Military Aviation

The story of the A-10 Warthog Firefighting Aircraft that never was

In 2014, when the USAF announced that they wanted to retire the A-10 Warthog CAS jets, a company did propose converting them to firefighting aircraft.

The A-10 Warthog is the first US Air Force (USAF) aircraft specially designed for close air support of ground forces. They are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against light maritime attack aircraft and all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles.

In 2014, when the USAF announced that they wanted to retire the A-10s, a company did propose converting them to firefighting aircraft.

On Sep. 10 of that year in fact a group calling itself USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) made a presentation to the Colorado legislature’s Wildfire Matters Review Committee. USAFAC proposed to have state fire organizations acquire military surplus A-10s and then through a public-private partnership, convert and operate the air tankers.

The individuals that were part of USAFAC were Chris Olson, Gerry Fitzgerald, and John Simmons. Mr. Simmons.

As reported by AirMed&Rescue, founder of the organisation Chris Olson said the A-10 airtankers would have provided much-needed ‘close air support’ for ground firefighters. According to Olson, the converted A-10 airtankers would have had superior manoeuvrability, speed, initial attack capacity, and pilot safety.

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“With the converted A-10, we’d have an airtanker that was purpose-built to protect the wildland urban interface,” Olson said.

He added that “the [A-10 air tanker] could fly very low, fly night missions, see through smoke, drop retardant with pinpoint accuracy, and even reload its 2,000-gallon retardant tank in mid-air.”

According to Fire Aviation, their proposal used arguments mentioned by other companies that have little to no experience in aerial firefighting — they emphasized electronics and technology that they claimed would have made their concept much better than existing air tankers. While there is room for improvement in constant flow retardant delivery systems, the A-10’s bomb sights and infrared sensors are not game changers.

In 2014 the USAF was already trying to get rid of the A-10 but there was opposition from Congress, including from Senator John McCain who jumped into the fray that summer. The Air Force estimated it would have saved $3.7 billion over five years by retiring A-10s that at the were in its inventory. A few lawmakers claimed it is essential for protecting ground troops.

Eventually the USAF kept their A-10 fleet and proceeded with important upgrades, including wing replacements and better avionics, extending their service life for years to come.

Photo credit: Unknown via Quora

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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