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Close Air Support: What Will Replace the A-10? | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Close Air Support: What Will Replace the A-10?

The United States military is a big organization with multiple services, so it’s inevitable there are going to be disagreements – often big ones – about how to do things. From the long-running saga of trying to get all the services outfitted in camouflage that actually helps you hide to the future of the nuclear deterrent, politicians and senior officers spend a lot of time pushing their own ideas on what the military should do. Sometimes that can have serious consequences for the troops on the ground, and the current debate about close air support aircraft could be one of those issues.

The USAF is pushing hard on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and one of its big goals for the advanced jet is to reduce the number of combat aircraft types in service. Eventually the plan is for the F-35 to replace the USAF’s F-16 fleet as well as – and here’s the potential problem – the A-10 Warthog close air support plane. If the F-35A performs as advertised, it should be a good replacement for the aging F-16s, but there are big question marks about how well it can fill in for the A-10.

A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog)
A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog)

The A-10 was designed to kill Soviet tanks pouring through the Fulda Gap, back in the long ago days when Russia maintained large armored formations and maneuvered them aggressively in Eastern Europe. It’s also turned out to be very useful for counter-insurgency. That shouldn’t have surprised anyone because the A-1 Skyraider it replaced did an excellent job in Vietnam and the A-10 was designed to the same philosophy. Slow and well armored, it can loiter at low altitude, drop weapons very precisely, and carry out accurate gun runs against soft targets. If it catches a few small arms rounds it won’t take much harm, and it’s relatively cheap to fly. With modern ordnance like the Small Diameter Bomb, it can carry a huge number of weapons, letting it strike an equally huge number of targets, and it can operate easily from austere fields.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing.
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing.

The F-35A is a whole different kettle of fish. Optimized for strike missions, it’s much less suitable for close air support than the old A-10. It isn’t suitable for austere airstrips (even the USMC’s F-35B version isn’t as flexible as the old Harriers it will replace) so it’s likely to be flying from a lot further away. It has a higher stalling speed so can’t use its gun as effectively against small ground targets, and the gun only carries 180 rounds against 1,345 for the A-10. Even with external weapons pylons, which compromise its stealth features, it carries a much smaller number of bombs or missiles than an A-10. It’s also practically unarmored and vulnerable to small arms fire. It’s likely that, with the A-10s replaced by F-35s, troops in contact will have to wait longer for close air support and it will be less effective when it arrives. In a larger conflict, it might not be available at all; the F-35s are likely to be committed to strike missions, leaving the ground forces to rely on their own helicopters.

Of course helicopters have their own problems, including low speed and restricted performance in mountainous regions. The question the US Army has to ask itself is how will it provide heavy fire support for its forces in a post A-10 world? For counter-insurgency operations, armed trainers like the Shorts/Embraer Tucano might be a solution; they’re cheap to buy and operate, have good loiter times and can deliver light ordnance very accurately. But if US troops ever have to face a powerful enemy with large armored forces, they’ll feel the lack of the A-10.

It looks like the USAF is going to win this battle, so the Army is going to have to think ahead and decide how to fill the close support gap.

US Patriot Tactical

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48 thoughts on “Close Air Support: What Will Replace the A-10?

  1. The A-10 is a great close support A/C and should be kept in service. The budget cuts to our defense will be a detriment in the future years. This is what happens when the Democrats take charge to gut our defense and brag about what the save opening the door for more attacks by terrorists. Keep the Wart Hog!

    1. Disagree. Keep it. I can exterminate all kinds of bad guys with my .30-06 semi-auto inherited from grandpa, and the least-trained pilots can exterminate all kinds of bad guys with an A-10. Keep it. The JSF pilots need to be extremely trained, and that’s not just high-cost but also low-volume. We ought to have 10s of 1000s of A-10s.

  2. Absolutely not the a10 is the best close air support aircraft in the world !!! Why fix something that is not broke. This is government Bigwigs acting like kids. I want the newest shiniest fastest cool looking toy on the block !!! the A10s superior flight characteristics and safety for the pilot is untouchable with small upgrades this plane can fly for another 20 years. Let’s keep the Warthog alive

  3. The A-10 is the best at what she does and there is no need for anything else.
    Produce new A-10’s if you want the best for our men on the ground, soft targets or hard targets she gets the job done.
    But I am one believes Washington and the White House does not care about our men and women on the ground much less our Great Nation.
    But what do you expect from the worst president of all in THESE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA………

  4. Paul Yoo’s article is spot on. I’ll add my two cents worth. I remember the lessons of Viet Nam where they found out the hard way that the F4 should have had a gun as well as the fancy air to air missles – but at first, the F4 didn’t have a gun for air-to-air engagements cause the “smart” guys said the missles would make dog fights obsolete. That was bad thinking. Now some of these “smart” guys think the A-10 is no longer needed but, as Paul Yoo points out, that thinking is probably deeply flawed as well. I have served in both the Air Force (1980s) and am now finishing up in the US Army National Guard where I fix helicopters for a living. Helicopters are great at some things, and fast mover fighter jets are great at some things – but give me a couple A10s and an AC-130 Spectre and a platton of Army Soldiers will kick ass all day long!

  5. Dumb decision by old fart generals who fall in love with high tech gadgets and holding on to big budgets. Pity the poor ground pounders who have to spill their blood to get the job done.

  6. Last time I checked the Army doesn’t have any A-10s.

    Seriously though, this is just politicians and big business putting their agendas before the lives and safety of the troops.

    1. Nor does the A-10 hold 1345 or whatever rounds. at max it only carries 1172 and we only load it to 1150, even for combat. good write up, but lets not throw false facts out there, shall we Uspatriot?

  7. Just another case of the services thinking they’re moving forward when they’re really moving back. And who pays for it…boots on the ground.

  8. No! I do not agree with taking one of the most amazing and the Most deadly killers in the sky. For one you just can not kill it just gets P* off more . I have seen first had the devastation this plane can dish out . I don’t think the idea of scaping the A-10 is best for any reasons, but I do think the F-35 must be pushed but not to take the place of a perfect and flawless weapon. Yes I love this Hog it is responsible for saving my butt! Keep the Fangs out!

  9. The pressure to do this is probably political as well. The Pentagon wants to retire one system and replace it with maybe two systems. This will not streamline the logistical system. I think the Generals know this. It will boost the defense industry via increased defense spending on these programs. Personally, I’d rather keep the A-10. I’ve watched watched those birds during CALFXs at Ft Benning and can testify to the length of time they can hang around over a target area. The A-10 can turn around really quickly too. I don’t think the F-35 can turn that tight or stay as long

  10. I can see the f-35 replacing the f-16, but have a problem with the a-10. The a-10 is more versatile in close air support and is able to do more than the f-35. What we need to do is research a better alternative that can be used or maybe we could update the existing a-10s one squad at a time. Our troops are the most important part of our military let’s think about them first and then decide what route would be better.

    This is from someone that has never been in the military but only wishes for the best for our troops and respects the sacrifice that our men and women do everyday for us.

  11. The F35 is no A10. Not even close. It’s all fine to sit up on Capitol hill and decide to throw your money at an aircraft that is a jack of all trades and master of none but that isn’t where the tires hit the road.
    When troops are in trouble on the ground they need air support built to stop everything including tanks. The A10 has the proven ability to linger on station to provide that support, on call. The A10 is an aircraft that has been battle proven to be able to sustain massive combat damage, meat out payback, and still get home. A10’s were designed to operate in austere environments and facilities while the F35, not so much.
    With the rise of the Russians back to Soviet style government, the aircraft we designed to stop their massed armor is in even greater need now than ever before. It’s a scary world but we should not remove an aircraft that makes other military’s infantry and armor tremble in their boots. Our guys on the ground deserve the best support and the A10 is the best in its air support role and an integral part of the Air Force mission.

    1. Do you think these European-Russians, trying to keep Crimean-Tartars (Turcic-Mongols, the Ottomans) out of Europe, are the enemy of Europeans and TheWest? My recent (now more detailed and open than in the past) review of history is that the Ottoman Empire types were the enemy of Europeans, did I get something wrong? This is not to disagree with support for the A-10, keeping the hog is the right choice, but are you sure you know who the enemy is and who your friends are? Maybe read some of what Patton had to say once he found out who the germans really were, and who the Turcic-Mogol Soviets really were – those guys did not rename European-Christian cities to Leningrad and Stalingrad cuz they were European-Christians.

  12. Keep the A-10 program active to support our ground troops. Russia will continue to be a significant threat and USA will need the proven air power capability to support ground troops.

  13. Keep the A-10, theres nothing wrong with it, I can,t stand when these bean counting white house punks think they know whats best for us combat vets, hell I and others have the wounds to prove they dont, Blessings to all my fellow vets, I love you all.

  14. I really feel they are making a horrible mistake to retire the A-10.. It is hell bent on robust and strong . Had seen where they had half their wing blown off and fly back to base..They can come and loiter for extended time and give close ground support.. I seen these planes in action and I seriously doubt the crappy joint fighter would ever come close ..

  15. KEEP THE A-10 !!! It’s simple to maintain, easy to fly, and can loiter the battlespace much longer than those fuel-guzzling JSF’s….The Nazis had sophisticated Panther and Tiger tanks, and when they were “up”, they ruled: BUT they were maintenance hogs, and in the end in the end the simplest ( and cheapest ) weapons won the war.

  16. Keep the Warthog. A mean machine with great close ground cover for our troops, Heavily armed and bad to the bone. May be slow but it’s a killer. I remember seeing my first one in the early 70’s and was in total awe.

  17. It is obvious that there was no input required from USA or USMC in developing the MNS and ORD for future Combined Arms operations. All that mattered was ensuring fighter jocks kept the CDI index high and the money pouring in to the major contractors.
    We never seem to be able to apply common sense.

  18. Do not replace the A 10 warthog, if anything increase its numbers.
    DEFINITE NO, LEAVE A 10 ALONE.

  19. The AF didn’t want the A-10 because it wasn’t supersonic, ok turn all the A-10s over to the ARMY or Marines, Marines are better trained at close air support and let the AF have all the SS and stealth Fighters they want The AF feels there job is turning and burning and the ARMY or Marines would do the job of a close air support. Case closed

  20. Well, to comment on the initial report, that states that the Army is retiring the A-10, well, it’s not the Army’s job to retire the A-10, since it is an Air Force Aircraft.

    Secondarily, the F-35 is a piece of crap and should have NEVER been built. The F-22A line should have not been closed down and the F-35 line should have never come hot.

    Yes the F-22 costs a lot, but you all there are radical overruns on the 35 as there have been on every single A/C the US Military has even acquired.

    I would love to see an F-35 go up against a Mig-21 or Mig-23. The F-35, I know the F – 35 would get Smoked.

  21. First, huge fan of the A10…have many bros flying it. Second, Army does not and never did “own” the A10…all USAF. All respect to author, but he needs an update on current air power doctrine, and how an Air Component Commander supports the Land Component Commander and executes CAS with today’s array of weapons. Suffice it to say, CAS rarely depends upon 30mm (or whatever caliber) rounds reigning down on the enemy. Although depleted uranium rounds look cool and can be effective in limited situations, air power planners and aviators can bring to bear much more lethal and effective means on those who oppose our forces.
    Food for thought. Cheers!

    1. Would you care to enlighten us on what those other choices are? Apache Helicopters, something I’m familiar with, can do an adequate job in certain conditions but they are of limited numbers. A10 has been important in Afghanistan. AC-130 Spectre you say? How many of those you got available? I fail to see how your assertioj is backed up with anything other than fancy words like “Air Component Commander” and “current air power doctrine”. As a former Air Force team member myself, I think the Army should be consulted as to what works for them. Those men on the ground facing the bad guys are you customer sir.

    2. I didn’t read the article as saying the Army owns the A10s. How I read it was the USAF wants to get rid of them and the Army is going to pay the price.

  22. Comparing the F35 and the A10 is like comparing apples and oranges. The A10’s close support capability can’t be matched by the F35 and the F35’s air to air capability can’t be matched by the A10. Keep the A10, it hasn’t failed us yet.

  23. Keep it , as it is responsible for more troops lives being saved than almost any other aircraft. It’s a very versatile aircraft. Maybe the best in the world for Rapid response CAS,
    .
    it would be less expensive to upgrade / rebuild EVERY A-10, than to build 1/2 the amount of the F35

  24. I remember seeing a demonstration of the A-10 vs an M1-A1 Abrams back when I was a kid. The 2 A-10’s, using nothing but their chain guns and in just 2 passes, turned the Abrams into swiss cheese! Their turning radius is minute compared to the much faster F-35 which means our boys on the ground will have to wait that much longer between strafing runs if we switch to the F-35.

    I’ve seen pictures of an A-10 that safely landed with only 6 ft remaining of its left wing! Yes the airframes are old, but the difference in sticker prices means that you could field 9 A-10’s for each F-35 produced! And that doesn’t even go into the cost of maintenance.

    Update the electronics, mabe some radar jamming ability, update the engines, and give them a laundry list of weapons that increase their flexibility in urban environments and you will have THE close air support weapon for the 21st century.

  25. This is an example of politicians forcing DoD to make the politicians happy! The F-35 can’t fly now and is not, nor will it ever be, a proper replacement for the A-10. As a USAF vet, due to this shutdown of the 1947 charter creating the USAF from the AAF to still provide support to US Army troops, I have to recommend the US Army take it over with the aircraft, crews, maint folks, & the whole 9 yards!

    IDIOTS!!!

  26. One bad scrape was an eye opener for me in A-stan. The A10 that responded to our TIC call made short work of the insurgents that sprang an ambush on us. Keep it around. It saved my a**.

  27. According to the Key West Agreements of 1954 the USAF was to have the mission of air support for the army but some how the Army was able to get its attack helicopters. They are also allowed to use fixed wing aircraft as artillery spotters and couriers. I think the A-10 would make a great spotter plane. So lets just have the USAF give them to the Army then everybody is happy

  28. Retiring the A10 is a big mistake. The Air Force tried it several years ago using the F-16 as a replacement. It didn’t work, there is NOTHING like the A10 for close air support.

  29. We need to keep it. Update it. And if possible, I say gather as many A-10 pilots as you can find, have them list the Pros & Cons (if any!) of the venerable ‘Hog, and build a new one that has all the qualities of the current model, but that has a materials updated airframe and modern gun. P-47 became the A-10. A-10 can evolve and can be “Tango’s Worst Fear”!

  30. Upgrade the A-10 and put it under the control of the Army. Then it should be good for at least another 100 years.

  31. we can not afford to lose the A-10, this is our only close air support fixed wing aircraft we have that can still get the job done.

  32. The A-10 still fills a critical gap between what a supersonic fighter and a helicopter can fill. The ability to loiter for hours and provide low and slow ground support can’t be filled buy the other two options. In addition, one only has to view photos of the abuse the A-10 can sustain and still protects it”s pilot makes this aircraft a vital component for the future of our military.

  33. Having seen first hand the A10 in action there is nothing that can compare to is in CAS missions. A majority of the A10 are flown by Guard Units and the whole push is to defang the Guard by taking away A10 and AH 64 Apache.

  34. LOW & SLOW means gun ON the Target ! To many tech weenies at Fort Fumble.
    The F-35 is a joke,wait til that driveshaft to the lift fan fails,Marine Harrier fubar all over again.

  35. “the whole push is to defang the Guard”. Exactly.
    And the Guard is? Local, rural, white guys, +90%, so, to defang who?
    Simultaneously, disarm the citizens of their firearms.
    Again, +90% rural white guys.
    Simultaneously, advertise white women with black men.
    Again, destroy, in every possible way, the white guy.
    And you were told the 1930s Germans were your enemy.
    Time for you to think – and think about hew told you that.
    Study what Patton had to say – after he occupied Germany.
    After when he met the Germans – without the BS of his masters.
    Hew controls your money? Hew has you in $17 Trillion in debt?
    Hew f-d up this virtually un-f-up-able nation?
    Hew, got dammit, hew?

  36. The problem with the A-10 lies in our military structure. The Air Force has authority over all fixed wing aircraft since WW2, when it was formed.
    The A-10’s only use is to help the Army.
    That is why the Air Force does not want it.
    The only people that want it are the poor soldier’s in battle who will die without it.
    Obviously, they do not matter.
    The Army tries to make-do with the Apache. But, it is a piece of crap compared to the A-10.
    The Army needs to be given control over fixed-wing close support aircraft. Period.
    IMO, the generals making the decision to eliminate the A-10 without a fitting replacement, which the F-35 IS NOT, are guilty of treason.
    They will be responsible for killing our soldiers. Isn’t that treason?

  37. All great supporting comments for the venerable A-10. The A-10 guys kept my arse outta trouble as a CSAR pilot for many years. But these discussions are all tactical level commentary. The reason for retiring the A-10 isn’t a tactical one. It’s a very politically volatile one. It all boils down to dollars. This administration is shifting the country’s fiscal priorities away from defense, while sequestration is further tying the hands of Pentagon programmers in the process. The AF made a very hard choice of options, all of which were bad. Their fundamental choice was to keep the three biggest program priorities intact: the F-35, the new tanker, and the long range bomber. Peanut butter spreading the cuts across all weapons systems doesn’t work. The fiscal penalties for breaking multi-year quantity buys actually hurts worse than the ugly alternatives like retiring aging weapon systems. So, to get to the root of the problem take a close look at what your government is doing fiscally. You need to take action to be part of the solution. First, get out every election and vote, secondly write to your Senators and Congressmen frequently about your fury at the irresponsible way they have acted fiscally over the last umpteen years. Lastly, follow what’s happening in the services and you’ll see similar bad choices being forced across the military branches at a very bad time in the currently declining international geopolitical environment. Take action, don’t lament the bad choices forced upon the services.

  38. To kill the A-10 in favor of the F-35 for close air support must be the dumbest thing I ever heard. A-10 is the best aircraft ever built for close air support missions. Would you ask the poor devils who fight against ISIS down in the Middle East if they had to choose between close air support from F-35 or A-10, they would choose the A-10 any day of the week.

  39. Please, please dont settle for a piece of junk plane like the Iran partner Brazil to offer support to US troops. The A-10 is a superior aircraft and these little toys Tucanos would be wiped out instantly by any mediocre opponent. Do the right thing and build new A-10s if needed. At the very minimum put the specifications to US comanies to develop similar or better planes than the foreign tucanos.

    1. The A-10’s only use is to help the Army.
      That is why the Air Force does not want it.

      – Craig D.

      Kudos to Craig D for a perfect Root Cause Analysis.
      Sometimes, the Root Cause really is plane and simple.

  40. An A10 is a proven air support aircraft at approx 11 millionaire a copy. How do you explain losing an F35 never proven and cost approx 130 million a copy. The A10 has returned from a mission important components only to be repaired to fly another day. Can the AF Brass be willing to suffer sacrifice an F35 in a ground support role? F = Fighter!

  41. Are they completely phasing out thee A-attack line of aircraft? I’m sure helicopters stay but we will be leaving our ground troops with less true fighting support (using fighter jets only) when they really need it. That is very disappointing. The sound of a wart hog to an infantry man was pure gold…

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