Save the A-10: Give It to the Army

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By Everett Pyatt, January 22, 2014 Many articles have been written and speeches made about the exploits and success of the A-10 fleet. It has been a phenomenal airplane in its close air support role. Support for the A-10 remains so strong that the current National Defense Authorization Act precludes additional retirements. The confirmation of the Air Force Secretary was delayed while the issue was deliberated in Congress. Despite widespread recognition of this success, the Air Force wants to junk all 340 aircraft by 2020. In order to achieve significant savings, the Air Force must cut entire fleets, says Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. Retiring the A-10 fleet would achieve a projected $3.7 billion in savings, a decent chunk of the $12 billion the Air Force must cut each year under sequestration. The Air Force never wanted this aircraft from the start in the 1970s. It was designed to be a tank killer in Western Europe. Never used in this role, it became a weapon of significance killing armored vehicles in Iraq and providing close air support to ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it has never really been accepted by the Air Force. Modifications to support modern precision ordnance were slow to be installed and pilots had to use the weapon sensors to find targets, rather than cockpit displays. The A-10’s orphan heritage is further complicated by the split custody of the aircraft between the Air Force’s active, Guard, and Reserve components. Half the A-10 fleet resides within the Air National Guard, for example. The A-10 fleet is over 30 years old, but does not have many flying hours and will be available for many years. The design is low tech having been designed to operate from unprepared airfields. This design is still relevant in current military scenarios involving ground forces and assures that many more years of flight hours can be obtained. http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2014/01/22/save_the_a-10__give_it_to_the_army_107047.html The A-10 will receive a service life extension program (SLEP) upgrade with many receiving new wings.The service life of the re-winged aircraft is extended to 2040. A contract to build as many as 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing in June 2007.[31] Two A-10s flew in November 2011 with the new wing installed. On 4 September 2013, the Air Force awarded Boeing a follow-on contract of $212 million for 56 of the replacement wings for the A-10 Thunderbolt II, bring the number of wings on order to 173. The wings will improve mission readiness, decrease maintenance costs, and keep the type operational into 2035. In 2012, Air Combat Command requested testing of a 600-gallon external fuel tank to prolong the A-10's flight time. Flight testing of a tank was accomplished in 1997, but was never evaluated for combat requirements. The 40th Flight Test Squadron wanted to determine if the aircraft can safely reach combat flight limits while carrying the tank. An A-10C with a 600-gallon tank would expand loitering time by 45–60 minutes, pushing back tanker support. Over 30 flight tests were conducted, pushing it to greater airspeeds, Mach levels, and higher symmetrical (pulling Gs without rolling) and asymmetrical (rolling and pulling Gs) limits. Focus was on gathering data for the aircraft's handling characteristics and different aircraft load configurations to ensure flight capability. With the tank, stability in the yaw axis is slightly reduced, but there is no decrease in aircraft tracking performance. Interesting question really. Will the air force even allow the ARMY to operate it??
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Hasn't the A-10 been made obsolete by modern guided weapons technology? Regards

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Despite the obvious limitations, I would have thought the survivability of an A-10 in a hostile combat zone, would by far exceed that of any combat helicopter. For that reason alone I believe it should stay in service for as long as possible.
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Give A-10 to the army, will never happen for two key reasons: 1) Budget, the army is talking about retiring the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior to save a bit of money. Operational and set up cost of bringing in a fixed wing attack jet would be significant. It is unlikely the USAF personnel who currently maintain and operate the A-10 would just swap over to the Army, so significant funds would have to be found to induct the type into the Army. 2) Inter-service politics, the USAF fought tooth and nail to prevent the Army getting the C-27J a small to medium fixed wing transport. THERE IS NO WAY that the USAF is just going to give a fixed wing combat jet to the Army. Would never happen in a month of Sundays!
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They need to split the air force by assets but not in the sense it is now. Giving the US Army freedom to operate their own fixed winged assets from A-10's to twin engine transports makes too much sense. But if you use common sense in the military expect to have a bad day.

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Inter-service politics, the USAF fought tooth and nail to prevent the Army getting the C-27J a small to medium fixed wing transport. THERE IS NO WAY that the USAF is just going to give a fixed wing combat jet to the Army. Would never happen in a month of Sundays!
I would have had numerous air force generals doing jail-time for the bit in bold. If they objected to it, I'd have offered them the firing squad instead. You have various "patriots" label Ed Snowden a traitor - but Snowden's actions would never have put so many US troops in danger as the pig-headed actions of the USAF top brass with regards JCA. Yet not a thing will be done to bring them to task.
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Hasn't the A-10 been made obsolete by modern guided weapons technology? Regards
There are of course two dozen ways to look at this, but my quick 2 cents: 1.) Russia is upgrading its Su-25s and making a successor. The US (funds aside) has upgraded the A-10C and would like to keep it in service longer. Both ground forces from respective nations love the planes. That, of course, says a lot for the slow, low flying mud movers. 2.) Modern guided technology is great and all, but flying higher and farther away puts you in the way of the big predators: long range, powerful and mobile radars and missile systems that have an absurdly big aircraft engagement envelope. Fly low and use terrain to your advantage, and you avoid tangling with the big boys sitting safely far behind enemy lines. That puts you in the way of MANPADs and various small caliber AA systems, but with armor and modern defensive aids, you have a good chance of surviving.

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Hasn't the A-10 been made obsolete by modern guided weapons technology? Regards
No, the upgrade of the A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C included the following: http://defense-update.com/products/a/a10c.htm
A-10C Warthog - Receives Modifications for Precision Engagement A-10s are currently operated by US Air Force Reserve and Air National Guards. Some of the aircraft are being upgraded into the new A-10C, and all aircraft to remain in service will receive new wing sets within the next 10 years. Boeing was awarded a contract worth up to US$1 billion to design and build the new wings. As a near-term update, the aircraft are equipped with Improved Data Modem (IDM) to link to and support ground elements by establishing direct data connectivity with Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), enhancing the standard, lengthy and inaccurate 'talk through' process. The A-10 Prime Team led by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) has received a $48 million award from the U.S. Air Force to produce 107 Precision Engagement (PE) modification kits for the Under the Precision Engagement (PE) upgrading program, the A-10 close air support fighter is modified into the A-10C. From a clear weather, visual only attack aircraft the A-10C is transformed into an all-weather, multi-mission precision weapons delivery platform, capable of employing the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser. The program is integrating advanced sensors, a datalink and the LITENING AT and Sniper XR targeting pods onto the aircraft, which will boost pilot situational awareness, targeting capabilities, survivability and communication with other coalition ground and air elements. Comprising hardware and software upgrades, each installed kit transforms the legacy A-10A aircraft enabling precision weapons capability. Each PE kit consists of a new cockpit instrument panel with two 5x5 inch multi-function color displays, a new stick grip and right throttle to provide true hands-on-throttle and-stick fingertip control of aircraft systems and targeting pod functionality, and six pylons upgraded to 'smart' weapons capability. A new computer called the Central Interface Control Unit manages the avionics and the integrated Digital Stores Management System (DSMS), which controls weapons functionality. Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver a total of 356 kits over five years for an estimated $168 million. Kit production will run to 2008 with kit installation scheduled to go to 2009. To date, 21 aircraft have been modified at Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; 356 total aircraft are to receive the upgrades, constituting the entire fleet, including active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard. Flight testing of the A-10C aircraft's DSMS and digital map is taking place at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, and at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. Maryland Air National Guard 175th Wing at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Baltimore will be the first unit to convert to the modified aircraft. As A-10 prime contractor and systems integrator under the direction of the Air Force A-10 program office (508th Aircraft Sustainment Squadron), Lockheed Martin Systems Integration - Owego leads a team composed of BAE Systems, Johnson City, NY; Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio TX; and Northrop Grumman, St. Augustine, FL.
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/June%202008/0608fade.aspx
Also included is the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground. ..... One of the last weapons equipped on the A-10Cs just prior to their deployment was the laser Maverick air-to-ground missile—the AGM-65E—which until last year was used primarily by the Navy and Marine Corps.
The Air Force Material Command's Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008. At that time the program was expected to upgrade 356 A-10s to A-10C configuration In July 2010, the USAF issued Raytheon a contract to integrate a Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT) system into A-10Cs.
Despite the obvious limitations, I would have thought the survivability of an A-10 in a hostile combat zone, would by far exceed that of any combat helicopter. For that reason alone I believe it should stay in service for as long as possible.
And the new systems and weapons ensure both minimum-time weapon-delivery runs and allow weapons to be deployed from higher altitudes, outside range of Manpads and light/medium AA guns.
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SDB hits targets well enough to stay in the safer high alt., the issue is IFF.
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There are of course two dozen ways to look at this, but my quick 2 cents: 1.) Russia is upgrading its Su-25s and making a successor. The US (funds aside) has upgraded the A-10C and would like to keep it in service longer. Both ground forces from respective nations love the planes. That, of course, says a lot for the slow, low flying mud movers. 2.) Modern guided technology is great and all, but flying higher and farther away puts you in the way of the big predators: long range, powerful and mobile radars and missile systems that have an absurdly big aircraft engagement envelope. Fly low and use terrain to your advantage, and you avoid tangling with the big boys sitting safely far behind enemy lines. That puts you in the way of MANPADs and various small caliber AA systems, but with armor and modern defensive aids, you have a good chance of surviving.
I'm not sure where I stand on the fixed-wing CAS vs attack helo debate, but playing the devils advocate here (and much better than the poster with the same name).. a number of other Su-25 users have also opted to retire their fleet and go for mi-25s or other attack helicopters. the US seems to be going for a mix of attack helicopters, ucavs (better endurance, less risk), or dropping weapons from higher using multi-role aircraft
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What A-10 has over others is endurance & Mk.1 eyeball