Replacing The A-10 By Selling Its Successor?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

Defense News:

Two years after the Air Force tried to force its aging A-10 Warthog fleet into retirement, officials are exploring whether to procure a potential replacement for the aircraft famed for its powerful defense of troops on the ground.

But whether the service chooses a clean-sheet design or tries to modify a currently available jet, experts say the service will face an uphill battle in terms of getting funding during a tight fiscal climate where it may have to battle other modernization programs for money ­– despite hopes that foreign customers may be interested in such an aircraft.

The Air Force in recent years has had a complicated relationship with the Warthog, the common name given to the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. The service attempted to retire the plane in fiscal 2015 and 2016 due to the spending constraints caused by mandatory budget cuts, and was rebuffed by Congress both years. Finally, in its fiscal year 2017 budget request, it opted to retain the aircraft until 2022 in part due to the platform’s utility in the fight against the Islamic State.

Both the outgoing and incoming Air Force chiefs of staff have been banging the drum for a follow-on close air support (CAS) aircraft in recent weeks, describing one that would be cheaper to operate and incorporate modern technologies. That would require an expansion of the service’s budget, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters days before his June retirement.

“I’d like to build a new CAS airplane right now while we still have the A-10, transition the A-10 community to the new CAS airplane, but we just don’t have the money to do it, and we don’t have the people to fly the A-10 and build a new airplane and bed it down,” he said.

Starting a new program is never easy, but the service doesn’t necessarily have to spend huge amounts of time and money to develop a new platform, he told Defense News in an exclusive interview earlier in June.

“I think you can do it much quicker than people think you can,” he said. “We don’t have to come up with sensors and weapons that are cosmic. That’s not what we need. We’re talking about something that can do the bulk of the low threat, maybe a little bit of medium threat work in rugged environments all over the world.”

But it all comes back to that “we don’t have enough money” bullshit.  Woe is us, the Congress won’t fund out stupid fifth generation warfare video games.  Oh, oh, whatever shall we do?

In his interview with Defense News, Welsh said he believed the development of a new close air support platform could generate numerous foreign military sales.

“It’s something we can teach our allies to fly, something we could probably sell overseas. There’s lots of air forces looking for this kind of capability,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of interest in lots of places to developing this kind of a platform.”

Analysts, however, were skeptical that an A-10 replacement would find a wide market, particularly if it was a single-mission aircraft.

“The A-10 is arguably the best CAS aircraft of its generation, yet to date the U.S. has remained the only operator,” Douglas Barrie, IISS senior fellow, said in an email. “At a time when defense spending in many countries remains under pressure, finding the resource for a single-role platform, rather than a multi-role combat aircraft, strikes me as a challenge.”

Talking up the export potential of a new CAS plane is beneficial to the Air Force if it can get industry to start investing their own funds into new designs or concepts, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group. However, most countries would rather funnel their money to multi-mission fighter jets.

Some analysts even suggested the Air Force’s newfound enthusiasm for replacing the A-10 with a new CAS plane should be understood as a backdoor approach to finally mothballing the Warthog for good.

That’s because it is, and mothballing the A-10 and pouring money into that piss-poor aircraft, the F-35 – that sucks at everything and costs virtually everything the Air Force has, from first born to right testicles – is stupid to everyone who has two brain cells.  But it has the Air Force and Pentagon hooked like a cheap hooker and drugs, to the point that they want a inspired manufacturer to market a small prop plane for CAS that would get shot out of the sky to the point that pilots would refuse to fly it, if it didn’t get laughed out of the sky first.

This is all a solution in search of a problem.  I recently spoke to a retired A-10 mechanic, and almost the first words out of our mouths was what a bad ass aircraft the A-10 was.  It is the manliest, best designed air frame in history for what it does.  It makes enemy troops tremble in fear and run for their lives.  The F-35 cannot ever be a replacement for the A-10.  The Air Force isn’t interested in the A-10 anymore because the Air Force couldn’t care less about supporting ground troops with CAS.  They want to play video games.

Got it, Soldiers and Marines?  By trying to kill the A-10, the Air Force is saying you can die for all they care.  The next time you see a fly boy, let him know what you think of their disdain for you.


  1. On July 12, 2016 at 8:12 am, Lina Inverse said:

    The Air Force isn’t interested in the A-10 anymore….

    Was the Air Force ever really interested in it, especially as of late except when they needed everything they could get to fly in the skies of Iraq?

    There’s a good book about the first war, which mentioned all sorts of fun like slowly flying across the Atlantic with 4 or so refuelings, and one of the most interesting details was how A-10s were taking nighttime missions F-16 units refused, using the 15 degrees of angle camera that’s on one of their missiles to get around their lack of built in nighttime avionics.

  2. On July 12, 2016 at 9:03 am, Herschel Smith said:

    So in addition to being the baddest aircraft, it also has the baddest pilots.

  3. On July 12, 2016 at 9:42 am, Lina Inverse said:

    (Not counting the special case of John McCain) Attack plane pilots and bombardiers have always impressed me. Sure, it’s all glamorous and genuinely difficult to do ACM, and that function is needed for so very much include close air support, but staying close to the deck as rounds and missiles are reaching out to you so that you can deliver metal on target takes a special sort of moxie.

  4. On July 12, 2016 at 8:12 am, Fred said:

    “…it [AF] opted to retain the aircraft until 2022 in part due to the platform’s utility…”

    You beat me to it Mr. Smith. I was going to say that if it has great utility and causes poopy pants among our enemies then what’s the problem with it. I was also going to say that command HQ and politicians could just leave troops and civilians die. Oh wait, they already do that.

  5. On July 12, 2016 at 10:54 am, Archer said:

    The problem with it, as near as I can figure, is that modern Air Force brass are more concerned with appearances than utility. The A-10 isn’t sleek, shiny, and sexy like the F-35 is supposed to be.

    It works and does a damn fine job; it just doesn’t look good doing it.

    Trouble is, utility is everything on the ground. Here’s a free hint to the higher-ups: there’s a reason our boots-on-the-ground wear BOOTS instead of tuxedo slippers.

  6. On July 12, 2016 at 11:30 am, Fred said:

    I’ll say it again. They won’t ask. I know they won’t because they never do.

    Dear U.S. Army and Marines, how can we best support your ground operations with air cover? Sincerely, US AF

    It’s a simple-assed question, perhaps too simple. What is the mission? If the AF doesn’t want the mission it should do the honorable thing and dissolve itself. We have not won a war since the Army Air Corp split to form the AF. This not an emotional opinion. The goal of ALL us power shifted when it was decided that we did not need to take and hold ground, did not need kill and destroy property, and then kill some more, and then kill some more again, until the ones left alive submitted. That’s why we don’t win. We’re not designed to win, we are now designed to piss into the 4th gen wind.

    Tuxedo slippers? good thing I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee.

  7. On July 12, 2016 at 3:19 pm, amr said:

    Take the A-10 design, put more efficient engines on it and some more modern components such as infrared capability (it didn’t have during the Gulf War, now?) and give it to the Marines and Army since the AF only likes fast and pretty.

  8. On July 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm, Pat Hines said:

    I was in the NC Army Guard unit that received Apache helicopters in 1987-88. Back then there was a lot of indication and talk about the USAF getting rid of the A-10. The upper echelons hated the aircraft because it was tied to “mud missions”. When the Guard Bureau in D.C. publicly stated that the Army Guard would happily take the A-10s and the mission completely, the old USAF problem with the fact that the Army already had more cockpit seats than they do, and do to this day, rose up and the USAF suddenly found that they could keep the A-10.

    The short version is, this USAF story isn’t new; but now the aircraft are thirty years older.

  9. On July 12, 2016 at 10:23 pm, brightlight said:

    If the Soviets had crossed into the Fulda Gap the A-10’s had a life expectancy of a week. Two at the most. The Soviet air defense was that thick. The A-10 is good for operations where the enemy can’t really shoot back with much. Against modern defenses its a dead duck at the low altitude it usually operates,

  10. On July 13, 2016 at 5:32 am, Lina Inverse said:

    If that had happened, the Berlin Brigade’s life expectancy was figured to be measured in hours. Such estimates are useless until you also ask if they’ll be able to accomplish their planned mission, for example, to destroy an invasion timetable.

    And unless and until you put this to the test, you simply don’t know how effective such defenses will be in the real world, where for example A-10 pilot survivors would be passing on the tricks which kept them in the sky.

  11. On July 13, 2016 at 8:28 am, brightlight said:

    Are you sure there would be survivors? Their tricks might be to climb to 15k ft to avoid most of the ground fire.

  12. On July 14, 2016 at 6:39 am, Lina Inverse said:

    Do you hit every bulls-eye you shoot at? Does every missile that’s told to go actually launch and track, and is fired inside its engagement envelope? Do proximity fuzes always work? Is every commander and crew of anti-air defenses of high quality and always alert and ready? Always going to be at their assigned position at the right time, and the plan for that is good?

    War is very simple, but in War the simplest things become very difficult.” -Clausewitz

  13. On July 14, 2016 at 11:24 am, Herschel Smith said:

    You’re behaving as is someone is advocating or has advocated sending A-10s to fight a complete, comprehensive war. War is a combined arms endeavor, and especially the kind you’re talking about, with boots on the ground, other aircraft, arty, etc. Enemy might just be occupied with other things than trying to shoot A-10s.

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