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Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas

Monday, February 22, 2016

A-10 gets a stay of execution

Even though I spent my national guard career loading weapons on F-15's, my favorite Air Force fighting machine is the A-10 Warthog. It got a stay of execution today as the Pentagon can't find a better platform for killing terrorists in the desert, and the ISIS rabble make nice targets of that particular description.

It was supposed to be retired this year or next and replaced by the new F-35, but the existing A-10's cost about $11 million per copy while the F-35 is like $98 million each and maintenance costs for the F-35 are ridiculous.

The retirement date for the A-10 is now 2022. Surely we can kill most of the terrorists in the desert by then.


Triggerhappy said...

Sorry if this is overly long. I understand that the A-10 is something of a sensitive subject for a lot of people so I'll try to remain brief and concise :

The F-35 is expensive and suffering from massive teething issues, no doubt about it. On the other hand, the F-35 is not trying to replace the A-10. Nothing really is.

The fact of the matter is that the Warthog's time in history is coming to a close. Even in the first Gulf War the plane was vulnerable to heavy anti-aircraft missiles and had to operate in heavily sanitized environments.

Modern PGMs are simply eliminating the need for the Warthog's low and slow mission profile. The numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan assigned around 20% of all CAS missions to the A-10 and less than 20% of those were 'gun runs'.

The legendary GAU-8 is used for less than 4% of all fixed wing CAS Missions.

By all means we should use it while we still have it. And the current fight against ISIS had given the A-10 a new lease on life. But when they're retired I don't believe there will be much meaningful loss in mission capability.

Don't want to sound like I'm harping against the A-10. I love the old girl for what she is and there is something of a romantic notion built around a very unique airplane.

But there's more to the equation than just price point and the air force does, astonishingly, have some valid reason for wanting to be done with the plane.

Bill said...

Great comment, Triggerhappy.

I would keep a couple of squadrons in the ANG for SAR escort and FAC missions, but I know a support chain is expensive for small fleets.

As a weapons loader like Ed, I am just as glad I never had to load A-10's. So many different munitions, each one requiring regular load barn. The F-16 almost put me down.

Ed said...

Trigger, I wasn't making a direct mission comparison between the two birds, sorry if I gave that impression. The article suggested that the F-35 could fill any role that the A-10 could do and maybe it can. But I also think that the time of the piloted dog fighter is coming to a close and pilots 20 years from now will sit in simulators in Kansas somewhere and fly drone missions from there, that is if the drones aren't mostly autonomous.

I think it's possible that the F-35 might be too much plane for too limited a mission.

I was just expressing nostalgia for my favorite fighter and gladness that the program has some usefulness still.

David said...

Don't forget the venerable Phantom ii. They could carry just about anything as well. And for most, esp 6-footers, they didn't offer much ground clearance.

Ed said...

Right you are Dave. F-4's were great weapons platforms but ironically, weapons loaders were a total and complete after thought on that plane.

Bill said...

Yeah, loading BDU's on a TER was torture due to the height of the inner wing pylon.

Loved the Eagle, except I had a crew member who couldn't reach the LAU-128 with the AIM-9, so the other two of us had to get the final six inches. Fun times! I loved ICT's with engine running gun loads.

Ed said...

Just pull the handle and it sucks the belt right in.

But I remain nostalgic for the chain-saw motor and the extremely precarious and dangerous linkage to the gun actuator on the F-105. What asshole came up with that? Heh heh heh.

Bill said...

I think you're before David's time with Thud memories, Ed. ;-)

Ed said...

Bill, you were there for 105 load training, remember everybody would gather around that tall cart when we loaded the gun because something dangerous, violent, and hilarious was bound to happen. Heh.

Bill said...

So many Thud memories. I remember the chain saw motor could violently snap if the feed system got jammed. I also remember you had to remove the wing pylon by getting on top of the wing and unbolting it. Loading the AGM-78 Standard ARM was a hoot; that huge thing that started life as a Navy SAM. And of course the tail hook was always hot as Ed knows!

Here's a picture of a -78 along with a Shrike on the wing of a Wild Weasel. Funny I ended my career 31 years later loading the next generation of these missiles.


Ed said...

I'll never forget the phrase, "Whatever you do, don't push this button". BAM!!!

I heard the "pop" over the flight-line noise and looked around for what it was and saw Bloomberg standing down there shaking his head and smiling. I knew I'd screwed up. I think Johnny King called me the "E-bolt Kid" for about two years after that.

David said...

I remember the chain saw loading and watching someone get all wrapped up like a pretzel when it jammed. I believe it was my first crew chief, Travis Hall. I also remember torquing the wing pylon from on top of the wing - which was scalding hot - with a four foot long torque wrench to, I think 1400 ft-lbs! Not inch-lbs.

Looking back, I loved ICTs.