Jan 032018

And now it can be seen:

The USAF Has Finally Released a Glowing Film About the A-10 It Tried to Suppress

The article discusses the USAFs numerous attempts to kill the A-10. Realistically, it’s days are numbered. yes, it would be awesoem to have more. Even more yes, it would be great for the Army and Marine Corps to ahve a bunch of their own. But the newest A-10 is decades old, the production lines and tooling are long gone. There won’t be any more. Spare parts are dwindling, expertise is going away.

The A-10 needs a replacement, but sadly nothing quite like the A-10 is in the offing. Hilariously, there are those who think the F-35 will do the job. More likely, the actual job of the A-10 of getting down in the weeds will be done by drones. An A-10 can get in low and slow and take a beating; an F-35 probably can’t really get low and slow, and it certainly can’t take a beating. A drone can get low and slow, and who cares if it gets blown out of the sky… it’s a drone.

It would be great if a direct replacement could be manufactured. it might even look like the A-10. But due to the fact that any new aircraft is necessarily going to be designed from the ground up with all-new components, it won’t *be* an A-10.

What would be great is if the US Army told the USAF to go piss up a rope, and the Army embarks on the development of a fixed-wing ground support platform of their own, perhaps in cahoots with the Marines. A modern “A-10” with the same or better capabilities, using modern materials (but still metals rather than composites, since metals are more flak-tolerant), modern electronics, modern engines. Heck, design it to be “optionally manned,” with a two-man version flying in the midst of a swarm of unmanned hunter-killers.



 Posted by at 10:37 pm
  • Robbie

    I’ve been watching a campaign for the Digital Combat Simulator called Operation Piercing Fury that was designed by an actual A-10 veteran who saw combat in Iraq, and it’s as close as us aerospace nerds can get to actually flying an A-10, it’s that realistic, literally everything is modeled in the aircraft down to the last switch and gauge.


  • cygnus_darkstar

    Except A-10s haven’t gone low and slow for a while, at least not often. When we tried to use them at low altitude in Desert Storm they got chewed up pretty terribly, and while the robustness of the design kept the pilots alive (usually), a chewed up airplane is an airplane that won’t fly another sortie that day, if ever.

    Their survivability has almost always been marginal against all but the most incompetent or poorly-equipped enemies, but with the proliferation of radar-guided quick-reacting AAA and ever-better MANPADS even 3rd-tier powers are gaining the ability to substantially close off low altitude airspace. That’s not really an issue for the A-10s these days, but mainly only because 90%+ of the time they… fly around at mid-altitude and drop smart-bombs. Like every other platform. For goodness sake, B-1s have proven to be highly effective “CAS” aircraft under the modern paradigm. Slap a targeting pod, hardpoints, and the proper comms gear onto it and damn near anything can be just as effective in the role. The gun might as well be dead weight on the vast majority of sorties which, given that the entire aircraft was designed around it, is a serious problem.

    The fact that the type is very maintenance intensive (rugged and reliable isn’t the same thing as easy to maintain, something oft forgotten) is just icing on the cake. Given the funding black hole that is the F-35, maintaining a small ($) increasingly old and cantankerous ($$) fleet of an out-of-production and somewhat idiosyncratic ($$$) type whose raison-d’etre has largely disappeared with changing technology and tactics is difficult to support.

    Don’t get me wrong, the A-10 is a glorious bit of engineering. but the window in which it would have been highly effective in the originally envisioned role closed off a surprisingly short time after it reached IOC.

    The thing that is most important to preserve, and which made the units that flew the A-10s so effective in their role, is not the aircraft. It’s the community of pilots focused entirely on supporting the ground forces, who didn’t view CAS as an annoying distraction from “real” piloting (=air-to-air combat or interdiction bombing) but as their core purpose. Flyers who felt themselves as having an important responsibility to the common soldier and who were embedded in an organization with extensive corporate experience with close support.

    • Robbie

      Also there’s the fact that the A-10 would practically be a sitting duck in a contested combat zone, whereas the F-35 can actually defend itself. With North Korea getting increasingly belligerent the time may come soon where our pilots have to defend our groundpounders in a hot airspace.

  • Adam

    I too am in the “A-10 is overrated crowd” for the reasons mentioned by other posters.

  • Robbie

    Something that people forget though when they’re praising the A-10 is that it’s a sitting duck in a contested airspace, whereas the F-35 can defend itself. We haven’t had to worry about that in a long time, but with an increasingly belligerent North Korea the time may be coming soon where our flyboys will have to defend our groundhogs while also dealing with enemy fighters.

    • Nemo

      That scenario can never be ignored, of course, but the DPRK isn’t likely a great therat on that score. Look over their inventory, it’s mostly quite old. MiG-23s and 21s predominating, if I remember correctly. Yes, they have a small numder of more modern fighters, but last figures I heard were that their pilots are only getting something like an hour’s flying time a month, so aren’t likely to have a lot of proficiency.

      Have you ever read the “Gulf War Airpower Survey”? Easy to find online, or at least used to be. It goes into a lot of detail on why the Iraqi fighter arm was close to being a non-issue.

    • James

      If with the thousands of fighters and attack aircraft we have we can’t defend the airspace we take then every general in the AF needs to be taken out and shot.

      You can’t provide CAS when your fighting against other fighters. Thats what air cover is for. So that example is irrelevant.

      The A-10 CAN defend itself. When a F-35 is close to the ground attacking targets it will be just as vulnerable. At that range the stealth features don’t give much of a advantage.

      The reason the Air Force hates the A-10 is it shows the obvious lie of the the ten thousand foot air support idea. Hell they even went so far as to doctor the stats to try and say the A-10 was the worst sighting the B-1 as the best. Also tried to say it was the worst in blue on blue….another lie. That is also the B-1.

      The Problem for the A-10 is that it needs to be not so much replaced as its role split into two different aircraft. The US and especially the AF are obsessed with having a absolute amount of stealthy top end fighters. It needs a mix of high and low end. High for the first days of combat. Low for the new few months.

      We need a tough very manuverable attack aircraft like the A-10 but simply better. And then something like the killer bee idea to take care of the clean up and CAS needs later.

  • Robbie
  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    When I was in Afghanistan we never saw the aircraft which provided CAS, and even seeing the helicopters which provided air support was a bit of a novelty. When an aircraft orbiting literally miles overhead can put a 2000lb JDAM through the roof of a particular house, or an Apache hiding behind a ridgeline several kilometres away can deliver a Hellfire through a particular window, flying down in the weeds like a 1918 era “Contact Patrol” fighter seems a bit anachronistic.

    And with weapons like SDB’s popping out wings and gliding 100 kilometres to their targets, you need “someone” to see the target, but that someone does not have to be the pilot.

    The real future of “air support” is probably reflected by an experiment the USMC performed: A F-35B located a drone, then cued and launched a SAM from a nearby warship to destroy it. When Lightning drivers can hook into multiple weapons systems from multiple different platforms, then support can be delivered by whoever the Lightning driver can assign the target to: a Marine 155mm battery, a warship loitering offshore, a B-52 Arsenal plane or a UCAV. And experiments releasing and operating micro drones from F-16’s at high speeds suggests the fighters can deliver some interesting effects themselves in the future. Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) combined with remote sensors and carriers managed by stealth control aircraft (and the control aircraft is a fighter if the enemy manages to get that close) looks to be a more likely model for future support missions.

    So the A-10 was a marvellous piece of engineering, but it was also the end of the line for a type of aircraft and mission starting with the “contact patrol” fighters in 1918.

  • publiusr

    One more reason I hate the Air Force with the heat of a nova.