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So Long and Thanks for All the Targets

December 13th, 2013 - 11:23 am

That sound you hear, the one like Satan’s zipper, is an A-10 Warthog firing its absurdly deadly 30mm Gatling gun at 1,200 depleted-uranium rounds per second.

But not for much longer:

Long disliked by the US Air Force, the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jet may finally be heading for the chopping block due to budget constraints.

The “Warthog,” first designed as a tank buster to target Soviet armored vehicles in the middle of the Cold War in the early 1970s, is shunned by many aviators.

Although the twin-engine aircraft is slow, it is incredibly efficient at providing close air support for ground forces, making it an appreciated asset for the US Army.

But the US Air Force “never had a whole lot of interest in a subsonic close-air support plane,” explained Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with consulting firm Teal Group.

“This is a plane for large land combat engagements and for the foreseeable future, you probably won’t face too many of those and there’s also the budget pressure.”

We’ll come to regret this decision.

Hat tip, Max K.

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All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
They hate any "air to mud" role, and the A-10 support of ground troops is pretty much all that and then some. It's not 'sexy' enough.

They scare the crap out of the Soviet armor, who refer to it as the "Devil's cross"

This stupid thinking : "This role belongs to the air force, who doesn't want to actually do it", is also what led to US forces not having a significant anti air capability, by arguing that taking down enemy aircraft is solely their job. Should we go to war against a large country that we cannot immediately gain air superiority over (like, say, China), we will regret not having any point defense.

Even the 1970's era ZSU 23-4 is leaps and bounds ahead of anything the US Army owns. Instead of buying the Flakpanzer Gepard from our NATO ally, Germany, we had some committee designed POS called the Sgt York, who's good name was despoiled by it, and who deserves an apology. Fortunately, the Sgt York was stopped before it got to production.

I love how decisions of this magnitude are made by people who never have to live with the consequences, or to jerk around a budget discussion.

Yet POS projects like the Osprey, and the problem (and crash) plagued Blackhawks, live on.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
It may not be sexy but God I love that aircraft. I have seen it up close and personal and it is scary as hell. I bet the ground troops love hearing it come in to cover their position. Also loud as hell when you are under it at low altitude.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Color me skeptical. I seem to remember this story getting floated pretty much every time the Air Force goes into a budget battle since the end of the Cold War.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
We never should have allowed the Air Force to separate into its own service.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, with modern PGM's, a B-52 is a far superior CAS platform. It has a much higher bomb load and loiter time and it operates outside the envelope for MANPADS. For time critical strikes a supersonic fighter/attack aircraft like the F-16 or F-18 is better than the slow A-10.

The A-10 is like the P-51. An incredible machine for it's time, but now obsolete.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a far superior CAS platform so long as you have the assets in place to use it. If you've got a bunch of guys in a bad way with a broken or non-existant designator, telling a B-52 to make "that big hill to the north" go away can have pretty ugly results.

There's an advantage to having pilot eyeballs on target for CAS work. The A-10 and its cannon are also cheap as hell compared to guided munitions, and there's a pretty tangible psyops benefit to said gun.

Protip: When all of your enemies have nightmares about a certain weapons platform, keep it around.

Fortunately, the '10 being what it is, they'll probably just park them in a desert somewhere, realize we really need them again at some point, throw some gas and fluids in the thing and they'll be back doing their job.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
So. We give the 'Hogs to the Marines. They'll be tickled as Hell about that. :)
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Air Force is probably still angry that they were also sold to COBRA:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattler_(G.I._Joe)
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Give the Air Force back to the Army. Give the Marines back to the Navy. Cut the duplicate bureaucracies. Now THERE'S some budget savings for you.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Say you've got a brain tumor. Do you want a neurosurgeon or a field medic to deal with it for you?

Specialization of the forces is a good thing. The manner of purchasing materiel and the bureaucracies that decide what gets built and how are the problem.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not when the reaction of the "specialist" service is to abandon a key role as not glamorous enough.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Marines are already part of the Department of the Navy. The bureaucracies are already combined above the level where the different missions require different skill sets. Combining the Air Force and the Army would reduce the efficiency of both.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Technically yes. But over time the Marines have grown into their own, separate service. It's so bad that the Navy had to create large Naval Infantry units to handle jobs that the Marines used to do but won't anymore.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Large Naval Infantry? Really ...
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The most effective (and most cost effective) tool in the USAF inventory.
Doesn't have the glamor of the Go-Fasters and Big Bombers. It just won battles on the ground.

One more argument that one of the biggest U.S. military mistakes of the 20th Century, was an independent Air Force.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
My grrly, frilly, impulsive and over-emotional response to this blog post:

I WANTS ONE, I WANTS ONE, I WANTS ONE, I WANTS ONE.....X'0....;>....
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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