Heritage Flight Conference

The Air Force F-16 fighter (front) and A-10 ground attack plane (center rear) will both be replaced by the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. Flanking them: the air-to-air and ground attack versions of the F-15 Eagle.

Budget cuts won’t make the Air Force give up any of its current missions, the service’s Chief of Staff promised today. But, Gen. Mark Welsh acknowledged, the cuts will force it to do those missions with different and perhaps not optimal aircraft.

Yes, the famous A-10 “Warthog” is “the best at close air support” – i.e. hitting targets right in front of the troops on the ground – but it’s an aging aircraft that has to retire sooner or later and other planes can do CAS just fine, said Welsh, a former A-10 pilot himself. Yes, the combat search and rescue mission – flying in to rescue downed pilots – is “a sacred trust,” he said, but we may not be able to afford a new CSAR helicopter any time soon.

In either case, Welsh told reporters at the Pentagon today, “the mission will continue to get done, guys.”

“We’re talking about lots of things we must have,” Welsh said. “The question is in what order do we recapitalize as the budget comes down, [and] the top three for us are clearly the F-35 [fighter], the KC-46 [fuel tanker], and the long-range strike bomber.”

Yes, the budget deal that passed the House last night 332 to 94 – the Senate will vote next week – “provides some relief over the next two years,” said Eric Fanning, the acting Air Force Secretary, “and it provides some stability.” But military training and readiness were badly shortchanged in 2013 and have dibs on the $20 billion the deal gives back for fiscal year 2014, he said. In the long term, he went on, though the 10-year, $500 billion defense cut known as the sequester is slowed down, the budget numbers still up in the same place. The deal will give the military more time and leeway to make cuts less “destructively” than the mad scramble for savings in ’13, he said, but the cuts are still coming.

“This will entail a budget with cuts that none of us likes and each of these cuts will have a constituency both in the Air Force and on Capitol Hill,” Fanning said. “If something’s restored to the budget we present to the Hill, something else will have to go.”

“There’s proponents for all these systems and I agree with all of them,” Welsh added, “but someone has to balance this.”

The current defense policy bill – the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act – does prohibit retiring A-10s in this fiscal year, but that doesn’t affect the Air Force’s plans because they’re looking at the 2015 budget and beyond, Welsh said. Conversely, said Fanning, while the Air Force may well not award a CSAR helicopter contract this year, that doesn’t kill the program forever. The service was always going to have to retire the aging A-10 at some point, and it was always going to have to buy a new search and rescue aircraft eventually: What the budget changes is not whether but when.

And sequestration’s not the only thing driving the cuts: There’s also strategy. Though the Air Force’s big picture vision was often obscured by question after question after specific programs, it was still there in the background, and Welsh made it pretty clear for anyone who’d listen.

For a decade of grueling guerrilla warfare, the Air Force has made close support to ground troops its top priority, from low-level gun runs by A-10s to high-altitude bombing from B-2 stealth bombers to information on the enemy from MC-12 Liberty “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” planes. The Taliban doesn’t have an air force or even many ground-based weapons that can shoot a fighter down. (Helicopters are another question). Nor does an insurgency offer any targets except small bands of fighters: There’s no strategic infrastructure to bomb, no large force held in reserve for the decisive blow.

In the next war, everything might be the opposite. Instead of flying freely wherever the ground forces need support, the Air Force might have to beat dense anti-aircraft defenses  and advanced “fifth generation” fighters like the new Chinese J-20 just to get through. Instead of worrying mainly about the guerrillas ambushing their troops right now, ground commanders may be more concerned about an enemy “operational reserve” that their own artillery and rockets cannot reach.

“If I’m a ground combatant commander…I can handle the fight in front of me,” said Welsh, praising the Army and Marine Corps’s combat power. What only the Air Force can do is win the theater-level battle in the air and then go long after those distant but critical targets.

That’s why the Air Force is looking hard at retiring single-mission close support planes like the A-10 and the MC-12 and prioritizing programs it considers essential to the high-end fight. With production of the infamous F-22 cut off well short of the Air Force’s desired numbers, Welsh said, the Air Force needs a lot of F-35s just to have enough advanced aircraft for the air-to-air fight, let alone to hit a lot of targets in high-threat airspace, which was originally the F-35’s main mission. It needs a new long-range stealth bomber to hit far distant targets (tactical fighters like the F-22 and F-35 are painfully short-ranged). And it needs the KC-46 tanker to keep the other planes refueled during long missions.

In short, the Air Force is reorienting itself from close support to the immediate ground fight to the broader picture of an entire theater of war. What the Army fears is that, as so often in the past, the Air Force will make helping out the groundpounders an afterthought. The dilemma is how to handle the theater-level forest without losing sight of the tactical trees – and to do both on ever-tight budgets.

Comments

  • Gothamite

    In Vietnam, A-1s used to support search & rescue. When they retired the Skyraider they had A-7 Corsair IIs doing the job. Not only could they obviously not fly slow enough and thus required them to do constant circles around the rescue force just to stay near them but they also had to tank many times because they didn’t have much in the way of loiter time. The A-10 might be a jet but it can loiter and loiter and loiter. Its weapon system might not be fancy but it operates on the KISS principle. Sure an F-16 or an F-15E and maybe even one day an F-35 can do CAS just fine and they can do CSAR just fine but the A-10 can do it better… Since its inception, the A-10 has always sparked animosity. Fighters are nice and flashy but sometimes you don’t need nice and flashy, you need an A-10.

  • JPR

    Gen. Welsh’s statements show why the Army and Marine Corps never want to give up their air wings. CAS and CSAR are not the Air Force’s high priority but they are indespensable to the boots on the ground. What is sad about this draw down and budget cutting is that it isn’t being done with a consolidated strategy in mind. Each service by necessity, is choosing what it keeps and what it leaves independent of a grand vision for the whole of the DoD. Choose the strategy, allow the DoD to determine the price of the force needed to meet that strategy and if it is too much, pick a different strategy.

    • Brandyjack

      Unfortunately, all to often the overall DoD strategy seems to copy or reflect Air Force strategy, the F-35 being an example.

  • ghostwhowalks

    The A10 has a rewinging program done by Boeing underway. The cockpit has been upgraded in the A10C model.
    This would allow the plane to stay around till the 2030-240 period.

    Dont believe them when they say it ‘has to retire soon’

  • Uniform223

    As a former ground pounder there is nothing I’d rather see or hear up above then an A-10. The A-10 is currently the ONLY aircraft suitable for CAS missions. No other fixed wing aircraft can provide support as well or better then the A-10, respectively the AC-130 can but that is a different discussion. Unless they open up a factory and produce new A-10s, it will have to be eventually replaced. Not to have any plans or desires for a suitable replacement is stupid. No amount of flashy high tech super high speed aircraft can seize and control. Boots on the ground are the ones that get it done, and we get it done BETTER if we have good CAS above us.

    • Mike

      Well said…..

    • Brandyjack

      Marines think the same about the AV-8, more or less. Dedicated to giving them the extra power to help the boots do their job. Army should take the orphans in to the Army Air Corps. Ground support aircraft have a longer life then super sonic go carts. As to replacements, the Air Force got the fix in, the F-35. A super sonic aircraft, all the services are suppose to buy into, an Air Force design. Just more Air Force thinking it is the primary military, and everything else is excess waste.

      • Kenneth McGriff

        good idea

  • Stephen Heckler

    Look at what the B-52 or U-2 can do, both aircraft are over 60 yrs old at this point and still have another twenty or thirty years ahead of them before the AF plans too retire them…why because they are the best at what they do, the U-2 is a superb RECCE aircraft and the B-52 is the heavy hitter that can carry everything do so for a long time…so all this talk about the A-10 needing too retire is bullcrap, if the AF wants it too fly they will make the thing fly, and trust me there is no way CAS will happen unless the Angels have the airspace cleared anyways

    • Mike

      Nothing more beautiful than an A-10 or a 52 “close to the dirt” Those two amazing aircraft can penetrate under the radar like nothing else in the AF inventory…. Once the punch out far above is over, these aged bad boys still do a magnificent job… What is the old slogan, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

      Now if the Army could just admit that it made a huge mistake by leaving the 7.62 for that “pee-shooter” 5.56 and retool for something that will work “in the dirt” where it was intended to operate… With millions of AK’s out there at 1/40th of the cost…. Geeez… :(

      Imagine a change of thinking relative to cost/reward/survivability and how different the A-10 and AK would be looked at through clearer eyes………

      • Brandyjack

        They still have the M-14, or updated versions. Funny, the M-14 wasn’t any good, but they kept the M-60. Same rounds and operation, until some brainer at DoD decided there had to be a 5.56 version of the M-60. Typical lack of common sense in DoD, ever since Air Force got the Chairman, JCS. That got us the .22 caliber to replace the .30 caliber battle rifle, and further examples of down sizing for the boots but not for the airmen. Back then we called them McNamara’s whiz kids. I may not hit a target at 5, 6 hundred yards, but a close round will make him think about getting closer. The .22 M-16 ain’t gonna reach that near or with much authority. Do they really think the next Real War is going to be all jungle and urban? As usual, the U.S. military will be unprepared for the situation.

        • Mike

          The preferred weapon for Special Operations in Vietnam was the AK as that round would penetrate the bush or the jungle and drop it’s target and ALWAYS work… Come forward to Afghanistan or Iraq and as you said the 5.56 doesn’t have the reach and even more importantly, it will not go through the wall of a mud hut or the corner, while the 7.62 will… One thing about the old M-1 (or the M-14) it had reach, hitting power and dependability… Didn’t matter how hopped up on opium or anything else, it would knock them down and they would not get back up…. Nice thing about the SAW was that 7.62 did the work where the 5.56 would not… :(

          • Uniform223

            As a former US Army ground pounder I always hear this stuff both on the in the military and by talking bobble heads ( most with no military experience, though not accusing or pointing fingers ) bring this up. Think of it this way. If you’re the poor bastard who has the hump that 240 around plus ammo and all your full battle rattle, life sucks; equally so if you’re the AG. Yes their is no denying the fact that in pure ballistics the 7.62 NATO is superior to the 5.56. Though I’d rather hump around with my m16 or m4 then be the sorry bastard with the 240 and its ammo. Anyone who’s been in the army and marines or a general trigger puller will tell you this. Ounces = pounds and pounds = pain. Despite peoples constant bitching about it there is a lot of people not talking anymore because of the 5.56. Also again from personal experience… my m16 and later M4 worked just fine for me.

          • Mike

            Been there did that…. the M-16 Vietnam vintage was crap and in a prolonged firefight would jam and jam and jam… Ever try hitting a moving target in the jungle with a M-16? You damn near had to clear the foliage away to keep the 5.56 from ricocheting… The 7.62 went through and hit the target with much less ammo used up… There is a trade off relative to pounds “humped” and ammo used…

          • Uniform223

            M16s that were actually commercially acquired were AR15s and given to US military and Special Forces Advisory in Vietnam during Project AGILE and were generally liked. The M16s that were mass issued in 1965 was the result of political and bureaucratic stupidity. None of the advised modifications given by US Army Ordinance and by end users of Project AGILE were implemented. A hotter burning powder that wasn’t fully tested and was susceptible to heat and humidity was used in the round. ( The newer M855A1 EPR has been accused to result in faster degradation of current US Army weapons but so far from end users; ones that I still personally know, favor it over the M855 NATO ). In short the early M16s of Vietnam are NOT the M16s and M4s issued today. From personal experience the only issue I’ve ever had was bad feeding because we were issued old hand-me-down magazines with worn out springs. Newer PMAGs with stronger springs and better feed lips generally took away that issue.
            The argument of rounds carried equaling effective hits is moot. I carry 8 (240 rounds) magazines, that means I am expected to take 48 enemy combatants out of action. That is 5 rounds for every engaged combatant. Though it sounds great in theory and on the PRACTICE range, in actual combat, its stupid. In reality I’ll expend 1 magazine of well placed shots in the enemies general position so my maneuver element can flank and engage more effectively. Accurate shots are always preferred but in reality, that never happens. In reality sustained fire power wins and sustained fire power is the one with the most ammo.
            Now lets think more dynamically. The 5.56 is generally liked for its light recoil. If I am engaging a static target I’d rather engage with my M4 or M16 because those rifles afford me faster and more accurate follow up shots. Faster and more accurate follow up shots are also preferred in close quarters because you’d have to transition to multiple targets even faster. The 5.56 is very much lethal in close quarters but doesn’t have the tendency to over penetrate.
            Then people argue range. I’m not gonna say that a 5.56 is equal to the NATO 7.62. But think more practical. When are you ever really going to engage at 600 or 800 meters? Unless you’re a sniper or the designated marksmen, NEVER. Long range engagements in Afghanistan only happen when they employ plunging fire from an elevated position or ridge line to ridge line with an Heavy MG. At that point the heavier longer range NATO 7.62 is desired. Though most engagements still occur within 100-300 meters, that is still an effective engagement zone for the 5.56. US Army soldiers and Marines have been known to engage effectively out to 500 with the 5.56,

          • Brandyjack

            The AK was preferred on grounds, it was common in the boonies and confused the enemy as to who was shooting. To ground pounder and others, as they said on the Island forty years ago, the M-14 let you reach out and touch someone with authority. Better to scare the attacker at six hundred yards with a close shot, then engage an attacker at two hundred yards. The further away and longer he eats dirt, the more likely you win. Yeah, an M-60 with assault pack and belts is heavy. But, then I had a 90 pound, nurse pack a PRC-9 for an entire patrol at the NCO Academy, her choice. No weapon is too heavy, if it saves your or a buddy’s life.

          • Mike

            That was where I was coming from… Reach, penetration and hitting power….. I’d imagine that both of you put a number of 5.56 through hopped up folks whether in Vietnam , Iraq or Afghanistan and they kept coming… One 7.62, way out there and it knocked them down, scared the others and did the job …

            In the jungle, or through the wall of a mud hut or the corner that you are peering around, the 7.62 went through and did what it was supposed to do while the 5.56 did not, much to the disadvantage of the guy carrying the lighter round…. So carry 200 5.56 or 75 7.62… The math and the heavier round wins….

      • ziggy1988

        The B-52 cannot penetrate under radat, or anywhere for that matter. It cannot fly anywhere except the most friendly and secure airspace. And in future wars, there willl be NO moment when the enemy’s IADS will be completely down and his airspace will suddenly become safe for nonstealthy ac.

    • Araya

      I think the B52 is not really comparable to the A10. Because why the B52 is no more than garbage without any chance in a High intensity War and the USA has already two other platforms for the same mission how are far more capable. So the B1 can carry much more Weapons at much higher speed them the B52 can and the B2 can do the same but also with stealth. So those the Air force really wish to kill a Plane in is arsenal he should kill the B52. To make it clear the B52 is in context of is mission for what it was designed (as delivery vehicle for Nuclear Bombs later Cruise Missile’s) a good airplane but only them you have it in mass (more them 500) the Air Force has just 62 to 72 B52 simply to less to be useful even in is former mission.

      The A10 in compare has no substitute for his mission the B1 and the Legacy fighters like the F15E and F16C can be used in CAS Mission’s but they perform not nearly as good as the A10C and what many people also forget is what a F35 how should someday replace the A10C costs more if ten times as much. In other words you can afford to lose some or even all A10 in combat in compare the loss of just of a few F35 or F22 can be a military and economic disaster. The F35 is too expensive and even them the Air Force buys 1700 of them in too small number to be used for CAS Mission’s in a high intensity conflict.

    • ziggy1988

      The B-52 is useless. It has a HUGE RCS and therefore cannot operate in any but the most benign enviros where the only enemies are insurgents or weak nation states unable to contest control of the air.

      • Kenneth McGriff

        pretty much like our JSTARs, AWACs, Fuelers, and other support craft. B-52 still usefull as a stand off weapans platform, but then again so is the B-1B range is better on the B-52 i think. Mabye they could modify it to be a drone carrier? low observable electronic warfare drones? or instant air cover drones, that could launch missiles that could be networked to the AWACs its SCIFI but still an interesting concept

  • Brandyjack

    Knowing it is hard in the present monetary conditions. But, call it salvaging and saving money. Give the Army the A-10′s for the Army Air Corps. It would extend the Army’s ground support capacity, let the Air Force skip on its support of the Army, and reduce the need for some new rotary aircraft. Army should have copied the Marine Corps, and had a real air wing, dedicated to supporting the ground forces.

    • Mike

      God knows the Army has learned some things from the Marines in the past and a dedicated Army CAS aircraft could be the next…. Now if the Army could figure out how to adapt the Harrier vertical ability to the A-10, would that not be something? Or perhaps the Corps could teach the Army guys how to fly the new “Army” Harrier…. Once the bullets, bombs and fuel are inland that CAS aircraft can march right along with the troops, tanks and helicopters…

      • Brandyjack

        I think the Army, especially the boots, would settle for using a patch of road, even gravel and dirt, for the A-10 to operate out of. The Army Air Corps, Cavalry, etc, seem to have the advanced air operations well in hand, and they can apply the experience to a fixed wing. Marines got arresting and catapult gear for fixed wing aircraft on very short runways. And, for information, the Navy landed and launched a C-130 on an aircraft carrier in the 60′s. The Army-Navy game says it all. The oldest are still the best.

    • cvxxx

      That is a sticking point other than the army being forbidden to have fixed wing aircraft the Airforce is not going to give them(the Army) it’s pilots and ground personnel.

      • Brandyjack

        The old Army-Navy vs Air Force comes around ever since the 50′s. I think LeMay got Chairman JCS as a plum to stop the sibling in fighting. The was a comment during era that the Air Force wanted to control all aviation in the military, including the Naval-Marine Air Wings. It would not be that difficult to change the allowances, as the Army does own and fly fixed wing aircraft. You think the Army would trust the Air Force to properly deploy the Golden Knights? Since the Army invented the Air Force, and the Army Air Corps is good at its mission, let the Air Force keep its civilian contractors.

        • ziggy1988

          LeMay was never chairman of the JCS. He was CSAF from 61 to 65.

    • ziggy1988

      But the Army does have such ac, namely, Apache helos.

      • Brandyjack

        See below about opinion on Apache helos. Then, remember the years spent on the Comanche, the designated replacement for the Apache. It was like the F-35, a waste of money and expertise. The Army finally declared it junk, and throw the program out. The A-10 would give the ground pounders a CAS a/c capable of loitering for long periods, with a significant ordnance load.
        Just to up grade; the Super Cobra is the Marine response to the Apache. Yes, a Cobra up grade that does anything the Apache does, and such fun as shoot and scoot. It will be replaced by the Viper, call it the King Cobra. Same basic, dependable airframe with improvements, including dual engines.

        • Kenneth McGriff

          stealth fighter bomber is not as wasteful as a stealth helicopter

  • ROYSTOLL2

    I would keep the A-10 Warthog as it is a fine almost bullet-proof aircraft. It is ugly and unglamorous but it does the job. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Araya

    Of course “Strategy, Not Just Sequester“exactly as the decision to cut the F22 Program how was also called “Strategic driven”. The A10 was designed to be used in World War 3 against invading hordes of Tanks of the Red Army with other words it was designed for a high intensity environment. It is true what the Technology has evolved since then but not so much what the A10 had become an obsolete platform because why them the A10 should be obsolete because of enemy air defense you can also cut the entire helicopter Fleet from AH64 to the UH60 transport Helicopters because why they are all much more vulnerable them the A10. The concept of the A10 was to build a cheap, robust plane with incomparable fire power against ground targets especially against armored vehicles and Tanks. Later the A10 prove is strength in all US Wars since the second Golf War how the A10 destroyed more tanks and enemy vehicles them the rest of the Air force and Navy together and all this despite of the existence of enemy Air defense. After 9/11 the A10 become an irreplaceable CAS platform how saved some US Soldiers lives one the Ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.The actual A-10C was also recently improved with new Wings and the last Weapons and Data link standard so the A10C can now also use JDAM and WCMD and communicated with Link 16 (something what the F22 didn’t can).

    So to kill the A10 is not more them another stupid short-sighted decision only driven by the budgetary environment exactly like the decision to kill the F22 how is now just 3 Years later so needed because of the growing 5 generation treat from Chinese J20 and Russian PAK FA. So I hope what the congress will stop any attempt to cut the A10 Fleet without a replace and I didn’t see any replace for the A10 in the next 20 Years. It is also true what the A10 will reach their end of life sometime around 2025 to 2030 but what is a long time in what the threat situation will change like the budget environment.

    • ziggy1988

      Amen, brother. Ostensibly on strategic grounds, the Raptor was killed SOLELY for political reasons – namely, bc the disarmament lobby opposed this magnificent ac from the start.

      But it is the ONLY fighter that can defeat the PAKFA and the J-20. When these ac enter service, they will render every fighter on the planet, except the Raptor, obsolete, useless, impotent, and irrelevant.

      • Gary Church

        And new SAM technology makes manned aircraft meaningless. The missile and drone have finally come of age. Anything in the air that is lugging a human being around now has to bear all these labels of obsolete, useless, impotent, and irrelevant. It is the 21st century, not 1980 with Reagan signing us into endless debt.

        • Araya

          “And new SAM technology makes manned aircraft meaningless. The missile and drone have finally come of age.”

          Sorry but you are wrong Gary Church because why manned
          or unmanned it makes at last no difference because why both face the same problem them whey speak about SAMs. But unnamed airframes are also vulnerable against a lot of other High End threats and them they speak about High End SAMs they also must consider what an enemy how has SAMs like S400, S500, HQ9, HQ19 or comparable system has also sophisticated ECM systems and ASAT weapons like Red China with their DF21 ASAT Missile how can and proved what he can shut down your Communication Satellite’s. Because of this Unmanned Aircraft have no future one the High End battlefield because why they are easy to jam, easy to kill and also costly for example the Air force seeks to scrap there Global hawk fleet in order to save money . In compare the only way to kill a manned aircraft like the F35 or the F22 is to shut it down or to destroy at one the ground in compare to that you just need to destroy 3 to 6 Communications Satellites and your entire unmanned Air fleet is eliminated. And even stone Age Nord Korea has limited jamming skills so for example they was able to jam locally the GPS signal during a US-South Korean Exercises so you can be sure what Red China or Russian can do much more one this domain.

          Unmanned Aircraft have some advantage in Asymmetric Wars like Afghanistan or Iraq how the enemy didn’t have any ECM, Radar or even primitive Air Defense Systems. But against real enemies your unmade aircraft are just easy targets. And even the cost argument no longer works for the unmanned Fan-Boys because why drones had proven what they are not only less capable but also much more expensive as there manned brothers. Best example is the Global Hawk how should replace the 50 Years old U2 and fail do to it, one all areas from performance over maintenance to the operational cost. The MQ9 Reaper is also not a good example for the unmanned fan boys because why the Reaper is even inferior to a WW2 Mustang in direct comparison but cost as much as a F18 if you take into account the cost for the Control Station and them you also include the cost for the Communication Satellite you easy surpass the F22 Raptor.

          You will see what the Unamend Hype how is already in decline will completely disappear them the last US Soldier has lived Afghanistan and the USA will have to deal with Red China and the neo-imperial Russia. Today I didn’t see any replacement program for the existing unmanned airframes of the Air force so the Top Priorities of the Air force for the next 20 to 30 Years are first the KC-46, second the F35 and third the LRS and them some money is left it will be used to replace the search and rescue helicopter fleet. With other Words no replacement for the useless MQ1, MQ9 but continuing attempts to windrow the RQ4 from service, the EU has also canceled is unmanned Program. And so just a few demonstrator airframes like the X47C remains but without a planned fallow Program. Unmanned Aircrafts are at last just another Hype of the Daydreams like the FCS Program form the late Nineties and the fallowing War on Terror Mania.

      • Araya

        We share the same views but I would not go so far to claim what the F22 is the only fighter how can defeat the Russian PAK FA. Sure the F22 was designed to do it and it had done is job so good that they had toasted any PAK FA armed force even then the enemy had unnumbered the F22 by 1 to 3. And sure the F35 didn’t have in compare to the F22 the skills to beat the PAK FA easy. But despite off all the F35 hava a realistic chance to win against the PAK FA.So for example the F35 is 10 to 15 times less stealthy as the F22 is but in compare to an EF2000 or a F18 E/F Block 3 she still around 400 times stealthier. The PAK FA should also be much stealthier them any 4, 5 Generation Fighter including Boings faked stealth legacy fighters like the F18 E/F Block 3 or the F15SE but it is highly unlikely what the PAK FA will have even comparable stealthy to the F35. Simply because why the Russian didn’t have any experience with stealth technology and they also dramatically lack of know how especially in domains like computer and communication technology, Radar Technology like as modern production technology so for example the Russian seek to buy European Weapons in order to copy the production know how, best example for it is the Mistral deal with France. As consequence the PAK FA will be likely more a F15SE those a F35 so the PAK FA is in the moment my smaller concern.

        My real worry is the Chinese J20 not only why he looks much stealthier and more advanced them the PAK FA does but also why the J20 was designed to act primary as a stealth medium bomber in order to attack US Carriers, Ships, Air Bases and the Armed forces of other allied countries like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea them as a Fighter to face the F22 or the F35. And to counter the J20 you will need an Air Superiority Fighter with an extreme powerful Radar System and high speed for intercept. And only the F22 meets this requirement’s so the J20 is the real threat not the PAK FA. My hope is what them the Chinese Threat continues to grow and it will and the Obama Administration with all is radical pacifists a new Administration will decide to restart the F22 production line in order to deter the Chinese communist’s. This slim Hope remains because why the Air force has preserved the production utilities for the F22 so it should be possible to restart the line.

  • Gary Church

    What no one will talk about in these discussions is the fact that CAS is a luxury in the 21st century. The reason human piloted aircraft still make strafing runs is simply an international arms trade that has coincidentally kept MANPADS out of the hands of the insurgents. I remember reading the specs on the British Starstreak many years ago and wondering how anything can fly over a battlefield and survive anymore. That is an OLD missile- guidance and miniaturization have come a ways since then.

    The high and fast sanctuary is the only place human pilots have any business in their multi-hundred million dollar go carts. Perhaps their role will be to control drones by unjammable line of sight or perhaps the will all get shot down on the first day of some future war when the other side are not just illiterate mountain tribesmen with Kalashnikovs and RPG’s.

    • Araya

      MANPADS are a real Problem for helicopter but not for the A10C so the A10
      has already operated in MANPAD contaminated airspace with great success in the second Golf War. The A10C was designed to be used against the red Army in the Fulda Gap against massive Air Defense so the MANPADs are the least problem one the battlefield. The only Short range Air Defense Weapons how really threaten the A10in there existence are system like TOR M2 and Pansir S25 how are highly mobile and Radar operated against such system no CAS platform has a real chance to succeed. But TOR M2 and Pansir S25 are expensive and complex Systems in compare to MANPADs how can be suppressed or even destroyed by SEAD Forces. The A10 is also cheap airplane how you can afford to lose it in compare to a F35 or a F22 how is simply too costly to be used for CAS.

      And Drones are also overhyped because why all actual Drones are much more vulnerable them a World War II P51 and future Drones even them they are comparable to the stealthy X47C will remain extremely vulnerable against Cyber Attacks, Jammers or enemy ASAT. The biggest problem of any unmanned platform is at last the communication link with the Ground Station so for example the entire control of all your Drones depends one just 5 to 6 Communication Satellites how can already be shut down by the PLA Missile Force and even primitive states like Nord Korea and Iran should be able to Jam the Communication Signal locally. Unmanned platforms have probably already see their operative limits so the Air Force for example tries to scrap the RQ4 Block 30 Fleet and the NATO has already scarp is Euro Hawk Program because why to costly to vulnerable and too bad even compared to the 50 Years old U2. With other Words unmanned Platform’s lose their benefits them you take a closer look so they are not cheaper them an A10C and also inferior and much more vulnerable than any manned Platform.

      • Gary Church

        “The biggest problem of any unmanned platform is at last the communication link with the Ground Station-”

        Good points all and it might be supersonic fighters in mongo mode at their ceiling on the edge of the battlefield looking down and controlling drones line of sight instead of satellites. The back seater becomes the drone operator. And laser links are harder to jam I would imagine. So having a horde of cheap drones to drop bombs while the backseater drone operator is at 50,000 feet on the horizon going 800 knots is what we should be going to right now; not sending pilots in to die.

        As for MANPADS not being able to shoot down an A-10………I think you are overestimating the survivability of the airframe. An airplane is not a tank even if you call it one. Basic physics.

        • Araya

          Hi Gary Church,

          “”Good points all and it might be supersonic fighters in mongo mode at
          their ceiling on the edge of the battlefield looking down and
          controlling drones line of sight instead of satellites. The back seater
          becomes the drone operator. And laser links are harder to jam I would
          imagine. So having a horde of cheap drones to drop bombs while the
          backseater drone operator is at 50,000 feet on the horizon going 800
          knots is what we should be going to right now; not sending pilots in to
          die.””

          Your concept looks interesting but I didn’t see this concept in any concept how was published by the Air Force or the Navy. All actual unmanned Airframes are controlled by few Communication Satellite from far distance but even them your concept become reality I see a lot of Problems for example unmanned Airframes are not cheap even the MQ9 how has inferior flight parameters even to World War 2 Fighters (with means no chances against primitive MAMPADs like the SA7) are not cheap, they cost so much as a A10 them not more. And how better the UCAV is how more expensive it becomes so a stealthy jet powered UCAW like the X47C or the Avenger cost much more them a war proved A10C. And this is not the only problem what you have to deal with so for example you Control Signal can be continue jammed by the enemy and your flying manned control Platform is in the same time also highly vulnerable against long range Air Defense weapons like S300PMU2, S400, HQ9 and other comparable Air Defense systems how there developed to shut down high flying aircraft one Ranges higher them 200 Kilometer. And what means Laser communication so this form of Data transfer is also extremely vulnerable against Weather influences and also extremely easy to discover by the enemy in IR Spectrum. With other Words you risk not just the loss some not cheap unmanned airframes but also the loss of the control aircraft and is crew. In the most cases it is better to keep is simple because why how more complex your tactic is how higher the probability of failure. And what means the Viability of the A10 so I didn’t see the A10 as a flaying Tank but I rely on the debility of the MAMPAD Operator how simply didn’t have the time to react one an A10 air-raid because why he has just seconds before the A10 has strike and came out of the no escape area of is MAMPAD. You didn’t circle around the battlefield them you fight against a well-armed enemy like the PLA or the Russian Army you just strike quick (drop your JDAMs and fire your Missiles and possible also your 30mm Canon) and fly out of the combat zone before the enemy infantry can react.This was the original attack strategy of the A10 how was designed to be used in the first hours of World War 3 as a Soviet Tank killer and even in the late seventies the Soviet there well equipped with MAMPADs and other short range air defense weapons of all kinds. And 1991 in the Second Golf War the A10 has faced an enemy how was armed with hundreds them not thousands of MAMPADs like the SA-7 Grail or the SA-16 Gimlet and despite of this the A10 destroyed over 1000 Tanks, 2000 other armored vehicles and more them 1000 Artillery Cannons by just 5 own losses.

          So I simply didn’t see any reasons why the operational concept of the A10 how had worked so well during desert storm should not work today against an enemy how has not much better defense systems them the Iraqis 1991 them you ignore the few high end systems like TOR M2 or Pansir 2 how are a treat for any other airframe how fly’s below 10-15,000 feet and not just for the A10C. Just to make it clear I didn’t claim what the A10 is a perfect airframe but it is next to the SU25 the best existent operational CAS and anti-ground platform. To cut the A10 means to give effectively up the entire CAS Mission what I consider as an epic mistake comparable to the stupid and short minded decision to close the F22 production line just as Red China and the neo-imperial Russian just started to field their own 5 generation fighters. It is simply a budget driven decision how will save just a ridiculous sum of money.

  • ELP

    It appears the Captain America mask cut off blood-flow to his brain, thus causing permanent damage. Looking at the basic history, he is wrong. There is no proof of other aircraft besides the A-10 (and the Army’s AH-64) doing close air support within, let us say 10 meters (YouTube search: Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) interview on the merits of the A-10 “Warthog”)

    • Brandyjack

      Strange, you couldn’t get the Marines near an AH-64. They prefer the King Cobra, and may be getting an update version, eventually. Note!! The only service that thinks outside of its box is the Navy. Then again, the Marine Corps has been a part of the Navy for so long. So, the Navy thinks ships and aircraft capable of long duration flights over open water, and let the Marines come to the table with concerns about close air support, amphibious assault, and infantry matters.

      • Kenneth McGriff

        and what do Marines have against the AH-64?

  • ELP

    Unlikely the F-35 is going to win any fights against emerging threats. In the West we have two reference threats. The F-22 as the PAK-FA and the Typhoon as the Su-35. It is unlikely the F-35 will survive against an F-22 or Typhoon. And that is giving the F-35 credit for working mission systems which it has yet to prove..12 years after contract award.

  • jg

    Disappointing perspective from CSAF in this case. Seems a bit of an absolutist mentality to wipe out the element of the Air Force that contributes to the majority of the fight. Do we really expect large scale force on force conflicts like this in the future? Or is that the easy way out general officers have taken to keep feeding the military industrial complex? Very frustrating because the state of warfare has evolved, yet our capabilities and their development stay on a misguided path.

  • cvxxx

    The F-22 has a much longer range than the F-35. The doctrine of the air combat is questionable as it is designed to be BVR missiles. Not dog fighting which the F-35 is not very good at.

  • ziggy1988

    The Raptor is “infamous” only in the sick minds of he virulent anti-defense hacks who seek to gut the US military, opposed this excellebt fighter from the beginning, and ultimately succeded with their garbage propaganda production in killing its priduction way prematurely. As for the F-35 flying pig, that ac is NOT, and never was, intended, designed, or able to penetrate protected airspace. It was intended to pound on enemy tanks AFTER enemy IADS had been already taken down by the truly stealthy, much more capable, and now also much cheaper Raptor.

    • Gary Church

      I think it cost too damn much and I am not a “virulent anti-defense hack.”

      • Kenneth McGriff

        if the F-22 is to expensive then find ways to cut its costs. the price tag has as much to do with the defense industry as with the actull costs of the aircraft. F-22 while it introduces many new things is still in many ways an F-15 Eagle. Eagles did not cost so much when we were buying them in the 70′s and 80′s and 90′s. instead of demanding the gold plated f-22 could we settle on the silver platted version?

  • wrpickard

    When (not if) we get in a serious shoot out with the Chinese, something that can accurately shoot tanks and disrupt transport convoys and take multiple hits and still keep flying – like an A-10, will be missed.

    • newstradomus

      When are the Chinese going to be rolling over our borders in tanks? Or maybe we invade China? Gimme a break, nothing there except more Chinese. You’re talking about a war that will never happen.

    • Kenneth McGriff

      if we fight China i don’t want to be in the Air or on the Ground. only way to deal with China would be under the sea… for a country whos economy is built on export and importing raw material 25 Nuclear powered Attacks subs would be a terrifying notion.

  • Pavel

    These stalwart platforms would be a welcome & cost efficient addition to our border states’ national guard.

  • Kenneth McGriff

    short term just moth ball them till we are better off financially and then put the rest in Air National Guard squadrons. Air-superiority must come before close support

  • Kenneth McGriff

    sorry guys but the A-10 is not survivable in a world war 3 situation, what we need then would be a replacement for the EF-111 Raven, a good Radar Jammer, give an open door for the bombers. fact is you can jam a missile or a radar but you can’t jam AA fire. A-10s is tough but they can’t withstand 20mm mini-gun fire, nor hits from 40mm bofors. i think even a .50 cal can cut through that engine Armour. could be wrong about that tho. simple fact is flying low and slow gives the enemy lots of time to riddle you with everything from small arms to auto cannon to air bursting artillery. so i would not want to be driving an A-10 in world war 3.

  • Calvinius

    So the black hole boondoggle of the F-35 is the top priority, followed by the political cronyism that is the KC-46 (selected over a Airbus design that was superior in every way, but the process was rigged to ensure an American design would win).

    • BLBeamer

      My brother was an Air Force KC-135 command (look up the phrase “Air Force Command Pilot” on Wikipedia) tanker pilot for 20 plus years. He has been following the design and contract bidding process. His opinion is that the Boeing KC-46A replacement tanker is a superior design over the EADS aircraft. I’ll take his experienced and knowledgeable opinion over yours on any given day!

      • Calvinius

        So even though the KC-46 carries less fuel and has shorter range than the EADS design, it’s still superior?

        • BLBeamer

          There are a multitude of factors that makes a plane a superior design. Range and air refueling capacity are only 2 of the many proposal criteria that the Air Force requested and considered. The winning design had to meet a whole laundry list of components that the Air Force identified as needed and desired to accomplish the demands of the new tanker mission. I’m quite sure neither you or I have the expert knowledge to make those determinations.

          • Calvinius

            Yes, that’s because after the EADS design won the contract, Congress threw a hissy fit over a foreign company winning and had the Air Force rewrite the requirements so that the new competition would be rigged in Boeing’s favor.

          • BLBeamer

            It wasn’t a matter of Congress throwing a hissy fit over a foreign company winning or a rigged process that caused the Air Force to rewrite it’s requirements. The Air Force took a second look at its approach to its future aerial refueling needs. After some military budget cuts, the old requirements couldn’t accomplish projected wartime missions due to basing constraints, among many other considerations.

            It’s a complicated and very prolonged process that went into the bids – much too long to go into here. Boeing could convert an existing plane design (the 767) and turn it into a tanker at a $40 million lower cost per plane, than EADS could. Multiplied by the 179 planes that were contracted for, that is a significant difference in price.

            Some of the criteria that was initially put out by the Air Force was reconfigured to include the cost of ownership, fuel expenditures, construction outlays and the relative efficiency that each tanker could accomplish its refueling missions.

            You were correct in stating that the KC-46 carries less fuel and has a shorter range, but the Boeing plane costs less to manufacture and fly, it has a higher rate of fuel efficiency than the 28% heavier EADS design and the Boeing plane is cheaper to maintain for its projected 40 year lifespan. Bottom line, Boeing fulfilled the 372 performance requirements at a lower price and consequently was awarded the Air Force KC-46 contract.

            You and I obviously disagree on this and I guess that neither of us will budge on our points of view. It was an interesting discussion though.