Monday, June 30, 2014

Airpower Museum receives A-10 Thunderbolt built on the site in 1980

 The American Airpower Museum has filled a gap in its collection with a long-desired Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II partly built at the East Farmingdale site now occupied by the museum.

The museum already had five warplanes on display built by Republic Aviation Corp. or its successor, Fairchild Republic, during World War II and the Korean War.

But an A-10 had eluded the museum until it located a surplus Air Force aircraft in Arizona and the New York State Office of General Services arranged with the federal government for it to be donated.

The $13-million jet fighter, built in 1980, arrived by truck two weeks ago after the Air Force removed top-secret equipment and armaments and disabled the twin jet engines.

It is now on display on the tarmac with examples of all the other fighters made by Republic and Fairchild Republic: a World War II propeller-driven P-47D Thunderbolt used in Europe for supporting ground troops, killing tanks and escorting bombers; the Korean War and Vietnam-era F-84E, F-84F and RF-84F jets; and an F-105 Thunderchief that flew over Vietnam. Only the P-47, owned by museum president Jeff Clyman, still flies.

The stubby A-10 -- given the nickname Warthog by an Air Force officer offended by the plane's ungainly appearance -- was designed as a fighter but gravitated to the specialized role of supporting ground forces and particularly knocking out enemy armor, Clyman said. It gained fame for destroying tanks during the Iraq War.

Fairchild Republic produced 716 A-10s starting in 1972 to combat the threat of Russian tanks during the Cold War. Production ended in 1984, three years before Fairchild Republic folded. More than 300 of the Warthogs are still on active duty. The fuselages and some other components were built in East Farmingdale. The remaining manufacturing and final assembly were done in Hagerstown, Maryland.

"The aircraft is essentially a flying tank," Clyman said. "It does not fly extremely fast,' up to about 350 miles an hour. "It was designed to fly around trees at low altitude."

While it can carry bombs and missiles under its wings, its most daunting weapon is a 30-millimeter Gau multiple-barrel rotary cannon that can fire in a minute up to 6,000 rounds of depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. The shells melt the metal armor and spray it around the interior of the tank, shredding everything inside. It had redundant control systems: If one was destroyed by anti-aircraft fire, the pilot -- protected by an inch-thick titanium steel "bathtub" -- could still fly the plane.

The museum's Warthog came from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. It had flown until 2011 and then was used for training mechanics before going into storage earlier this year.

It had flown in South Korea where Air Force Maj. Johnnie Green, currently based in Hawaii, was one of its pilots, with more than 2,000 hours in its cockpit. He said he flew A-10s from 2003 until 2011 and spent two years with a demonstration team performing at air shows.

The pilot said having the plane in a museum rather than in mothballs "is great. It's exciting because I flew out of that airport a couple of times for the Jones Beach air show and it's the birthplace of the A-10. It's a good thing to bring it home."

Equally excited are the Fairchild Republic retirees who had worked on the plane, a group of whom gathered at the museum Friday.

Elliot Kazan, 86, of Dix Hills, director of the A-10 program for Fairchild Republic, said, "This is great. This is where it belongs."

José Diaz Dujan, 63, of Babylon, worked 14 years at Fairchild Republic for the full run of A-10 production as a manufacturing project manager overseeing design modifications.

"It's a home run," he said of having the plane back on Long Island. "It's very personal. I can touch parts of this airplane that I know I had a part of. It's just fantastic now the whole family of Republic airplanes is here."

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