It is no secret that the A-10 Thunderbolt II with the GAU-8, 30mm cannon is an awesome bit of machinery. I suspect those who have been the target, including the crews of quite a few armored vehicles , would agree with that statement. What most people seem not to realize the complexity of loading the ammo into the A-10, particularly in a hot or combat turn situation.
Key to this loading are the plastic tubes or LTCs used to hold the ammo as it is moves through the loading process. The GAU-8 on the A-10 uses a linkless feed system so something is needed to handle the ammo and prevent damage as it is loaded into the magazine. This piece of equipment is the GFU-8/E, and previous versions of this loader, primarily the GFU-7/E.
The following shows the process:
The first step is loading the ammunition into the LTCs. Here the ammo is coming in and out the far end can be seen the ammo inside the LTCs
The ammo and LTCs are inspected as they go into the loading boxes
The GFU, which looks something like a dinosaur is towed out to the A-10
and the loading head is connected into the aircraft ammo feed system.
The loaded LTCs go into the loader from the loading boxes, the ammo is stripped out and into the aircraft magazine. The LTCs come back out the upper level of the loading machine for reuse
and are packed for use another day! Note the red lines on the front and back of each LTC. These are a plastic or nylon (or something similar) twine that acts essentially as a belt holding the LCTs together during the loading process.
I have gone through this process so you understand how critical the LTC is to the successful operation of the A-10.
The fact is that in the earlier days of the A-10 the LTC didn’t always operate successfully. It’s development has been a long process. Below are some LTCs that has seen better days. The bottom two LTC are examples that were in use in the late 1980s to early 1990s.
The black arrows on the bottom one shows where cracks develop and can lead to head seperation when the LTC is pulled off the cartridge. The middle LTC is an example of one mangled in the loading process. It is easy to imagine how frustrating either of these type failures would be in the middle of a quick turn when they jam up the loader.
Attached is a report and a letter which outline the problem and the solution the USAF Advanced Composites Program Office came up with to solve these problems. The orange tube is a test item for the improved design. The attached documents make interesting reading (to me).
Disclaimer: I have watched this loading process being done a few times but I am sure there are those out there who are experienced experts who will correct my errors and expand on things I have missed.
LTC Report & Letter.pdf (1.2 MB)