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The Air Force is Right: Time to Retire the A-10

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  1. CJ says:

    Ask a special operator what he would rather have loitering over head in combat. Systems analysts and Congress should not make this call. If the Air Force does not want them, give them to the Army.

    • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

      “A special operator.” LOL.

      BTW, Jan, thanks for the praise and for stating my credentials here.

      The real “bullshit” here is the blogpost Steve has linked to – not the AF’s rationale for retiring the A-10. The blogpost Steve has linked to does little more than restate the same old myths that I have already refuted here, and which, indeed, have been refuted over and over again.

      1) If COST is the concern, NO aircraft is even CLOSE to being as cheap and cost-efficient to operate as drones – at least in COIN environments. So if close air support for GIs on the ground is to be done cheaply and efficiently, drones are by far the best aircraft to do that.

      Even more so since they, not being manned, can loiter over the battlefield for up to 26 hours nonstop before returning to base, while ALL manned aircraft, including the A-10, are limited by the physiological needs of their human pilots for food, drink, rest, sleep, etc.

      2) The A-10 does not stand a ghost’s chance of surviving even the most primitive enemy air defense systems, as it is vulnerable to any kind of fire bigger than small arms fire, has a HUGE radar signature (even at low altitudes), and is so slow and unmaneuverable that it cannot even try to duck enemy SAMs or AAA fire.

      And these days, even flying at very low altitudes won’t help you, because modern (and old but upgraded) Russian and Chinese air defense systems (esp. the S-300, S-400, S-500, HQ-9, Tor-M1, and Pantsir-S1) can detect and shoot you down from a long range (except the Tor and the Pantsir) EVEN if you fly at very low altitudes – that’s how sensitive their radars are.

      Hiding behind geographical obstacles like mountains won’t save you. They’re not everywhere, and they’re not present at sea. Over the sea, there’s nothing to hide behind. Which brings me to my next point.

      3) These days, all but the smallest surface combatants of the Russian and Chinese navy have very capable onboard air defense systems, so the A-10 would be shot down long before it could make an approach to try shooting at these warships. Which brings me to my next point.

      4) The A-10 is simply useless, irrelevant, and redundant. There is NOTHING it can do which cannot be done just as well – but cheaper and more cost-effectively – by drones and attack helicopters in COIN environments, and it is completely useless in any theater where the opponent is a nation state wielding a potent air defense system and thus able to contest control of the air (e.g. Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea). One evidence of this is that it has ONLY operated in airspace previously sanitized by other, more survivable, aircraft.

      5) The author desperately points to the Russian tanks that have recently rolled into Ukraine. But Russian armies do not, and no sane enemy will ever, deploy their armored units without decent air cover provided by field point-area air defense systems (e.g. the SA-6, SA-11/17, or new ADS like the Tor-M1 and Pantsir-S1). The First Gulf War, in which Saddam’s massed tank army unprotected from the air (the Coalition ruled the skies) was clobbered by the Coalition showed the world that tank armies without potent air defense systems are doomed.

      No sane nation will ever again deploy its tank army without air defense systems. Massed Iraqi-style armored divisions lacking air cover have disappeared, and they will never return.

      And as I said, the A-10 is useless against any air defense system.

      5) Retiring the A-10 would save the USAF at least $3.7 bn, money which will have to come out of higher-priority programs and fleets if this utterly obsolete and useless aircraft is not retired.

      6) Fortunately, House Appropriators have decided to allow the USAF to retire this aircraft. While thier Senate counterparts are unlikely to agree this year, they may in the next. And, as much as the authorizes dislike and deny that, they don’t set defense budgets – the appropriators do. Thus, the HAC’s green light to retire the A-10 is the beginning of the end for the Warthog. Deal with it, folks.

      • CJ says:

        Sir, it is obvious that you have no “boots on the ground experience”, you would need to have hundreds of drones to equal the firepower of one A-10 and thousands of drones to equal the firepower of one AC-130, How are you going to manage that airspace ? Every aircraft is vulnerable to modern air defense systems. I make the point again, leave these decisions to the guys that have been there and done that.

  2. Jan Brown says:

    Steve, ZM’s extensive background & education in Defense Technology, statistics and equipment make him a highly creditable & qualified source in these matters. His website provides some very interesting and informative discussions. So look it up if you have a minute.