- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The iconic A-10 Thunderbolt has a new upgrade that will give ground troops one more reason to love it: communications equipment for Combat Search and Rescue operations.

Advocates of the famed “Warthog” received welcome news in October when Air Force Materiel Command announced plans to sustain the aircraft “indefinitely.” It appears as though part of the decision was based upon an “urgent operational need” that manifested over the summer — a way to more efficiently assist downed pilots and pararescuemen.

Timothy Gray, 309th AMARG acting director, explained to Air Force reporters Friday why the lightweight airborne recovery system V-12 (LARS V-12) has been installed in 19 aircraft from Davis-Monthan and Moody AFB, Georgia.

“This urgent operational need arose in August [2016],” Mr. Gray said. “Air Combat Command and the A-10 Program Office asked me if [Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group] could complete 16 aircraft by 16 December. I said ‘Absolutely!’

“It was awesome to see Team AMARG take on this massive logistical challenge, build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits [to] execute the requirement,” he said.

The new system provides A-10 pilots with GPS coordinates of ground personnel and enables them to communicate via voice or text, added Staff Sgt. Andre Gonzalez, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician.

Policymakers and some Air Force officials have wrestled in recent years over funding for the Thunderbolt with the creation of the F-35 stealth fighter jet. The A-10’s defenders say it has served American ground troops well since 1970s and should not be retired anytime soon.

The latest upgrade to the aircraft indicates that it will be around for some time to come.

“A-10 pilots take the Combat Search and Rescue role very seriously,” Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot said in response to the news. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing [troops] back to U.S. soil safely.”

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