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…