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Save the A-10!

January 31st, 2014 - 5:10 am

a10thunderbolt1

Everett Pyatt has a not-new plan to save the Warthog from the Air Force’s decades-old desire to rid itself of that unwelcome beast of a plane: Give it to the Army. That idea has been floated pretty much every time the Air Force has threatened to retire its A-10 air fleet. They wanted to kill the A-10 after the Cold War ended, but then the ‘Hog became the stuff of legend during the First Gulf War. It survived the axe again thanks to continued stellar performances in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So why doesn’t the Air Force want to keep such an effective plane, especially one that’s so cheap to operate? Two reasons:

• It isn’t a fast sexy fighter.

• It serves an Army function.

But the Air Force steadfastly refuses to let the Army have the ‘Hog, either. The Air Force has a legal monopoly on fixed-wing aircraft and is afraid that breaking their monopoly would put them at a disadvantage with the Army at obtaining money for future planes.

Well, OK — the Navy and Marines are allowed to have fixed-wing aircraft, too. But not if the Air Force had anything to say about it.

Fact is, the Air Force was divorced from the Army after WWII, and lives in fear of a forced reconciliation. That’s bad for the A-10 which is bad for the Army and a boon to the bad guys.

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All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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Google Map the Boneyard in Tucson. Lots of A-10 airframes there just waiting to be rehabbed.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
We ground-pounders used to have a rather nice inventory of fixed-wing flyers during the Vietnam ear.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reminds me of an A-10 cartoon making the rounds when I was in, back in the day. I have searched, and cannot find it, sorry. It had an A-10 being chased and shot up by a tank. The thought bubble coming out of the A-10 cockpit said something like: "I'll throw out the speed brakes, he'll overshoot, then I'll have him!"

Even the A-10 pilots I knew thought it was kinda funny.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
MrLion, you got it right. I spent 26 years in the AF, mostly flying F-15s (that would be the exciting, expensive, sexy part...) but I also spent some time at the business end of the CAS mission. The A-10 was a great single-mission aircraft but for crying out loud, it's 35 years old. Trying to keep it flying is like trying to find some vacuum tubes to fix your television. Or keeping your 35 year old hot rod running at top performance, safely. Everyone thinks that CAS is just a red-headed step child in the AF, but I disagree. The question is, what's the best, most cost effective solution in the New World Disorder? Build another single-purpose CAS platform, and everything that is associated with that (cost, risk)? Or try to make a multi-role platform do that CAS mission better? It costs a lot of money either way. No easy answers.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well guys, I could name a lot more old airplanes that are still flying, but that isn't the point. We've got lots of old planes still out there in the inventory. There have been many many improvements made over the years to keep them viable ... Engines, avionics, weapons, wiring, airframe life, you name it. But it doesn't change the fact that it costs a heap of money and lots of maintenance hours to keep old airframes flying safely. And there comes a time, sadly, when there is nothing more to be gained. The entire structure needs renewing and it just isn't worth the money.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The F-16 is 40.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Too old of an airframe?

HAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Can you say "B-52"?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Also, C-130.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment

I disagree that a new CAS airframe would necessarily be extremely expensive, unless the CAS airframe is completely unsurvivable on the modern manpad-ridden battlefield. An incremental improvement on the A-10, on an evolved airframe with subsystems that are not pushing the technology envelope, could be built at reasonable cost.

A new multi-role whiz-bang everything to everybody feature-bloat monstrosity, on the other hand, is bound to be expensive.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, if it were in a normal world driven by market forces I would agree with you. But there is nothing that the government does that is "inexpensive" and that includes the military. While an incrementally improved A-10 like you describe SHOULD logically be less expensive than brand-new platform development, because it's the government... well, I wouldn't take that bet. In time, they would find a way to make it just as expensive by then end, and the contractor (and congressional supporters) would "help" them every step of the way to make it just as expensive.
It's sort of that old saw, "How much does a new CAS airplane cost?"
Answer: "How much you got?"
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Evolutionary procurement projects don't cost as much as "generation-skipping" projects. Not cheap perhaps, but not mind-blowingly expensive either. A new CAS airframe could be done for a reasonable amount of money.

I'm not the right person, though, to say if an evolution of the A-10 would really be battlefield-survivable.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The A10 is a wonderful plane. It's of the rare breed of aircraft that were designed to do one thing really well, and released to service before very much feature bloat made it into the design.

However, it is also an extremely old plane that is getting exponentially more expensive to keep flying, and that doesn't just mean keep the wings on. It also means contain avionics and ECM gear that makes it at least somewhat difficult to blow up with a manpad. The "flying gun" form makes it very difficult to add this stuff after the fact as there's very little room for it, so pods have to be used. Pods suck.

The A10 needs to be retired and replaced with a new Attack/CAS aircraft of a similar design, wrapped around a GAU-8.

As to operations, the Army does not have the logistical support to run fixed wing aircraft properly, which is why they don't. Building those logistics out to support one aircraft would be hilariously expensive, and result in a less effective CAS solution than the Air Force running it. That is why the Air Force exists in the first place. Specialization is a good thing.

As to AF pilots considering CAS missions "below" them, the not insignificant number of pilots I personally know who do exactly that would have quite a colorful collection of four letter words to respond to that particular accusation.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. This.

With the possible exception that the Marine pilots I know seem to identify more with the CAS mission. I don't know any A-10 pilots, though.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Airforce has resented this platform from the onset. Their contempt for it's role in direct support of troops is evident in it's pilot's use of the term "Air to mud combat".

In this, the Air force has a viewpoint like feminists - they're only interested in the exciting, expensive, sexy parts of the job, not the bottom rungs where death, risk and dealing with 'low lifes' are more significant aspects of the job.

The role should be taken from the air force, so they can focus on missiles, space warefare, strategic bombing, and air superiority, with the corresponding reduction in it's budget. Strike missions should be left to the Navy and Marines.

The Airforce whines because this platform is a pugilist, and they all want to be delicate little fencers.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
In Vietnam the Army was allowed to have some fixed-wing cargo craft but not any shoot-em-ups. Mohawks were left to rot.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I also love the Hog. One question I've had over the years is why hasn't it been upgraded for Carrier Ops for the Marines and Navy. The Marine Corps and the Warthog were made for each other.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Making a carrier-based plane begins on the drawing board. It isn't a set of features which can be tacked on after the fact.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The F4U Corsair, of WW2 fame, was unqualified for carrier operations for a long time: so the Navy Department turned it over to the Marines, who flew it from land bases. So letting the Marines have the A-10 for land-based operations only wouldn't be without precedent.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Corsair was designed to be flown from carriers, so was structurally capable of it. There were forward vision issues that kept it from qualification initially.

Plus, the structural stresses of WW2 carrier operations are miniscule compared to modern catapult-assisted operations.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
My point is that the Marines could operate the A-10 strictly as a land-based aircraft, just as they did the F4U.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the air force doesn't want to do ground support, the let the Army play with the A-10. It's not there to dog-fight Russian or Chinese planes, it's there to blow the living snot out of ground forces and do it in a way that is much less vulnerable to ground fire than an Apache.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love this plane. I hope politics doesn't doom this awesome machine.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
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