Some aircraft look out of place in the desert, but this bird looks right at home resting among the Joshua trees of Edwards Air Force Base. At first glance, she may look like a standard Fairchild-Republic A-10, but this bird is much more. Number 73-1664 served as the first A-10A. She first flew on February 15, 1975, as one of six original DT&E (Development, Test and Evaluation) aircraft.
In March of 1979, this airframe would begin conversion to the prototype N/AW A-10 (Night/All-Weather Attack). Systems were added, including a Westinghouse WX-50 ground-mapping radar and a Texas Instruments AAR045 FLIR camera, housed in pods hanging from weapons pylons. The vertical stabilizers were extended upward by 20 inches, then reduced slightly during testing, though the rudder was never extended. INS, PAVE TACK and radar altimeter systems were added. With these modifications, she became the first and only dual cockpit A-10 in order to accommodate an Electronic Warfare Officer. Her canopy opened to the side, rather than a standard clamshell configuration. These modifications cost 1.5 million dollars and added 2,000 pounds to the gross weight of the aircraft.
After five months of modifications, the N/AW A-10 flew on October 23, 1971. She tested successfully, but was quickly made obsolete by advancing night attack technology and the N/AW A-10 program was cancelled. 73-1664 was redesignated as the YA-10B as advertisement for a theoretical trainer aircraft, but it too was cancelled. She was destined to be the only two-seat A-10 ever built.
Today, 73-1664 rests under the desert sky at the Air Force Flight Test Museum on Edwards Air Force Base, just a short distance away from the runway from which she flew in testing. Much of the information in this article was referenced from the book “Warbird Tech Volume 20: Fairchild-Republic A/0A-10 Warthog” by Dennis Jenkins, who kindly lent me his personal copy to aid my research. Thanks much, Dennis.