A-10 from below

In this article, one of the Air Force’s own, longtime Breaking Defense contributor Lt. Col. Dan Ward, runs the numbers on his service’s plan to scrap the beloved A-10 Warthog and – now that Congress has thoroughly rejected the idea – suggests an alternative: a modest trim to the massive F-35 program might just save the entire A-10 fleet. – the editors.

In February 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel briefed that retiring the A-10 fleet would save $3.5 billion over five years. That equals a savings of $700 million per year, not exactly chump change. A few months later, in April, the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, actually bumped the estimate up by exactly $700 million, to $4.2 billion. This means either the A-10’s annual operating expenses went up by 20% to $840 million per year, or the new savings is calculated over six years instead of five. Either way, the intended message was unambiguous: Air Force leadership did some math and made a logical decision. Retiring the A-10 fleet will save a lot of money, and these days saving money is a necessity, not an option.

But in June, the House of Representatives voted to prevent the Air Force from retiring the Warthog, leading Air Force Secretary Deborah James to ask where they want to find the money instead.

It’s a great question and one worth answering. Are there other, perhaps better ways to come up with $4.2 billion in savings? Where else could the Air Force look? One alternative is the Joint Strike Fighter, often described as the most expensive weapons system in history. Let’s do a little math here – but don’t worry, I’ll keep it as painless as possible.

Aerial refueling of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Suppose one were to trim $4.2 billion from the JSF program. What sort of impact would that have? According to the Government Accountability Office, acquisition funding for the Joint Strike Fighter averages “$12.6 billion annually through 2037,” and “total U.S. investment is nearing $400 billion to develop and procure 2,457 aircraft through 2037.” It turns out $4.2 billion is approximately one percent of the total $400 billion JSF investment, which seems like a tolerable reduction.

Since we need the savings fairly soon, we can’t actually spread them evenly over the entire life of the F-35 program. If we want to save the same $4.2 billion over the next five years, to match the foregone A-10 savings, then, in terms of annual spending, reducing JSF’s annual $12.6 billion by $840 million is close to 6% per year, That is obviously more painful than a single percentage cut but hardly unheard of and unlikely to be a program killer. (It may be interesting to note that according to the Brewer’s Association, the US spends approximately $96 billion each year on beer.)

Of course, the issue at hand is national defense, not just budgeting, so we need to consider the security loss as well as the financial benefit: How many fewer F-35s would we end up with if we reduced spending by $4.2 billion? This is a harder question to answer than it may seem, partly because the JSF comes in three variants, each of which has its own price tag, and partly because it is so difficult to nail down a precise cost for any of the models.

The Pentagon’s official target was to reduce “flyaway” cost – which does not count research, development, or some important components – to a mere $83.4 to $108.1 million , depending on the variant. According to the more comprehensive figure in the latest Selected Acquisition Reports, the “program acquisition unit cost” of the average F-35 – counting R&D and the engine – is $134.5 million. However, in a piece for Time magazine, JSF arch-critic Winslow Wheeler calculated the true cost for the cheapest model, the Air Force F-35A, as closer to $188.5 million each, while the B and C models will set the military back approximately $277.9 million apiece, on average. A subsequent update by Wheeler calculated a price tag of $337 million for the Navy’s F-35C. It’s not clear that any of these numbers are absolutely correct, but together they can help us scope out the options.

Using the smallest of these price tags, the $83.4 million, then, in order to save a total of $4.2 billion, the Pentagon would have to forego fifty aircraft, which is approximately two percent of the total fleet. That seems like a tolerable margin. Using Wheeler’s figures of $188.5 million per aircraft, we could save the same amount by purchasing just 22.3 fewer JSF’s. This is less than a one percent reduction in the fleet. If you just cut the carrier version – which the Navy is ambivalent about anyway – the larger $277.9 million price for an F-35C translates to just 15 fewer fighters, roughly half a percent of the fleet. Or, we could use the average estimated cost of $200 million apiece, which means a decrease of 21 jets, still considerably less than one percent. Finally, at $337 million per air craft means we could save $4.2 billion by foregoing 12.4 Navy aircraft. The table below summarizes the specific calculations.


Price per JSF Aircraft ($M) # Aircraft for $4.2B Percentage of Total JSF Fleet
$  83.40 50.4 2.05%
$188.50 22.3 0.91%
$200.00 21.0 0.85%
$277.90 15.1 0.62%
$337.00 12.4 0.5%


As a point of comparison, there are 326 aircraft in the A-10 fleet, and the Air Force would have to get rid of all of them to save $4.2 billion. One might be forgiven for asking which alternative leads to a better security posture: getting rid of hundreds of A-10s now or forgoing tens of F-35s in the future?

To be sure, there is more math to be done and more factors to include. Decisions about which aircraft to keep and which to get rid of are not purely military in nature. They are also economic, political, and geo-political. But since the primary justification for scrapping the A-10 was to save $4.2 billion, and since we are looking for other ways to save an equivalent amount, it is worth considering the other options on the table. The good news is that these alternatives not only exist, they also could take a smaller bite out of the overall defense structure.

Dan Ward is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force, currently stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base. He is the author of FIRE: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation, published by HarperBusiness. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense.


  • TronsAway

    So the Air Force would be willing to save the A-10 by sacrificing a mere 1-2 squadrons of Navy F-35Cs. Sounds like a great deal – for the Air Force.

    If the Department of the Navy is going to cut $4.2 billion from the NAVAIR budget, it will not go to maintain a Department of the Air Force A-10 program of record. There are plenty of things within NAVAIR (UCLASS, extending Super Hornet Production line, LRASM) or DoN (Ohio replacement, AEGIS upgrades, amphibious shipping, etc.) that need funding.

    I guess, doing the math, that’ll be 50.4 F-35As, please.

  • TerryTee

    Just cut a few “Junk Strike Fighters” for the savings. As it looks like right now, we are going to be needing those A-10’s very soon in the Sandbox, and maybe in the Ukraine if Putin keeps going like he has been. Cutting around 30 JSF’s to save 300+ A-10 is a Real Bargain for all those Ground Pounders whose lives depend on a dedicated CAS platform. The Air Force might not agree ( They love their White Scarfs blowing in the breeze at 20.000 ft. in their new toys) but then again they aren’t on the Ground in Harms way getting shot at either,

    • gwhh

      Right on. Putin guys will drop there vodka ration when they see that big gun coming at them.

      • Jim Brown

        Ignorance is a wonderful thing.

    • MattMusson

      While we are at it – how about a way to drop Joint Strike Munitions from the fleet of C-130’s. Let them deliver death to the desert or whereever we have air supremacy. They can drop a bus-load of munitions on the terrorists heads – farther, faster and cheaper than the strike fighters ever will.

    • Capt. Obvious!

    • Cyrus Trance

      Terry, the A-10 is designed for close air support and would be shot down rather fast in the Ukraine.

      There is no use for CAS when we have no plans for ground forces.

      A-10’s don’t go up in the air until there is air superiority.

  • SMSgt Mac

    Typical Dan Ward. Oversimplifying to the point that he does violence to the phenonemon: “But since the primary justification for scrapping the A-10 was to save $4.2 billion…”?
    No. Try factoring in remaining useful life and military utility, including survivability. The rapidly obsolescing A-10 was the logical choice for cuts.
    He’s got a grasp of ‘cost’. I’ve yet to see anything that indicates he understands ‘value’ in a defense system.
    I wish Ward well in a long and successful civilian career, as long as it has nothing to do with defense.

    • Charles

      The A-10s actually, and pretty recently, all went through a life extension program: they now have new avionics and many new toys to bring them up to current standards – and are available now.

      We could ship them off to the Big Sandbox today, where they could put ISIS on ice for the long run.

      How many F-35’s will we have in two years that are combat capable? probably zero.

      And how many of them will be able to meet even the several times reduced mission profiles?


      • SMSgt Mac

        The A-10’s obsolescence is due to many factors, most important among them is the inability to fly in more and more environments without reasonable expectation of survival. Yes, I am extremely ‘familiar’ with the A-10’s history, strengths, and weaknesses.
        They can be ‘Hogged Up’ till the pigs come home and they’d still be worn out in many ways, and ever more vulnerable as time progresses.
        F-35’s in “two years”? Plan is to have Marine B model IOC at 10-16 aircraft next year. Add to that over the following year an unknown number of B models and 12-40 A models by Dec 2016. And every one of them can spank an A-10, F-16, or F-18 — even at ‘several times reduced mission profiles’ (whatever that means).
        And yes, I am also extremely ‘familiar’ with the F-35 capabilities.

        • SMSgt Mac

          “with reasonable…” Curse you Double Negatives!

          • Mitchell Fuller

            I seriously doubt the Marines will meet that goal, and IOC doesn’t mean combat ready or capable.

            Combat, program can’t even fly platforms across Atlantic to make Farnborough last July.

            The F-35, and especially the B model, is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the military’s program development and acquisition system.

            Still don’t know per unit cost, and the real unknown is maintenance cost and this thing looks to be a hangar queen.

            And remember due to concurrency, every single F-35 produced to this point and into the future will have to go back to LM for fixes.

          • Ben

            Everything you’ve said applies to the F-22 http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/crs/rl31673.pdf (also every plane if we look hard enough) when it was in development, that’s how development works, get the fuck over it. It may be a poster child but every other aircraft in every military has the same issues. The amount of concurrency was a mistake but a very slight one, 6 mil average over 286 LRIP aircraft.

            The F-35 is happening, deal with it.

          • Mitchell Fuller

            Strong language there Ben, and saying I’m wrong while agreeing with me is at the least contorted logic.

            My analysis is sound, and the jury is more and more out on if this platform will ever see production in numbers planned for or needed to replace existing platforms it was designed to replace (and more cost are being sunk into existing platforms to keep them flying because this platform is late and not ready to takeover roles).

            Development, 14 years in development and it can’t even fly to an airshow for sales calls…… much less fly into combat.

            Do you work for LM or are they paying you to police the defense sites with foul language and weak retorts to sound criticisms of platform?

            My concern is our national defense and the ability to project power, this platform currently serves neither and may never, in reality its cost and poor performance (coupled with low F-22 numbers) may leave us very vulnerable in a peer to peer conflict.

          • SMSgt Mac

            About ’14 years’ of development…
            Setting aside that some significant part of this is self-inflicted by Congress/DoD opting for risk avoidance over schedule by CHOOSING to stretch the SDD phase and slowing production. For the record, let’s note it has been 8 years since the F-35’s nominal prototype (AA-1) first flight before focusing on the one real difference between the F-35 and its predecessors and that is going for the full planned capability (Block 3) by start of Full Rate Production. Compare this to the F-16’s timeline. Not to worry, I already have:
            “I’ve noted multiple times around the web, with no credible rebuttal to
            date I might add, that there were 291 F-16 Block 1 and 5 deliveries
            before the first ‘nominally’ useful Block 10 was built. To keep
            perspective, the YF-16’s first flight (official) was Feb 74, and the
            first definitive and fully capable Block 30/32 F-16s for the US first
            flew Feb 87. Counting all partner nation deliveries, approximately 1800
            F-16s were delivered before the fully capable Block 30/32s. Until the
            Block 30/32, all the capabilities of the F-16 were less than what was
            envisioned by the planners (just not the so-called ‘Reformers’). The
            Block 30/32s were the first F-16s with full Beyond Visual
            Range-engagement and night/precision ground/maritime attack
            capabilities. They were the first with full AIM-7/AMRAAM/AGM-65D/HARM
            capabilities. They were also the first with Seek Talk secure voice
            communications. Until Block 30/32, the F-16 was mostly a hot rod for
            knife fighting on blue-sky days. At Block 30/32 and beyond, it was what
            the users wanted in the first place. An ‘all-weather combat aircraft’ to
            the users, or what the so-called ‘reformers’ refer to as ‘ruined’.
            Fielding 1800 F-16s aircraft before you reach a ‘baseline’ in Block
            30/32? Thirteen years after first flight? I’ve said it before and I’ll
            say it again: THAT is ‘concurrent development’. ”

          • SMSgt Mac

            Well, I couldn’t possibly correct Jeff on everything he posted above without a full-blown essay, and I don’t even have tim for that at my place, So thank you for keeping things short and sweet.

            RE: IOC, The Marines say they’re on track, recent reports about past S/W delays indicate those delays aren’t a threat to the IOC. Bogdan himself identifies the mod schedule as the biggest threat to IOC (We’ll get to that in a mo’). But you are wrong as to IOC and combat capability. in the F-35A’s case the ACC defined the specific capability and capacity criteria to declare IOC. This includes: “validation and acceptance of the F-35 Operational Requirements Document (ORD)-compliant Block 3[A] mission system software through the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) process”.
            It will include the “capability to employ the F-35A in Offensive Counter Air and SEAD/DEAD missions in Anti-Access/ Area Denied environments”. In addition, “Air Force pilots and maintainers must be validated as trained and ready to
            conduct operations, with all operations and logistical support elements ready and in place”. In June 2010, based on this criteria, ACC estimated the Air Force would be able to declare the F-35A IOC in 2016. That estimate is still holding. The B model has similar IOC reqt’s.

            RE: Unit Costs. No one ever knows actuals until they are incurred. In the F-35’s case this is further muddled by bad actors trying to make the F-35 look more expensive by mixing cost type comparisons, and relying on inflated (but also decreasing) cost estimates. When you grasp the fungible nature of ‘costs’, then you can proceed to determine the ‘value’ that comes with it. http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2014/01/math-is-hard-analysis-is-harder.html

            RE: Can’t fly across the pond. Not entirely accurate. It could have done so, but a precautionary standdown, grounding, and now gradual lifting of restrictions preented it from happening. Not at all uncommon an event, just unlucky timing. But you knew that didn’t you?

            RE: B model as ‘poster child’. Only to those who never understood/agreed with the Marines about STOVL in the first place. For me to form a more complete response, I would need specifics about what you mean by it.

            RE: ‘looks like a hangar queen’. No. Not at all. http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2012/07/strange-silence-on-gao-f-35-june-2012.html . In fact, it may be quite the opposite.http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2012/08/f-35-banging-out-sorties.html . I’ve seen nothing negative coming out of the maintainers and operators. Now watch DOT&E try to slowly dial back the hysteria.

            RE: ‘Concurrency’. Concurrency is perhaps the biggest scam ever perpetrated by the risk-averse know-nothings. Every US combat plane except one, since at least just before WW2, was developed ‘concurrently’. It was just defined/framed differently. the definition still has two broad meanings in acquisition, with the GAO POV the most idiotic. http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2011/09/congressional-bloviation-on-concurrency.html
            As to every F-35 having to go back to LM for upgrades (not fixes) to the baseline configuration, the costs for that are already accounted for, the earliest jets will need the most work, the later LRIPs perhaps only software and box-swaps. So what? Again this has been true of almost every aircraft. there’s a reason for it, but that would take up an article in itself.

          • Uniform223

            All too often I see individuals with little to no personal experience or honest research call for the F-35s demise and end. These individuals often place their emotional and biased views into an argument or debate. Also and worse is that they will regurgitate someone else’s words and views as well as old articles and try to pass them as fact. Whats worse is they will often ignore and discard any analytical claims or research to the contrary. That said I have grown respect for SgtMac. After reading the Sgt’s blog as well as following the Sgt on other forums, I it seems to me this individual is not speaking out of the 4th point of contact. So don’t try to argue against the Sgt, you’re just going to lose.

            As a former ground pounder of 8 years there are few sounds as beautiful to me as an AH-64, UH-60, or an A-10. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the A-10 and the pilots and crews who operate and maintain them. The A-10 is a great aircraft for its intended design and role, it is a niche aircraft but damn good one at it. Though that said I also see the grim reality of the situation. Having seen and read the threats that are out there now and in the foreseeable future, I do not want the A-10 to fly in those situations. It would seem that the A-10 can only fly against rag tag dirt poor insurgents and militants as well as theaters where absolute air supremacy and dominance has been established before hand. You can upgrade the A-10 all you want but the truth is that those airframes are either giving out or will give out. The USAF doesn’t have any spare parts for the A-10. A cousin of mine in the USAF said sometime they get spare parts from some place down in Arizona… guess what place he is referring to. Unless they build a factory for more A-10s ( I sincerely doubt that ) or there is some kind of classified document floating around in the Pentagon calling for an acceptable design to adequately replace the A-10 in the same capacity ( I also doubt that ), then the A-10 will have to be respectfully and honorably taken out of service.

            I find that people often have an incredibly biased view against the F-35, so biased it is both laughable and at times purely disgusting and the mere ignorance. Terms like “Junk Strike Fighter” do not help their case nor does it impress. Often I will hear a lame comment like “master of none” against the F-35 yet they will laud other aircraft of similar or close capacity and capability. Why like one system that does everything but hate another that does the same thing and provides even more? F-18s are flying off the USS George Washington for strike missions over Iraq and no one is hating on them. The Dassault Rafale can easily be called the French version of the JSF but I do not hear or see a mere quarter of the BS against that aircraft that is used against the F-35. That very same crowd looks to me like a whole heard of ostriches with their heads in the ground. Any report or claim from the JPO or any other organization that reports on progress by the program is either ignored or is poorly refuted by putting up false claims or pointing to old articles as fact against the current. Any type of bad news or sign or delay is often chased after by that crowd like fat kids chasing an ice cream truck. When the F-35A caught on fire and the F-35Bs were unable to go to the UK for concerns of safety ( a decision that I applaud… better to have a working aircraft and live aircrew then an international disaster and fiasco in a mere attempt to show off and make sales ), it seemed the whole anti-JSF crowd rallied around that event with pitch forks and torches calling for the JSF’s end. In a stark contrast when a very similar event involving the Russian PAKFA a month earlier, all I heard were crickets ( so to speak ) about the PAKFA.

            In closing leave your stupidity for to yourself and spare others of your infectious ignorance and bias.

          • AFPilot

            The reason people crap on the F-35 for being an “aircraft of similar or close capacity and capability” to aircraft they laud, it’s because those aircraft are proven commodities and aren’t costing us 80 mil+ to procure.

          • Mitchell Fuller


            1. What is unit cost of a F-35 (model of your choice) with engine rolling of LM production line today? Appreciate you setting those bad actors straight.

            2. Farnborough, it was suppose to be there and wasn’t. So, if it can’t make a sales call how can it be ready for combat? Yes, I know fleet was grounded due to engine fire at takeoff of a plane (BTW this engine is not a developmental model). Good thing this grounding didn’t occur during a peer to peer conflict;
            A. Grounding reinforces argument for at least two engine manufacturers for platform. So whole fleet isn’t grounded by an engine issue.

            B. Also reinforces argument against having one platform for all Air Forces, Air Forces should have a mix of platforms from a mix of manufacturers which is also good strategically

          • Michael Harper

            Fantastic overview for the information and perspective. I’m of the same mind on the issue, but do to have the experience to frame the points. Well done sir!

        • Jeff

          “Plan is to have…”. How many times have we heard that about the F-35? And how many times was any plan regarding the F-35 actually achieved? They’re either more expensive, or late, or the specs are rewritten so they can be met, or the quantity to be ordered is cut, or…
          The biggest growth sector in the entire defense industry over the past decade has been the creation, mass-production, and distribution of excuses for why the JSF is over budget and behind schedule.
          Yes, the A-10 would be vulnerable in certain environments and situations. So would every other aircraft if you sent it to the wrong place in the wrong conditions. That’s why having different aircraft for different missions and situations makes sense — and why having a “jack of all trades, master of none” aircraft like the F-35 does not.
          The main anti-aircraft weapons of ISIL are AAA and an A-10 can withstand that much better than any F-35 ever will. Senior leadership would be very reluctant to risk sending a super-expensive F-35 for that mission and would also fear the devastating results if one were shot down. Not only would it be a huge propaganda coup for ISIL to be able to claim they shot down America’s wonder weapon, it would also have a big effect on sales. Countries who are on the fence about buying them, or about buying as many as they’d originally planned, would back away from it at very high speeds if one were lost that way.
          I bet if you ask any former A-10 pilot now flying the F-35 which aircraft he really, truly in his heart of hearts would want to be flying in northern Iraq right now that would give him the best chance to (a) complete the mission’s objectives and (b) come home safely — and as long as the JSF’s public relations minders didn’t hand him a script full of pro-JSF buzz words — he would prefer the A-10.
          Would they also prefer it for every possible mission? No, of course not. And that’s going to be the problem when the F-35 is pretty much the only available choice.
          Even in the pre-supercarrier days with smaller decks and hangars, the USN operated a mix of types for different roles and the USAF had the “high-low” mix philosophy pairing the F-15 and F-16 initially and then later it was supposed to be the F-22 and JSF. That’s another one to file under “plan is to have…” that isn’t going to happen.
          If the aircraft designation system was still being used properly, the F-35s that have been delivered so far would have a “Y” prototype, which officially means “service test”, but in the JSF’s case, it would mean “still not ready for prime time”.

          • 10579

            I remember the hellcat,went from drawing board to an exceptable aircraft in less than a year.To many thinkers or not enough thinkers Build One then worry about if it can fly and if it flies then build two and maybe add some goodies to #2 and so on. As it stands now the are only producing money for the builders to burn and we still don’t have any real viable aircraft to use or sell.The F-22 is not allowed outside the continental USA should it fall into enemy hands the F-35 cant make it to the end of the assembly line no less fly.

          • SMSgt Mac

            You are 100% spot on about the Hellcat’s rapid fielding and development. By knowledge or chance, you’ve brought up the ONLY major combat aircraft produced in the US since abput 1938 to undergo only minor changes between the first and last units run off the production line. Of course there is a very strong case for calling the Hellcat the ultimate evolution of the Wildcat, as it’s genesis was Grumman asking the fleet what they wanted improved on the Wildcat. There is very little technically ‘new’ and not repackaged from the Wildcat on the Hellcat. (Landing gear being the most obvious.)
            As to the ‘can’t fly’ B.S. there’s over a hundred of them flying in the hands of the services now.

    • Mike

      With all due respect to your long AF carrier, what the ground troops need is a ground attack jet that can get down on the deck and survive ground fire….. We are not talking 30,000 feet, we are talking 200 ft or less… There is NOTHING in the Army or AF that can do real close ground support like the A-10…. Have you ever been assigned on the ground with a Marine or Army Infantry Company when that plane comes calling? Helicopters can’t do that as well, nor can F-16’s or F-18’s…..

    • PCS

      If they can keep the B52 flying for 50 years they can keep the A10 flying for 50 years. Seems like the A10 is just what the doctor ordered for ISIL.

    • Tim Stamey

      You can quote all the crap you want but as a USAF Senior NCO JTAC with COMBAT experience (that you do not have) the A-10 is the best CAS aircraft made. Low and slow with it’s gun, allows it to come in danger close with a larger safety measure than anything we have. Until you have controlled one 200 meters away while taking a hail storm of enemy fire, I will not take you serious on a discussion regarding retaining the A-10!

  • A-10

    There are several choices available in ground attack aircraft – 1) attack copters 2) armed drones 3) turbo-prop single/twin-seaters and 4) single-seater jets like the Su-25. All of them still have a place in modern military aviation. But the very bright-eyed bushy-tailed DoD has a vastly different opinion.

    • silencedogoodreturns

      The US does not have any SU-25s, nor they do they have any turbo prop aircraft

      • JL

        I think he may be referring to allies forces and perhaps the AC-130.

      • wawoo

        The Turcano would be very sutable for both the Army and Marines. There is every reason to shut the Air Force down.
        It has proven to be a money pit that has brought little strategic vision to the defense of the United States.
        And at least cancel the F-35.
        Ultimately if the Airf Force continues the United States will be able to buy one of the new strategic bombers to go with the grounded and too expensive to fly F-35 fleet and the boutique F-22’s.

      • robert

        C130 is a turbo prop

        • silencedogoodreturns

          c-130 is not a “single/twin seat” aircraft.

    • gongdark

      Doesn’t matter whose military we talk about. They all want their “man” toys so they can thump their chest and make monkey sounds.

  • 2IDSGT

    The timing of this piece is rather poor given the way Su-25s are being wasted by the very sort of hybrid opponent we’re most likely to fight in the future.

    When it comes to airspace in which the A-10 remains survivable, there are cheaper options than maintaining a fleet of manned target drones, like RO-RO systems along the lines of Harvest Hawk that can be put away when not needed.

  • Jim Harbinger

    Presumably, however, with every F-35 you cut, the more the price increases – which is one of the main reasons why Lockheed and others are so interested in getting customers in Europe and Asia to buy F-35s? If we want to use the A-10s in Iraq, why don’t we sell them to the Iraqi Air Force? Granted, they wouldn’t be able to maintain them in the long-term, but neither can we apparently.

    • silencedogoodreturns

      I was in an F-35 briefing about 15 years. ago. They were touting a price of about $40 million per aircraft…it was to be cheaper than an F-18. Not that anyone believed industry claims, but still….

      • CharleyA

        And that is the problem – the F-35 cost 2x-3x as much as a F/A-18E/F when both are purchased in multiyear contracts. The Super Hornet is the most capable strike fighter in US service Quite a bargain when compared to the F-22, F-35, or F-15Es.

      • SMSgt Mac

        That’s very good info. Now factor in the fact that the $40M figure in 1999 was before the technology demonstrators had flown much less initial capability requirements were determined for the development and production of the JSF. Then factor in the time value of money and differences in this-year and then-year dollars. That $40M would be $69.5M in 2013.

        Given that the F-35A is headed for $80-85M each by 2019 in estimated 2019 dollars ( http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2014/03/f-35-price-sinks-to-us80-85m-in-fy2019.html ), it seems the program is doing an amazingly good job of controlling actual cost growth, especially since over have the delays so far are due to the US Gov’t (Congress or JSFPO) CHOOSING to stretch development and delay production ramp-up in pursuit of ‘risk reduction’.

        • silencedogoodreturns

          it’s doing a terrible job. The plane was supposed to have built for 40 million and in the field YEARS AGO

          • SMSgt Mac

            So then your beef is with Congress and bean-counters. Thanks for clearing that up.

          • silencedogoodreturns

            the acquisition cycle time is not Congress’ fault. IT’s the Pentagon’s

          • SMSgt Mac

            Specifics? On the JSF program, approximately three years of delays are due to ‘program decisions’. One year of those three due to underestimation by Lockmart as to how long it would take to staff up the program fully to actually execute, Two of those three years was due to the SWAT (weight reduction redesign) effort which was triggered by someone (or ‘someones’) in DoD arbitrarily deciding to standardize the B model weapons bays/structures with the A & C models in irrational over exuberance for ‘commonality’. This occurred sometime between the technology demonstrator program and the JSF contract definition and competition. Reversing that error while the program was underway cost time and money.

            ALL other delays come solely from a series of Congressional actions that stretched the development program via reduced annual funding lines and at the same time slowing the unit acquisition rate and ramp-up using the ‘Concurrency’ bogeyman as the ‘excuse’ they called a ‘reason’. http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2011/09/congressional-bloviation-on-concurrency.html

            Some delays are, no doubt, yet to come. For while slowing the program ramp up on the front end, there is almost no relief on peak production rates on the back end. As a result, the F-35 program under the current plan can be expected to face much greater challenges in accomplishing the steeper production ramp up and learning curves. There is NO question that the usual sniveling finger-pointers will be in the wings, and STILL pointing them in all the wrong directions if that happens.

          • silencedogoodreturns

            you”ve obviously got a dog in the fight, and are not impartial. How does “Two of those three years was due to the SWAT (weight reduction redesign) effort which was triggered by someone (or ‘someones’) in DoD arbitrarily deciding to standardize the B model weapons bays/structures with the A & C models in irrational over exuberance for ‘commonality'” square with your assertion this is Congress’ fault. Congress doesn’t write requirements for military programs.

          • SMSgt Mac

            I clearly identified without obfuscation all the programmatic issues that caused three years, the minority, of delays. It would not surprise me at all however to learn that the B model payload changes that created a need for SWAT originated in appeasing some subcommittee or their staffers on the Hill. The rest of and now the majority of the total delays– and an even greater percentage of any cost increases that have followed (or will probably follow)– have been driven by Congressional action. So feel free to tell your representatives to quit screwing with the program and let it execute.
            For the record, I’m a guided weapons, UAV, and LRS guy at heart. I just cannot abide seeing yet another program attacked for all the wrong reasons by the anti-defense left (POGO et al) with their legions of low-information useful idiots barking in the wings while executing their now tired standard MO of attempting to deal the death of a thousand cuts on the program du jour.
            FYI: I do not now nor have I ever worked for Lockheed Martin. As true
            for most large defense firms, I have been their Customer and they have
            been my Customer. Even if I did work for LM, and whether or not I have a dog
            in the fight is irrelevant to the argumention made. To assert or imply
            otherwise is a fallacious argumentation called circumstantial ad hominem.

          • Pissed-Off Taxpayer

            Still trying to suck your way into a job at Lockheed? Should have got your teeth pulled, maybe they’d return your calls then.

            You are a prime example of the corruption in the USAF.

  • http://Orthoman.com/ DockyWocky

    With Generalissimo al-Obama leading the intelligentsia over at the White House, it is safe to say that every decision he has made has turned out bad for the former US of A. So, just this once, let’s save the A-10 and make the great prevaricator look like the military dunce he has proved to be since his first day in office.

    • PolicyWonk

      Apparently, you’re unaware that Obama’s predecessor: caused (according to our friends and adversaries alike) the worst string of foreign policy disasters in history; and, according to all 16 US National Intelligence Agencies, also caused the worst string of national security disasters; caused the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (bringing down the western world with us), and that after inheriting a $800B annual surplus; left behind a military at its lowest state of readiness since Viet Nam (JCS report to the POTUS, Spring 2009); and (added bonus), according the NIE gave Al Qaida a massive victory in the Global War on Terror.

      Obama has many faults: but all of them combined don’t amount to even a decent fraction of the ill-fated invasion of Iraq – let alone any of the other disasters imposed on this nation during that infamous “Reign of Error”.

      And even the GOP agrees: not even ONE candidate for POTUS in the GOP primaries in 2012 even mentioned GWB’s name, or sought his endorsement.

      To aid you in figuring it all out, here’s a simple comparison: state of the union inherited by George W Bush, versus state of the union inherited by Barak Obama.

      Any questions?

      • http://Orthoman.com/ DockyWocky

        What flavor Kool-Aid do you prefer?

        Apparently, Obama-Aid.

        • PolicyWonk

          How typical of what passes for the conservative of today. Fails to see the facts as they are, according to our allies, our enemies, and all 16 US national intelligence agencies.

          This is why the GOP is down to a mere 25% of the US population, and still dropping.

          Acceptance of reality is the first step on the 12-step road to recovery.

          Take that step, or tell me where I’m wrong and point to the references (as I have).


          • Pissed-Off Taxpayer

            The recent election seems to have been something of a shock to the PolicyWonk.

            Reality often is, to ivory-tower shitheads.

          • PolicyWonk

            I see being divorced from facts works for you. Yes indeed, the GOP won a number of seats in the lowest-ever turnout mid-term election.

            Not having any arguments or references to the contrary, and resorting to junior-highschool name calling is a sign of stupidity.

            Remember that next time you go to your family reunion looking for a date!


  • Taxpayer

    Most threat decisions in the Pentagon are driven by the high tech/high cost mafia, based oh high profits. Most threats are actually low tech. The B-52 is an antique and yet the Air Force has no problem in rationalizing it. Ward is right. Keep the A-10’s because they are exactly wat you use to fight insurgencies, where you go down on the deck. Those gattling guns and rockets are much more effective than one or two precision-guided bombs or missiles from an F-35. But from the money perspective, both Navy and Air Force should use a hi/lo mix of aircraft. F-15/F-16 for USAF. F-18/F-35 for Navy. Plus, no cuts have been made to the 2,440 number for F-35’s to account for the rise of unmanned combat aircraft. Cutting a third would be about right. Problem solved!

  • Fan of Sizzle

    How many new and upgraded A1-H’s could be built for $4.2B? Just asking…

  • bobdc10

    Or we can just raise taxes and start paying for the wars that we keep getting involved in. Wars on the credit card is the problem.

    • roger_erickson

      Wars on the credit card? What the heck does that even mean? We can’t tax back what we haven’t yet spent into existence. Taxes are paid in $US – which aren’t available if our public doesn’t first spend them into existence.

      You might want to read this article carefully, and then think it over.


  • Joseph White

    That’s a lot of cash for a plane that hasn’t flown yet, and is still grounded. I’d rather see the warthogs, a proven platform, fly.

    • SMSgt Mac

      There are more than 100 F-35’s delivered and flying. The grounding was lifted a while ago and restrictions are easing as it looks more and more like the engine fire was an anomaly. Warthogs are more than ‘proven': they’re worn out and obsolete. http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2013/09/debunking-close-air-support-myths-part-7.html

      • Joseph White

        Thank you for the Update. The latest thing I had heard on the f-35’s, from this site, was that they were grounded and i hadn’t seen anything new. However, for what they do, the A-10 is a good plane. It’s a great low level aircraft that can hold a tank killing weapon. In your opinion, what would you replace it with?

  • FedUpWithWelfareStates

    Best news I have heard this morning…

  • Supernova1987

    The saving of 4.2B is only for the next 6 years. If you keep 326 A-10s, you have to continue to operate them after. If you buy about 30 F-35As instead in LRIP, you have 326-30=296 fewer aircraft to operate after, so the saving continues the following years.
    They should slow down the ramp-up of the F-35 and by 2021 when the F-35 is available in significant numbers and has reached block 4 capability with the ability to use a large variety of weapons, the A-10s can be retired. If they cut the whole fleet now they lose too much capability.
    And also the number of F-35As doesn’t have to be that much. The USAF had better increase the number of LRS-Bs to about 150 and cut 100-200 F-35s. And the latest 300 F-16s should be upgraded and SLEPed to stay in service until around 2035 for lower intensity missions, that would save a lot vs buying new F-35As.

    • CharleyA

      That “savings” also included A-10 modernization, which only needs to be done once.

      • Supernova1987

        The A-10 is cheap to operate but I am not sure it would make sense to continue to upgrade more airframes. Maybe they could keep 150 A-10Cs for the long term, and try to use them in synergy with the F-35s in high intensity conflicts. For instance the F-35s can find targets/SAM systems for the A-10s and download the info by datalink. The A-10 can also be used as a bomb truck.
        A full F-35 fleet may not be the best way to go…

    • Pissed-Off Taxpayer

      What a peculiar delusion you suffer from, that you think the operational costs of the F35 will be the same as those of the A10.

      If the F22’s dismal record to date teaches us anything, it is that the F35 will be a terrible hog of operational money. While the A10’s record is clear: it’s cheap to maintain, cheap to fly and cheap to deploy. Plus it actually does its job.

  • 2001CPT35E

    Sounds like a reason to cut the F-35! We already have a fully capable stealth fighter plane that can serve as a JSF… it’s the F-22 Raptor. I think what needs to happen here is that the Air Force either needs to scrap the F-35 Lightning or downsize it to about 20-25 planes. The Navy / Marine Corps should definitely use the vertical take-off variant and replace the Harrier. Of course, in this day in time – do we really need a vertical lift jet aircraft fighter plane? It was a cool concept back in the day, but very unpractical today. Perhaps in the future, we will have technology that will resemble what we see on TV with spacecraft that land and vertically take off and then shoot across the sky or back into space – but for now we simply need what’s practical. The F-35 isn’t practical and in-fact it has become an expensive piece of junk. There’s no way it can outmatch or outperform the F-22. And there’s definitely no way it can do the job of the A-10. I would like to see the F-35 perform it’s worth in a wargame against the F-22, and then later try to perform the role of the A-10. If it passes the test, then OK, but I already know the answer.

    • Ed

      The F-22 raptor line was shut down several years ago. It can not be brought back. Once the F-22 was considered too expensive. Now it seems like it was a great deal. There are only 220 +/- made of those only 10-12 squadrons exist.

  • roger_erickson

    We’ve been on a “fiat” currency system since 1933.

    Tell me. How, exactly, does one “save” fiat? aka, Public Initiative?

    If politicians are going to discuss “money,” they should at least be aware of the operational details. You don’t send soldiers into the field who can’t disassemble/reassemble their weapons in the dark – precisely because they then know what operations are and aren’t possible. Similarly, you don’t let politicians set policy who can’t understand the 1st thing about fiat currency operations. Good lord!

    We set objectives, assign roles, and pay each other with “liquid” chits called our national currency. That allows a growing Policy Space and Agile Policy – things you need for national security and national resiliency.

    The main responsibility is to avoid irrational levels of inflation (nowhere in sight) or deflation (a current reality). Oh .. and set Desired Outcomes worthy of this electorate. That, and don’t allow extreme, class-based wealth disparity. That’s like letting Generals hoard all the weapons .. and expecting a functional army (or economy).

    Of course, to do that, we need an electorate that can select leaders who listen to all, enunciate Desired Outcomes, and NEVER TELL PEOPLE “HOW” TO DRIVE DISTRIBUTED INNOVATION.

    • Mike

      You say a “fiat” system and yet the United States and the average citizen has never done better than 1932-1982. After that we forgot and let the GOP back into running thins and they did the same thing from 1982-2007 as they did from 1920-1929… We are learning…

  • Jffourquet

    If we let the Navy off the F-35 hook we can save more than enough money to keep all A-10’s, completely update and refurbish the F-15 and F-16 fleets, and the Navy can buy newer models F/A-18E/F models. Or better yet just cancel the F-35, buy newer F-15SEs and F/A-18E/Fs and start on the next generation fighter now.

    • proudrat

      The Navy has been trying to acquire a stealthy aircraft for years.

  • Ray

    Cutting 50 JSFs (maybe fewer) for the A-10s is a serious proposal. (Only the marginal cost of that F-35 reducation is recoverable.) Seems to this reader that Col Ward puts the ball squarely back in the Air Force court. There’s nothing sacred about the F-35.

  • Keith Weber

    Get rid of the entire Joint screwball fighter. It is too damn expensive. The US should not be paying for research and development. The companies should be paying for that out of their profits that they make from sales overseas and to the military after the US sets a price for the actual components and time to build the plane. NOTHING else. If the company can’t provide what we want to pay, then we select a different plane or jet! It’s time to stop sugar coating the defense industry.

  • Lord Layton

    I would far rather have (how many updated A-10s per one F-35?) NOW ON HAND to fight now, than even one F-35 that isn’t. Can’t lead a horse by pushing it’s tail, you’ll get kicked in the face every time! The F-35 CANNOT do on paper what a Warthog CAN do now and we NEED them NOW, not just sittin around either!

  • MLG

    How about some heresy?
    Let the Air Force cut the A-10.
    Transfer the A-10s and all CAS to the Army. Maybe transfer some of the A-10s to the Marines.

    • Mike


    • Skidder

      MLG, your transfer to the Army option has been thought up/killed many times in the past. The killer of this idea is that the Army is not organized, trained, and equipped to live on airfields. Helicopters fight wars from open areas in forests, former golf courses, parking lots, etc. If the Army was dragging A-10 along, they’d have to find airfields, and logistically support them. $$$$$

      • JK

        Really? We took 30+ Black hawks to Iraq back in 2010. All those came from airfields in the US and went to very large airfields in Iraq. In fact 2 large bases with the Air Force and one small base with just Army helicopters. Helicopters take a tremendous amount maintenance and parts to fly and a good size pool of maintainers.
        While true Army ground troops often head out and build small FOBs we don’t do that with rotor craft. Humping a T701D in my rucksack seems a bit optimistic concerning Army Strong.
        But lets go with the Army is not organized, trained, and equipped to live on airfields. (Never mind the fact that’s the only life I have known so far in the military)

        We have the Air Guard and National Guard both of whom have mobilized 650,000 troops to Iraq since 2001.
        Send the A10s to the various states and deploy them as needed.
        Each state is sending it’s Reserve/Guard units every 5 years anyways.
        Little known fact. Both of those services have full time and AGR units that fly everyday along with the normal monthly/yearly drills.

        Ditching the A-10 for the F-35 seems completely moronic to me when there are still plenty of avenues for alternate funding and pilot/maintenance pools.

        Do we really need a 188 million plane to blow up buildings, trucks and ground troops? Sure if we fight a more capable adversary well need those cutting edge benefits but cutting a few high tech fighters to keep a whole fleet of mean as hell and cheaper A-10s seems like a good idea to me.

        But why not take the Lamborghini to Costco and leave the SUV at home. Sure it costs more and takes more trips to move the same amount of stuff but when you look that good who cares how much it costs or the fact it burst into flames in the parking lot. When that happens you just call home and have the wife pick you up in the suv.. What’s that dear? We got rid of the SUV for the Lambo? Crap.

    • Jim Harbinger

      If we can’t cut the A-10 and give it to the Army, why don’t we just give them to people who would like them…say, for example, the Iraqi Air Force? Transferring all CAS to the Army has its theoretical merits, I’ll grant you, but then would you have the Army flying F-16s once the A-10s get phased out of service? Rather than seem like a streamlining move it could create a real duplication of effort, given currently available platforms for that sort of thing.

  • gwhh

    Great plan. Let make it happen.

  • gongdark

    Would rather see the whole fleet of A10’s than have the F-35’s. Any shooting war or skirmish can be handled by whatever we have in inventory now in any dogfight with maybe the possible exception of Russia and China. If we get into a shooting war with either one or both of them, then the shit has really hit the fan. Get only 1/3 of the F-35’s and let them get shaken out and when there is more money available, build the F-35A model. Properly equipped/armed, the A-10 still could be lethal against combat jets. The A-10 is an awesome can do weapons system.

  • ycplum

    I would rather have the plane that can actually function in a combat environment. The F-35 maybe the better plane, in time, but until then ….

  • AnOldNavalAv8r

    Funny — Spoken like a parochial Air Force guy. “Take money from the Navy to fund the Air Force”. How about you work to change the AF leadership’s attitudes on the importance of close air support? Not a problem in the USA, USMC or USN.

    • TinkersDam

      What, praytell, do you think the AF leadership’s attitude towards CAS is?

  • doug

    ground troups consider the a-10 the “angel on their shoulder” find a way to keep it going. we spend 346b on illegal alien heath care, which is more important?

  • daniel

    Looks like foreign customers could offset the cuts to keep the price down. We should be hard selling the f35 to India asap.

    • Jim Brown

      lol They want technology and production line in their country. US won’t give them that.

      • daniel

        Oh , like the agreement they now have for the javelin missile with 97% technology transfer? Or the agreement they now have for production of the Patriot missile ?
        You need to stay current on what’s going on. They could easily become a supplier of parts and components with limited technology transfer similar to Japan.

  • FLTransplant

    A large part of the cost of the F-35–and any military aircraft, for that matter–is overhead allocation. The annual overhead is spread across the aircraft built in that year. Cutting the number of aircraft bought/manufactured in that year won’t change the overhead–it still exists, but would be allocated across a fewer number of airframes raising the per airframe cost. Cutting numbers ALWAYS raises the cost of the fewer aircraft bought. There’s even a term–Death Spiral–used for this phonomena. Lt Col Ward needs to include the costs that won’t be saved in his analysis; I’m sure he’s smart and experienced enough to realize this.

    Additionally, cutting the number of aircraft in early years stretches out the program and raises the cost of all out year aircraft, since cost reductions due to coming down the learning curve are delayed. Adding those costs back in–with potentially the need to maintain a factory/supply chain for another year or two and once again paying for that nasty overhead–will further raise the costs of why Lt Col Ward is advocating. Something else I’m sure Lt Col Ward is aware of.

    Not surprisingly, the factors he ignored would make his proposal much, much less palatable. His financial analysis wouldn’t pass muster with the first cost analyst who looked at it.

    • madskills

      How much is a dead soldier if you use a lousy ground support plane versus a A-10.

      • Mike


      • FLTransplant

        Lt Col Ward was making a budget/financial argument–that’s the one I responded to. If you want to change the topic to the effectiveness/capability/survivability etc of different CAS options be my guest–but that wasn’t what Ward’s article was about.

        I’ll note, however, that one of my Academy roomies was an A-10 driver in the early 80s back when we were worried about the big war in Europe. He called his aircraft a “one fer”–in his mind we were going to be trading A-10s for tanks on a one-for-one basis given the organic capability of Soviet air defenses. And ground-to-air defenses, both fixed and mobile/portable, have moved far, far ahead in the intervening three decades while the A-10’s survivability against those defenses has remained essentially unchanged.

        • ycplum

          I do not know if your roomie was right about he Soviet air defense. However, We have not engaged the Soviets since then while the A-10 have been used extensively and successfully. I do not see the US engaging the Russians or Chinese in the near future, but I do see a need for an A-10-type aircraft. While we need to be prepared against potential opponents with strong AD, we have to keep in mind that we are more likely to face opponents with weak AD.
          At this point, I don’t see a cost effective aircraft (or a combination of aircrafts) that is in operation today that covers the operational envelope of the A-10. I think we should have a fully operational replacement before retiring the A-10 fleet. If that means taking few deliveries of non-operational F-35’s, then that is the route I would take.

        • Pissed-Off Taxpayer

          The Air Force remains stuck in its fantasy of WW III against the Soviets in Europe. And to hell with the reality of low-intensity warfare against Islamic guerrillas and terrorists throughout SW Asia and on into Africa that we have been facing since the 1990s and will continue to deal with for decades.

          The Air Force is set on getting its billion-dollar toys, no matter how many dead Soldiers it means, and no matter if the US can afford those toys or not.

          It’s long past time to scrap the 1966 Johnson-McConnell agreement and move the tactical air support mission back to the Army. Then cut the Air Force budget deeply enough that they’ll start putting the interests of the United States ahead of the interests of the USAF fighter mafia.

          • FLTransplant

            Actually, the Air Force remains stuck in an ever-tightening budget vise that squeezes tighter each and every year. It can’t afford to even maintain its current force structure, much less maintain that force structure and buy new platforms. That’s partially why the USF aircraft now average over a quarter-century old, the oldest in it’s 70 year history.

            The A-10 is the perfect dedicated CAS platform for a low threat environment. It’s a worse than useless platform for anything else–short range, limited capability, slow and highly vulnerable to any air defense more sophisticated than a collection of random MANPADs around the DMPI. A great aircraft for SOLIC in SW Asia and Africa, terrible for anything else.

            The problem is what to do with the current fleet and how to modernize. People can disagree about the best way forward–I’ve been against the F-35 for a long, long time, well before the program began its time of troubles a decade ago. But accusing those you disagree with of bad faith and nefarious motives doesn’t help argue your case.

            And I haven’t heard the Army clamor for the CAS mission. What would they give up to fund it if it was transferred to them–all armored formations? Field artillery? Another couple of Divisions?

  • Don Bacon

    Need to find $4.2 billion in savings? Simple: Cut the procurement of 34 faulty failure-prone prototype incapable F-35 planes, which have no purpose, next fiscal year and save $6 billion — a bonus.

    The hundred planes delivered so far are faulty failure-prone prototypes under severe flight restrictions, not approved production models.

    According to the recent SAR (Selected Acquisition Report), pp. 14-16, for the current “F-35″ all of the plane’s Demonstrated Performance characteristics are “TBD” — To Be Determined.

    Also the plane lacks air-worthiness certification, which it cannot obtain prior to the end of development, which is many years off. Meanwhile, fooling around with the estimated price of a plane which won’t complete development for many years is a waste of time.

    • SMSgt Mac

      You’re entitled to your screwball opinions, and Colin is willing to let you post them, but you are not allowed to make ‘stuff’ up. That is called ‘lying’. you’ve been schooled before that F-35 Low Rate Initial PRODUCTION (LRIP) aircraft are aircraft that are to be brought up to baseline Block 3 configuration under the current funding paradigm are by DEFINITION not ‘prototypes’.
      You DO know there is a point in time that the F-35’s ‘Demonstrated Performance characteristics will be documented don’t you? Hint: Its in the near future. Develop better coping skills and don’t try and make a B.S.– as in ‘Big Stinking’–deal out of a non-issue.
      Lacks Airworthiness Certification? Heh. Civilian terminology, and even then it means ‘certified safe to fly’. You’re making ‘stuff’ up again. For military aircraft, if it hasn’t a current Airworthiness ASSESSMENT (by tail number no less) they wouldn’t be flying. Surprise! There’s even a DOD directive on Airworthiness rules: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/503061p.pdf

      • Don Bacon

        You must have forgotten your comment directed at David Axe here on July 14:

        DE-VEL-OP-MENT David!

        Repeat that faster and faster until you recognize the word, and then look up what it means. The F-35 is still integrating changes that have already been identified and until development is complete, further changes may come as well.

        And you were correct in that instance. The F-35 system is currently in de-vel-op-ment and will be for at least five years, since the F-35 Milestone C production decision is scheduled for 2019. That’s five years from now, at the earliest, before a production F-35 will be seen.

        The fact that LM is producing many more prototypes than are needed for testing doesn’t make them production aircraft. That’s not how the system acquisition process is designed and it’s not how it works. It is designed around milestones, and the F-35 program is currently in the Milestone B development phase (as you said).

        Your consistent repeated inconsistent comments ignorant of the system acquisition process, coupled with your whining to Colin, doesn’t make all of them them correct. –only the de-vel-op-ment ones.

        prototype n.
        1. An original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages.
        2. An original, full-scale, and usually working model of a new product or new version of an existing product.
        3. An early, typical example.

        • SMSgt Mac

          Is that it? Fortunately I don’t mind peeling back the layers of your ignorance because you are so earnest in your ignorance, (reminiscent of Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord’s ‘fourth group’ of officers).
          First, the SDD birds are the closest thing to ‘prototypes’ on the program and are the core of the test fleet The LRIP birds are later production articles all of which are planned to be brought up to baseline Block 3 standard. Some LRIP aircraft have been loaned to flight test–just as in about every aircraft program – but that does not mean they are not ‘production’ aircraft with production configurations. .
          The fact that production is concurrent (there’s that word!) with the last stages of development is not new, nor does it make every aircraft before SDD ends a ‘test’ aircraft. There is no recognition anywhere of the Don Bacon Aerospace Dictionary use of ‘prototype’ except inside Don Bacon’s punkin’ head. Aircraft developers and testers use the DoD definition. The DoD definition of “prototype”, as articulated in one of my old DAU Acquisition courses is:
          “A physical or virtual model used to evaluate the technical or manufacturing feasibility or military utility of a particular technology or process, concept, end item, or system.”

          LRIP Birds are the first production articles after the “technical” and “manufacturing feasibility” is established, which proceeded because the “military utility” of the F-35 was established in the minds of the users making the decisions. EVERY aircraft at IOC in the first combat-capable units will require only the final software loads to bring them up to current planned Block 3 capability. That there might be hardware or software changes due to discoveries or additional weapons capabilities on top of the planned changes is a truism even if the planes were at mid or end-of-life. Bottom line, aircraft development and maturation is a continuous process with distinctly defined benchmarks and milestones established/managed ahead of time. YOU don’t get to pick what the benchmarks and milestones ‘mean’.Your feeble argumentation appears to arise from your inability to think of a weapon system in any context other than as a fixed design and at a fixed point in time reveals only your shortcomings and not those of any weapon system you are jack-jawing over at any particular moment,

          That you think I was whining to Colin about you simply by my making the point that just because he lets you post here doesn’t mean your posts are valid hints at other possible personal problems that I (and others probably) don’t really care to know about. Save it for someone who cares, and stop making ‘stuff’ up.

          • Don Bacon

            F-35 Milestone C Apr-Oct 2019 (SAR)

            Milestone C is the point at which a program is reviewed for entrance into the Production and Deployment Phase or for Limited Deployment. Approval depends in part on specific criteria defined at Milestone B and included in the Milestone B ADM.

            The following general criteria will also be applied: –an updated and approved Acquisition Strategy;
            demonstration that the production design is stable and will meet stated and derived requirements based on acceptable performance in developmental test;
            –an operational assessment; mature software capability consistent with the software development schedule; no significant manufacturing risks;

            –a validated Capability Production Document or equivalent requirements document; demonstrated interoperability; demonstrated operational supportability;
            –costs within affordability caps; full funding in the FYDP; and properly phased production ramp up and/or fielding support.

  • madskills

    And these figures don’t talk about the heavy maintenance costs involved with the plane.

    • Don Bacon

      Each F-35 squadron will have a standard operating unit (SOU), a server on which the unit’s data is housed. Each squadron operating ALIS requires at least seven people for system administration and maintenance, says Todd Mellon, director of industrial and logistics maintenance planning and sustainment at the government program office.

      –DOT&E: The current Squadron Operating Unit (SOU) used by ALIS failed to meet the deployability requirement in the ORD due to the size, bulk, and weight of the current SOU design so the program is developing a deployable version of the SOU, deemed SOU V2.

      –So since the Lockheed units failed to meet requirements, the JPO shoveled more money to LM! Corporate welfare at its finest!
      Mar 27, 2014
      Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $52,141,562 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-02-C-3002) to execute phase 3 of the Joint Strike Fighter Autonomics Logistics Information System (ALIS) Standard Operating Unit Version 2 (SOUv2) capability development effort.

      • SMSgt Mac

        Still copy/pasting cherry-picked paragraphs to try and build a ‘narrative’ eh? You forgot to mention the part about when the DOT&E report says ‘current’ SOU DOT&E failed to expand the description to its full meaning as in ‘Current version of the SOU still in development’ or observe that Version 2 is usually referred to as the ‘Expeditionary SOU’. As to why the USG would fund what is basically a super mil-std-meets-COTS repackaging job? It is expected to cost about 60% of Version 1.

        • Don Bacon

          The F-35 was expected to cost $60 million, but a funny thing happened on the way to expectation-land.

  • itellu3times

    A-10 is an antique, may as well “preserve” the P-51. Wish we had the money to reengineer the A-10 with today’s technologies. For that matter can almost make the same case for the P-51!
    I *hope* the F-35 is a learning experience, and the next aircraft project using carbon and computers will go much, much better. The F-35 may turn out a great platform but can *anything* ever be worth these prices?

    • ycplum

      The A-10 is an antique and should be in a museum (proudly, I should add). The Most embarrassing point is that we do not have another aircraft (or aircrafts) to cover the same CAS mission envelope vacated by the A-10 covers on the battlefield – at his time. Most of us feel that something should be in operation to cover the A-10’s mission envelope before it is retired.

  • Douglas Burgan

    Let’s just cut the foreign aid budget by ten percent to free up 40 plus billion!

  • jagv12m

    Total no brainer .The F35 is just a total failure.This would bring back some common sense.Hopefully leadership will think of our country first instead of congress insider deals,

  • daniel

    Would love to see these turned into drones to be operated by USMC.

  • wahoojed

    Retire the A-10. We need the F-35. We no longer need the A-10. It’s money wasted keeping an airplane that has lived past it’s intended use.

  • gkm

    If my memory serves me the serbs shot down an f-117. so much for a plane that can’t be seen on radar. If the serbs can shoot it down than so can the russkies and chicoms. Tanks are becoming obsolete. I would not get into a tank in a real war situation. You might as well shoot all tankers because they will be blown up as soon as a tank enters a modern battlefield. Planes that can’t be seen on radar. what a sad joke.

  • Agent Orange

    What I don’t understand about the F-35 and the rest of our military procurement process is how long it takes to do anything. In 1959 the Lockheed Skunk Works under the direction of Kelly Johnson designed and built the first and only operational Mach 3 aircraft in the world. It had only been 15 years since Yeager broke the sound barrier to boot. From first flight on 26 APR 62, it only took about three years to be declared operational.

    From signing of the contract to first flight was an amazing 32 months. Today it seems that the Air Force can’t change the paint scheme on a C-130 in 32 months.

    The Blackbird program came to a screeching halt not because of cost, but purely politics. Then Chief of Staff Larry Welch had been turned down to fly the SR-71 when he was a major as he wasn’t a good enough pilot to fly the SR. It seems that the same mentality is at work with the Wart Hog. It’s not pretty, its not fast, but it can kick ass like nothing else out there and the USAF has never liked the CAS mission.

    When the A-10 was assigned to McCord AFB, Tacoma, WA the A-10 unit worked very closely with the troops at Fort Lewis in training, they loved the Wart Hog. When the USAF decided to shut down the A-10 squadron at McCord, the Army said it would be delighted to take over the mission, the but the USAF said no.

    So kill the F-35B, as it is unmaintainable in the field, and when was the last time the Marines fielded the AV-8B in a combat environment? I believe it was Afghanistan and the Taliban managed to blow up, how many, as they sat on the ground? I think the number was eight. Do you think the military will allow a $83m or $330m target for some camel jockey to take out an entire flight of F-35Bs with a cheap IED or RPG?

  • Curtis Conway


    A very good look at the A-10 Issue and argument. When the USAF decides to do Combat Air Support with a CAS aircraft, and develops that replacement with the characteristics and capabilities designed into the A-10, only in a more modern and powerful platform, then the argument will come to an end. However, the USAF and industry continue to push supersonic fast jets into the equation which are uniquely unsuited for the job due to speed. Note the video in the article with all the background information concerning design. The A-10 has a plethora of unique design requirements that not other aircraft meets.

  • TDog

    I think this is a brilliant idea! Trade off a few planes that don’t work for a bunch that have proven themselves time and again. The A-10 was built back in the day when (a) contractors were expected to deliver on time and as promised and (b) when the mission focus for a piece of gear was more defined than “everything”.

    The F-35’s main failure in a laundry list of failures is that it has shoehorned itself into every possible mission without figuring out that some jobs tend to be mutually exclusive. It’s a flying submarine with treads – maybe it can do everything, but it will do none of them well.

    The A-10, on the other hand, has proven it is a peerless aircraft when it comes to close air support. Maybe it’s not as glamorous, but save the glamor for Hollywood and give the military items that work and work well.

  • Gary Church

    Ivan the duck hunter has been training to bag A-10’s for decades.
    The invisible army of spooks that kept MANPADS out of insurgents hands is not going to help against Russian Air Defense Troops. They have missiles to burn all day and night long. The A-10’s would not survive.

    Drones are the future of CAS.

    • Mike

      You’re probably right….Drones are the FUTURE of CAS.

      But given the current crazy situation in the world today. It might be wise to keep those relatively cheap and efficient A-10’s around a little longer until you have something better to replace them with..

    • Pissed-Off Taxpayer

      “Ivan the duck hunter” is long gone. Russia’s army is a sad shadow of the Soviet Army. And there’s zero likelihood of the US facing the Russians. The only people pitching that fantasy are the desperate lobbyists at Lockheed and their pals in the USAF who are looking for post-retirement payoffs.

      The reality is that the US is fighting — and will be fighting for decades to come — Islamic guerrillas and terrorists in SW Asia and Africa. We need aircraft that can accurately deliver ordnance — ordnance that we can actually afford to use, not million-dollar missiles that gather dust waiting for WW III. Aircraft that can loiter over the battlefield and that can absorb damage from the actual threats: small arms fire, MANPADS and medium-caliber cannons.

  • Brandon Cord Bradshaw

    This is a stupid waste of our limited funds. The A-10 WAS important. It WAS bls bla bla. I do not care what people think of the A-10 or the F-35, I do not CARE if people HATE the F-35, it is the future. I tell you what, if the A-10 is so loved, sell them to the public. When forced to fund them out of their own pockets, we will see exactly how far that love goes, no further than their vitriol soaked DSL lines.

    • Mike

      Sounds like you would make a great Lockheed Martin Lobbyist… You’re worried about wasting limited funds, but the fact that the F-35 is so far, 13 years in the making ….with no end in sight as to when it might go into service.

      It’s right on schedule to become this country’s first Trillion $$ weapons system, has countless technical problems, is not even allowed to fly near thunder storms, and just caught on fire while taxing down the runway a few weeks ago…wasn’t even allowed to demo fly in the British Air Show..doesn’t seem to bother you.

      For now..think I’ll take the A-10.

  • Mike

    Many times we forget that within just a 7 year period…the F-15, F-16, F-18 and A-10 were all introduced into service for the first time. They are ALL from the same period and are ALL in service today.

    So next time someone refers to the A-10 as a “venerable” aircraft…in the same vein as the B-52…which was introduced nearly a quarter century BEFORE the A-10 even went into service. Ask yourself what they are REALLY trying to say..and how much they really know about the aerospace industry and it’s history.

  • ray allen

    If the Air Force doesn’t want the A-10, give it to the Marines so that they can use if for close air support.

    As far as serviceability concerns, I recall a female Air Force pilot the the call sign of Killer Chick who brought her A-10 home on manual backup after taking fire over Iraq and losing all hydraulics.

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