Rucker. Alabama. When asked for a comment on the transfer of these assets, MG Perry replied, “[expletive] the Air Force. And [expletive] you.”