The U.S. Airforce is dusting off it’s 50-year-old A-10 Warthog for another mission. In a November exercise in the Pacific, A-10’s were loaded up with ADM-160 Miniature Air Launched Decoy’s (MALD). The MALD has a range of 500 miles and weighs less than 300 pounds. Michael Peck of the Business Insider writes (abridged):
The A-10 Warthog has made its reputation as a tank-killer, but now the Air Force is testing 50-year-old plane for another mission: launching decoys to protect other aircraft.
During exercises in the Pacific in early November, A-10s were equipped with the ADM-160 Miniature Air Launched Decoy.
Described as a sort of cruise missile, the 8-foot-long MALD weighs less than 300 pounds and has a range of 500 miles. It is equipped with a Signature Augmentation System that mimics the radar signature and flight profiles of specific US aircraft. (The MALD-J variant has a jammer.)
The idea is to launch salvoes of MALDs ahead of a US airstrike to confuse the enemy about how many aircraft are coming and from where.
“The A-10 can carry up to 16 MALDs, the same quantity as the B-52, and 12 more than the F-16,” according to an Air Force news release.
But interestingly, the MALD isn’t being envisioned as a means to protect the A-10. Rather, the Warthog would use its decoys to support other aircraft, such as fifth-generation F-35s and F-22s or bombers.
During another exercise over the Philippine Sea on November 9, A-10 pilots simulated using MALDs in “an integrated strike mission simulation” with B1-B bombers.
The MALD-J decoy is the jammer variant of the basic decoy and the first ever stand-in jammer to enter production. The unmanned system can operate alone or in pairs, and moves much closer to the victim radar than conventional electronic warfare when jamming electronics. It’s able to loiter in the target area, allowing plenty of time to complete the mission.