Fairchild Republic A-10A (S/N 73-1665) in flight after the addition of the Pave Penny laser spot seeker system. The aircraft is carrying two laser guided bombs (GBU-12 or similar). (U.S. Air Force photo)
Fairchild Republic A-10As on the flightline (development airframes S/N 73-1667, 73-1666; prototypes S/N 71-1369 and 71-1370). The farthest aircraft is a development aircraft but the serial number is partially blocked. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The first six production A-10As (S/N 73-1664 to 73-1669) were used for Development Test & Evaluation (DT&E). The DT&E program was designed to qualify the production aircraft for all aspects of its operational mission in preparation for initial deliveries to active duty Air Force units. The first DT&E aircraft (73-1664) was delivered to the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center (AFTEC) at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. in January 1975. The aircraft made its first flight on Feb. 15, 1975. The Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) Phase II flight test program started a month later on March 19.
During 1975 a number of DT&E programs were completed. The IOT&E Phase II program was completed on June 19. Initial performance measurements, flying qualities and control surface flutter programs tested the basic aircraft. A number of weapons integration and operation test programs were conducted including bombing accuracy, gun firing and accuracy, munitions effectiveness against ground targets (tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, etc.). The "Pave Penny" laser spot seeker system was also tested during the initial phases of A-10 DT&E. The "Pave Penny" was designed to detect a laser spot "painted" on a ground target and direct a laser guided bomb to the target. In flight refueling tests were also done.
A number of ground tests were done to simulate long term effects on the aircraft. The most important of these tests was the fatigue failure. Although the test airframe developed (Oct. 23, 1975) a crack at about the 5,000 hour point (80 percent of expected lifetime), an airframe strengthening modification was incorporated into the test assembly and testing was successfully completed to the expected lifetime point of 6,000 hours.
The first production A-10A (S/N 75-258) made its first flight on Oct. 21, 1975. Tactical Air Command accepted the first A-10A on March 30, 1976. The first production A-10s were delivered to the 333rd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, 364th Tactical Training Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The first operational A-10A unit was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Myrtle Beach, S.C. The 354th TFW achieved initial combat readiness during the summer of 1978.
The first overseas unit to equip with the A-10A was the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing based at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, U.K. The 81st TFW was an unusually large unit composed of six squadrons -- 108 total aircraft at full strength. The A-10s of the 81st TFW were in Europe primarily to support NATO operations against potential enemy armor invasions of central and southern Europe. Many A-10s of the 81 TFW were deployed to forward operating areas (i.e. Sembach Air Base, Germany) throughout Europe to provide a quick reaction anti-armor weapon close to potential battle fronts.
The first use of the A-10A in combat came in January 1991 with the start of Operation Desert Storm.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: One GAU-8/A 30mm Gatling Gun and 16,000 lbs. of mixed ordnance Engines: Two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans of 9,000 lbs. thrust each Maximum speed: 450 mph Cruising speed: 335 mph Range: 800 miles Service ceiling: 44,200 ft. Span: 57 ft. 6 in. Length: 53 ft. 4 in. Height: 14 ft. 8 in. Weight: 47,000 lbs. Crew: One Serial numbers: (YA-10) 71-1369 and 71-1370; (A-10A) 73-1664 to 73-1669 (73-1670 to 73-1673 canceled); 75-258 to 75-309; 76-512 to 76-554; 77-177 to 77-276; 78-582 to 78-725; 79-082 to 78-225 (79-226 to 79-243 canceled); 80-140 to 80-283; 81-939 to 81-998; 82-646 to 82-665 (82-692 to 82-705 canceled); 73-1664 to 73-1669 were development, test and evaluation aircraft; 73-1664 later converted to the A-10B Night/All Weather two-place A-10