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(Washington, D.C.) Often called a “flying tank,” the classic and much revered A-10 Warthog plane has for years been cherished by ground forces under enemy fire in combat, and the battle-tested aircraft continues to live into future years due to various upgrades and sustainment efforts.
The aircraft’s titanium hull, flight trajectory and redundant electronics enable it to both withstand incoming enemy small arms fire as well as hover above and fire its 30mm cannon during dynamic fast-moving warfare scenarios.
The A-10 is especially known for its ability to survive enemy attacks and can even keep flying in the event that some of its main systems were disabled, damaged or destroyed.
The aircraft, which has conducted attacks and ground support through many decades to include the Gulf War, Kosovo and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, continues to fly despite some discussion about its potential retirement.
Part of the rationale for its continued utility, which is considered quite significant by weapons developers, is based upon the broad recognition that today’s A-10 is quite different than it may have been years ago due to continued integration of new weapons, avionics, communications systems and computer technology.
Naturally, many modern aircraft technologies, electronics and sensors increasingly rely upon secure and effective data organization, analysis and transmission to ensure optimal combat functionality, a dynamic which of course requires advanced on-board processing.
An example of a pertinent computing technology performing these functions is Raytheon’s Common Open Secure Mission Computer (COSMC) product family that leverage Digital Engineering and a DevSecOps software environment intended to get capability to the warfighter faster and as its developers say “provide an Open Computing Environment” for the end user.
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“We know the lifetime of the A-10 has been extended...and we know with all the new capabilities and mission systems envisioned for the A-10 that the mission computing or digital infrastructure on the platform is going to be a critical factor to maximizing lethality and survivability,” Michelle Moholt, Senior Principal System Engineer, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, told The National Interest in an interview.
Raytheon is uniquely qualified to understand the processing requirements for the A-10 as Raytheon is the provider of on-board processing systems for USAF’s 4th and 5th generation of aircraft.
Using Digital Engineering and open-systems or modular computing, the COSMC effort aims to increase speed to deployment while reducing program risk and cost. By leveraging a set of models and reusable hardware and software elements the time required from program onset to fielding is greatly reduced.
COSMC employs a flexible and scalable architecture that enables easy upgrades as technology advances which in turn allows the end user to ensure the ‘best of breed’ from the commercial processing industry is deployed to the warfighter to guarantee combat overmatch.
The A-10 carries a full complement of weapons, including GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Its arsenal includes GBU 38s, GBU 31s, GBU 54s, Mk 82s, Mk 84s, AGM-65s, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and rockets along with illumination flares, jammer pods and other protective countermeasures.
The aircraft can carry 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance—eight can fly under the wings and three under the fuselage. When it comes to targeting, navigation and precision, enhancements in mission computing could prove crucial to upgrading combat performance for the A-10 by enabling new weapons systems for the platform.
Kris Osborn is the President and Editor-in-Chief of Warrior Maven and the Defense Editor of the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.