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Karl Spackler
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Whole lotta reasons that have nothing to do with how good the A-10 is at it's job and nothing to do with how much the F-25 seems like it would suck at the job of CAS.

 

Not replacing the A-10 means new airplanes aren't getting built. The F/A-22 stopped production after 123 airframes. That production line could never be restarted for myriad economic reasons (sold off tooling, chemical processes too expensive to restart in situ, key people moved on, etc.). New aircraft building keeps the capability to build new aircraft, especially tac air. If we were to keep updating and SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) keeping old airplanes running, eventually the capability goes away. DoD isn't ready for, and the technology isn't ready yet, for fully autonomous tac air support aircraft (UAVs). Once the tech is there (datalink especially, control systems, too), manned combat aircraft will go away. The F-35 is the one last catch-all manned aircraft to bridge the technology gap between manned-mixed manned/unmanned-completely unmanned phases for everyone that's signed on. The A-10 is no longer a cheap airplane. $8M per aircraft in the late 70's/early 80's isn't the end of it. The remaining inventory of aircraft have been paid for many times over in maintenance and upgrades over the last 30 years. 

 

All aircraft go away eventually. The emotional attachment to the Warthog is obviously understandable. The troops know what it can for for them. The enemy knows what it can do to them. The pilots love the airplane and they love the mission. But, these airplanes take a beating. You can only keep them going so long before it becomes economically unfeasible, aka not worth it. 

 

What saddens me is that the guy on the ground is conceptually going back to Vietnam-era CAS patchwork of different less-than-perfect solutions.

 

We always design the next tool for the last war. They've analyzed the last twelve years and determined how much of what capabilities have actually been used. The zeitgeist is that net-centricity and situational awareness matters more than sheer payload and durability. CAS in Afghan is done from very high altitudes in an essentially SAM/AAA sanitized environment. The only ones down low are the Hogs using the gun. The helicopters are pretty much the only ones in any real danger. They've de-prioritized anti-tank warfare....

 

Which might be a mistake. The Russians are selling T-72's like Cinnabons in the Middle East and no one thinks this is going to not end up in a fight between us and them. That hopefully avoidable scenario would indeed breathe new life into the A-10. Imagine A-10's killing T-72ss, but in Syria, not the Fulda Gap, as was expected so many years ago. 

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So, Scrap the current A-10s and reproduce them.  Do the same with the F-16.  Both planes are cheap and damn good at their job.  The F-35 is going to be an expensive flying coffin.

 

With further upgraded avionics and weapons systems and possibly slightly tweaked airframe design these planes can rule the skies for another 30+ years.  

 

But the government won't do that because Lockheed doesn't make as much money that way.

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I want to preemptively make sure this topic stays very far away from political stuff.  Seriously.

 

I think that this is a very interesting topic, however.  So, if we stay focused on the aircraft and the doctrines, we should be okay. :)

 

 

There are two articles at the Foxtrot Alpha blog which go into some good details about the A-10, and the push to retire it "at all costs":

 

The Air Force's Rationale For Retiring The A-10 Warthog Is Bulls**t: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-usafs-rationale-for-retiring-the-a-10-warthog-is-bu-1562789528

 

At What Point Does The USAF's War Against The A-10 Become Sabotage?: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/at-what-point-does-the-usafs-war-against-the-a-10-becom-1685239179

 

Personally, I think two things are going on here.

 

Firstly, the USAF has been stuck in the "fly high, fly fast, bomb from altitude" mentality that it's held since WW2.  Add to this stealth, and you land up with the B-2, the F-22 and the F-35.  Never mind that stealth aircraft aren't invisible, and can actually be seen on low wavelengths like VHF and UHF.  And that modern air forces of first rate powers can actually track them.  But that's off topic.  In this mix, the A-10 has always been the red headed step child.  I almost think that the USAF doesn't want the CAS role, but aren't willing to give it up to the US Army either.

 

Secondly, I think that the USAF has invested so much money into the F-35 that it's become "two big to fail".  In other words, it doesn't matter if it doesn't work at the moment, because they're already down the rabbit hole, and are willing to spend as much as it takes in order to make it work right.  Additionally, because it costs so much, they're trying to justify the expense by forcing it into as many roles as possible.  This is regardless of whether it's actually qualified to replace the older aircraft currently filling those roles.

 

So in the end, it doesn't matter that the A-10 saves lives, is cheap, is extremely good at it's job, and is both versatile and reliable.  It's destined to get retired ASAP because it's standing in the way of what the USAF is calling "progress".  However, their progress doesn't actually do anything to provide effective CAS.  I think you hit it on the head, Trev, when you said that they're "conceptually going back to Vietnam-era CAS patchwork".

 

Something additionally to consider:

 

NASA, in it's entire existence (1958 to the present), as only spent 790 Billion dollars.  This is adjusted for inflation, and includes everything they've ever done.  Mercury, Gemini, Apollo missions to the moon, the Space Shuttle, etc.  Compare that to estimated total cost of the F-35 program, which is going to go past $1.5 Trillion.  That's 1500 billion.

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"...too big to fail."

 

Although it was only $6.9 Billion, it did go on for 22 years of planning and development.  But hey, the Army's reallocation of the Comanche's funding went directly towards my career field and indirectly into my pocket.

 

boeingsikorsky-rah66-comanche.jpg

 

Searching for those links/pics brought me to this old gem, a helo that I recall reading about as a kid, the AH-56 Cheyenne.  With a pusher propeller:

 

Lockheed-AH-56-Cheyenne1.jpg

 

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/what-might-have-been-lockheeds-ah-56a-cheyenne/

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Why wouldn't the Army operate CAS aircraft?  The Marines operate Harriers for that reason, let the Army have the A-10s.  Of course you'd have to splice that out of the Air Force's budget and they'd scream about that.

 

There's absolutely no good reason to replace a cheap and effective weapon with anything but a cheaper and more effective one, which the F-35 is neither.

 

It all goes back to politics because that's all it ever is, so to avoid that subject as Klaiber wishes I'll drop it.

 

The troops on the ground should and are enjoying it while it lasts.  The plane will be as legendary for it's generation of warplanes as the P-51.  Personally, unless the Air Force comes out with UAVs or UFOs it's the only plane I'd want to call in to help in a firefight.

 

It may just be the best design for it's job as is achievable.  Everything about it was crafted to the experience gained in over 20 years of CAS from WW2 to Vietnam (hell it's named after the Thunderbolt)  It would be interesting to put out another contract for the A-10s job and see just how similar to it those planes are.  And, if it's possible to improve on it, shouldn't we?

 

But, then again, how could you?  LOL, give it, short stubby wings, a single engine, low thrust to weight ratio, low payload, and stealth (oooh, internal bays)?

 

Even if the F-35 becomes everything they promised it could (would) be it still wouldn't be terribly difficult to beat.

 

I'd keep the A-10 forever.

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I agree with your first question however your first paragraph also answered it.

 

When the Army procured its own Predators, the Warrior A (MQ-1B) and Gray Eagle (MQ-1C), the AF fought against it. They didn't want the army to have fixed wing attack aircraft, they wanted to support the Army in that role. However, with limited AF drones available, the Army wanted their own and now they have quite a few and love the fact that they can work hand-in-hand with imbedded units on a consitant basis.

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It all goes back to politics because that's all it ever is, so to avoid that subject as Klaiber wishes I'll drop it.

 

You don't have to get into specific politics to call it what it is - the A-10 is going to be a casualty of a rampant military industrial complex.

 

Two sides of the trinity (the USAF and the defense industry) want the A-10 retired.  And they're attempting to aggressively influence the third side (the legislators) to kill it.

 

Thankfully, the legislators of both political parties are actively trying to save the A-10.

 

However, it's only a matter of time before it's removed from service.

 

The tragedy will then be that there is nothing viable to replace it, outside of the "patchwork" of CAS that Trev mentioned.

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Really interesting video, Trev.

 

I still can't understand why the U.S. Air Force want's to retire the A-10, and replace it with the F-35.  :wacko:  :blink:

 

Simple way to put it.

 

Political idiocy is why.

 

Its because these people get old generals to march around and say "This is what we need" and the senators and house members crawl all over it like moths to lights.

 

Its ridiculous. 

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