The A-10 aircraft had an inauspicious beginning for an Air Force that many have suggested only wanted the aircraft to keep the Army from taking over the CAS mission. The Air Force always believed that a fast multi-role fighter was a better choice for the feared war in Europe, but agreed to procure the A-10 for contingencies and “limited wars” like Vietnam.
There were many aspects of the A-10 program that were unique for its day. It was a design-to-cost program when most other aircraft programs were clearly putting performance first. It was the first major defense program to embrace the newly favorable competitive prototyping approach to allow a source selection decision to be made on the basis of demonstrated performance and maturity of the design. It may be the only aircraft program ever designed around the armament (the GAU-8/A gun system), and it was unique in how it managed the development of the gun and its associated ammunition as part of the overall A-10 program.
las, no program is perfect, and the A-10 provides no exceptions to that observation. Overlooked problems associated with production readiness and contractor financial stability did not go away and had to be resolved far too late in the development program. More significantly, the original structural design proved inadequate for the design life, and even fixes during production were inadequate for all but the latest aircraft produced.
Despite these problems, the A-10, with precision engagement upgrades and new wings in production, appears to be back on track for a life extension that will double its service life and keep it flying until 2028.