Soon, there will be more to the A-10's original "Thunderbolt" moniker than just a name. Everyone's favorite down and dirty chariot of destruction is going geek and soon will be receiving thunderbolts instead of throwing them. A single surplus Warthog is currently undergoing transformation into the ultimate storm chasing vehicle.
Check out OKCFox's news story on the storm chasing A-10 by clicking here.
A couple of years ago it was announced that the The National Science Foundation was working to get a retired A-10 bailed to them by the USAF for storm chasing tasks. The A-10 is a logical choice for this mission for multiple reasons. Along with the S-3 Viking, the A-10 uses robust, fuel-efficient, reliable and easily maintainable motors (TF-34 for the S-3 and A-10, CF-34 in the civilian world for the CRJ etc). Additionally, the Warthog's airframe is legendarily tough, which will be key fir surviving flying through hail and lightning. It can loiter for long periods of time and it has big wings with lots of stores pylons and a generous internal volume, especially with out its Avenger cannon, for experiments and computer systems. Finally, it is a relatively simple aircraft to maintain, plus it's free!
So after patiently awaiting their choice 'hog's arrival, the NSF has finally received their jet and it is undergoing some pretty extreme modifications to reach its full storm busting potential. Zivko Aeronautics, master modifiers of aircraft and unmanned systems, is doing the extensive work on the weather 'hog.
According to multiple sources, including the video posted above, the storm chasing A-10 will be able to drop dozens of sensors into tornados from above, and she will also be able to carry numerous data-pods and experiments so that scientists can better understand how to predict deadly tornado outbreaks and storm systems' life-cycles.
I for one am really looking forward to seeing how this thing will look after its modifications are complete, and hopefully the NSF has saved a portion of its $13M budget for its A-10 to put a really nice mission-specific coat of paint on it.
Those tornado proof tanks that storm chasers roll around in are pretty cool, but they better watch out for the WA-10 (just a guess as to its designation folks) as she got her legendary status busting open such armored vehicles in the heat of battle. Now she will bust open some serious storm cells and will quite possibly take the crown as the world's most elaborate tornado chasing vehicle.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com