Boeing has begun assembling the first A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft replacement-wing set, for the US Air Force, at its Macon facility.

The assembly work is part of the $2bn contract awarded by the USAF to Boeing in June 2007, to provide 242 A-10 replacement-wing sets before 2018.

As part of the contract, Boeing will deliver the replacement wing sets to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in four parts that will include three wing sections and an installation kit.

The wings will later be installed by the air force personnel.

At peak production, Boeing will deliver up to 50 wing sets annually, and the first wing set in September 2010.

A twin-engine jet aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is mainly designed for close-air support of ground forces.

The USAF currently has 350 A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan operations.