Small Wars Journal

The US Air Force's Incoherent Plan to Replace the A-10 Warthog

The US Air Force's Incoherent Plan to Replace the A-10 Warthog by Loren B. Thompson, The National Interest

When the Air Force separated from the Army to become an independent military service after World War Two, it was understood that airmen would continue to provide vital combat support to soldiers on the ground.  Army aviation ended up consisting mainly of helicopters, but there are plenty of combat situations where only a well-armed jet can give soldiers the life-saving fire support they need.

The most dangerous mission the Air Force flies in delivering firepower to soldiers on the ground is called "close air support."  As the phrase indicates, it requires attacking hostile targets in close proximity to friendly forces (and sometimes noncombatants), which puts both the soldiers and the airmen at risk if operations are not carefully coordinated.  Close air support can sometimes be provided from heavy bombers using satellite-guided bombs, but the most effective approach often is to come after the enemy low and slow.

The Air Force operates a plane called the A-10 Thunderbolt II that was designed to do just that.  Built around a fearsome 30 mm cannon that can shoot 70 armor-piercing rounds of depleted uranium ammunition per second, it is the most lethal close air support weapon in the world.  Additional support is supplied by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a fighter jet equipped with targeting pods and smart munitions for precisely attacking hostile ground forces.

The current Air Force plan of record is to replace both planes with the F-35A fighter, a stealthy "fifth-generation" tactical aircraft that is much more survivable than anything the Air Force has today for supporting ground troops…

Read on.

Comments

Reorganize the US Air Force into the US Space Force and let them handle strategic air & space efforts (bombers, tankers, transports, missiles, satellites, cyber). Give all A-10s and any other tactical fast-mover fighter to the Army and let them handle tac-air and CAS.

USAF is hiding behind a combination of three poisons--a highly nuanced definition of CAS, a diminished budget and a sacred cow called the F35.

To people that actually need CAS, the stuff that works usually is a low flying kinda slow aircraft that places bullets with great accuracy within yards of the troops that need it. USAF CAS is big bombs delivered with great accuracy but not less than a kilometer from the troops-IOW-ineffective against the most likely Grunt-CAS scenario.

This is not an idle view of septuagenarian time-warped to old B&W war movies but the daily input from many folks in our sandbox soldier places.

And, BTW, if the F35 happens to be on an air superiority/interdiction mission, the soldiers are SOL.

This doesn't even brief well............