DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
After flying thousands of training and mission sorties over the span of 20 to 30 years, an A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 357th Fighter Generation Squadron received a new set of wings at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 11, 2022. This A-10 was the third airframe to undergo a wing swap at home station instead of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill AFB, Utah.
Due to the extensive in-depth work required to complete a wing swap, skilled professionals from the 309th AMXG Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Squadron forward deployed to DM for this major component maintenance.
“Typically, the fighter squadrons will send the jets up to the depot at Hill AFB and we would do the whole process there,” said Tech. Sgt. Lee Lopez, 309th AMXG expeditionary depot fuel systems team member. “Because of Covid-19 causing a delay in our back log, there have been fewer slots available so leadership decided it would be more efficient to complete these wing swaps on station.”
Depot teams are composed of more experienced individuals in specific job classifications for completing extensive maintenance such as a wing change.
“Depot teams consist of multiple different specialties like crew chiefs, electrical and environmental, and avionics who are a little bit more trained on these tasks,” said Tech. Sgt. Terrance Bailey, 355th Maintenance Group A-10 Thunderbolt II Flightline Expediter. “Each aircraft assembly has a set number of hours the wings can fly before they need to be refurbished or condemned and we are responsible for tracking when the jet has exhausted those hours. Every time a jet takes off and lands, we log the exact time in the sky, the time it took off, and everything before and after.”
Once the wings are replaced, the A-10 obtains an additional 2,500 flight hours before the next replacement is needed.
“The purpose of the wing swap is to extend the life of the A-10 and ultimately uphold the valuable mission it contributes to the Air Force,” said Bailey. “Every time a jet is down it has a huge impact on flying hours, especially with the 357th Fighter Squadron being the only unit that trains A-10 pilots. Getting these wings is an integral part in making sure that the student pilots continue training, the instructor pilots stay up on their training, and ensuring the mission at DM is getting done.”
Completing the wing swap at DM expedited the replacement process and added approximately 7.3 thousand hours back into the flying program, placing three jets back into the working system of completing missions, sorties and countless training requirements.
“One of the wing sets will get sent back to the depot for reuse,” said Lopez. “Once it is rebuilt at depot, we will send it to 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group to receive functional checks and approval to replace an old set on another A-10.”
Since the 309th AMXG Expeditionary Depot team ensured systematic and efficient wing swap procedures were completed, the 357th FGS obtained new and improved fighter jets ready to accomplish their mission.
In addition, another set of wings will eventually be put back into the system, saving the Air Force nearly 12 million dollars and equipping another close air support weapon for the next fight.