A US Air Force battle-damaged A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft has returned to service following repairs and a remote assessment.

The aircraft was hit by a bullet in the underbelly during a mission.

A team of engineers from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at the A-10 Division at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, US, assessed the damage and communicated remotely directing a plan of action to repair the aircraft.

The team conducted the entire assessment from their homes and offices online through email, phone and file sharing over a private network due to coronavirus-related restrictions imposed in the country.

Hill Air Force Base A-10 division chief Pamela Lee said: “The team tested the teleworking capabilities during the previous weeks in anticipation of such an event.

“Because of this preparation, engineering was able to keep the lines of communication open with the unit to support the expedient response to this emergency repair.”

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Initially, the team devised a plan seeking details from the maintainers on the ground.

A 3in hole in the underbelly was made to assess the damage. A crack in the structure with three sheared fasteners was identified while the bullet was lodged in the fuel cell cavity floor crack.

Subsequently, the engineering team assessed all findings and evaluated photos to devise a repair plan.

Once the repairs were completed, the A-10 aircraft received approval to resume operations.

Lee added: “The disposition and flight waiver from the chief engineer were then released back to the unit in less than 24 hours.

“I’m proud to know our team helped keep this vital aircraft in the air, performing its close-air support mission that is so important to our forces on the ground.”

After it returns to its home base, the aircraft will undergo final repairs.