posted on Sep, 9 2019 @ 04:51 PM
They should move to the USMC Harvest Hawk model, to be honest.
Save the A-10 money by getting rid of all the logistics, training and support around it.
Do the same with the dedicated AC-130 aircraft.
Use some of the money saved to buy more or modify existing J-models.
Fit large numbers (all?) with the sensor ball and podded EW suite from Harvest Hawk.
Use them to lug stuff around.
Use some of the money saved to expand the number of specialized crews for the gunship role.
Use RO/RO pallets and pylons for weapons or refueling kit as needed among the rest of the fleet.
FLIR on the sensor ball gives you better night capabilities, particularly on approach, for everyone. EW suite raises survivability for the entire
fleet, which will be an issue in a modern threat environment. You get all your medium haul aircraft able to see and share information and provide
limited ISR en route and on approach.
In permissive environments you can use your PGM kit and play gunship and provide dedicated ISR to individual ground units or sectors. You can support
your helo ops and Navy aircraft as necessary.
Not all crews have to be proficient in playing gunship and/or refueling. You can have specialized crews, but you have the airframes readily
available, and everyone gets the crash course just in case the balloon goes up.
Development cost is essentially zero because the Marines paid for it all already. You can mothball the dedicated gunship versions already existing,
cancel all the new ones on order, and concentrate on 100% airframe commonality, to reduce operational costs. AC-130 has a $45,000 cost per flight
hour. A-10 and KC-130J are essentially a third of that cost. A new KC-130J fully kitted out costs half of what they want to spend on the new gunships
and about six million more than a barebones J-model. It's flexible and has 80% capability and 50% the cost. So you're a plus on acquisition costs. You
can refit a standard J for ~$5M. You don't lose any money on flight hour costs compared to the A-10, and you save compared to the Spookies.
Your existing AC-130 crews simply get reassigned to new slightly less capable, but immensely less expensive Harvest Hawks and continue to specialize
in gunship/ISR work. Use part of the A-10 and AC-130 money to expand the pool of dedicated crews and airframes for that role.
The rest of the savings goes into the pot. Use it to drive costs down by expanding your F-35 and/or B-21 buy.