I read your link and started laughing at the stupidity of the top brass if they think the F-35 will be able to replace the A-10.
Actually, the A-10 is desperately in need of replacement because by the time you include the SADL (and the bentpipe networking that is making the Hog
into a cheap ACN U-2 immitator), the EGI/PE mod and LITENING LDP (which is only slowly happening to about a third of the fleet), and the upgraded
engines to go along with HogUp/Cupid work on the structure and in the cockpit, _by time invested_ you will be better off (cheaper) going with a new
Not only will it not carry the same amount of payload but its loitering, low speed, and low flight characteristics are not good for a infantry support
First off, the 'useful' payload of the A-10 with a LITENING is 1 Maverick and 2 GBU-12. Vs. 4 GBU-12 or 2 GBU-12 and 14 70mm FFAR with APKWS heads
likely in the next 2 years _on an F-16_. Admttedly, the A-10 can also carry the LAU-131 on the midboards so that it gains FFAR capability but even
now, less than one in three A-10s has targeting pods to support them.
Loitering only matters if you have a sufficiently large force to execute all missions and the Hog is so critically short-inventoried that the F-16 has
taken over it's job even in such exotic roles as CSAR coordinator. OTOH, the A-10 is going to transit to a target area somewhere between 270 and 320
knots. Probably under 15,000ft. An F-whatever can better that by 100 knots and 10,000ft or more.
When taken in combination with the Hogs lack of a combat tank, vs. most F-jets ability to DOUBLE internal fraction _without losing ordnance_ the
reality is that the jet which can make a short hop out to a **safe** tanker track and then come back in, is a superior warfighter. Most especially if
it arrives upwards of 20 minutes ahead of the Hog in the target area to begin with.
Don't forget that the A-10 was originally a throwaway asset designed to work out of six FOLs in Germany, each within about 20-50nm of the IGB. As
such, it was deemed (wrongly) that 'avionics did not matter' as the jet was supposed to operate under Euromuck low ceilings. It's tactics set has
similarly been built around a JAAT role in which overhead or parallel CAS is done using a visual FSCL, more or less based on 'whatever tree line the
helos are bobbing behind'. Yet in SUW, it's inability to react in a timely manner often means an empty bag and when the enemy DOES fight, it's
poor altitude capability and lack of auto target handoff (for itself or units depending on its 'O/A'=FAC/A) presence reduces it to an eyes on
platform that has to come in slow and STAY that way, while sorting sheep from goats.
Compare this to the Marine system of cardinal point CAS stacks with rapid turnin to a pregridded battlefield coordinate system using ETAC or GFAC
calls and either smart munitions or auto-handed target sets.
And you realize (as did Army units during OEF and after) that the Jarheads _know what they are doing_ despite being stuck with another 2-pylon Bug
bomber. In and out. Fast and smooth. Don't clog up the overhead with your presence. Don't be more of a liability (Frat and BHD) than an
Not to mention its survivability is highly questionable, the A-10 was designed to go through hell and back for a reason. When you have the task of low
level close air support your going to get hit, and putting a 40+ million dollar aircraft which probably can’t even withstand a 50. cal in that role
The original cost of the A-10 was around 7 million dollars in 1977-78, double what the original AX spec wanted. Yet the fact of the matter is that it
is a complete failure in its original role because neither it nor its 'dumb plane enabled by smart missiles' weapons systems were able to hack Euro
weather which is dim and misty about 70% of the time /in summer/. As such we paid for the (size of) a loitering CAS asset that couldn't survive long
enough to stick around.
In any case, whether you have an engine cowl blown off by small arms in the Balkans or take a major rear fuselage hit from a MANPADS while toodling
around 'looking under date palms' on the approach corridor to BIA.
_Once you're hit, your mission is killed_. As is anybody who is desperately depending on you to be their omniscient eyes as much as fist-of-God
backup. Since the AF are firm believers in the 'buddy system' so too is your wingman no longer an effective contributor.
IF you make it back to base, things are no better because 2 out of 13 losses were based on attempted recoveries into FOLs resulted in A-10s pilots
dying because 'they thought they could' when in fact, they _should_ have simply punched out once safe over friendly territory.
This is particularly grotesque when you remember that one of these jets cartwheeled down a flightline filled with not only other jets but munitions in
open storage. And despite all the BS you hear about combat repairability, most jets in a high intensity campaign will sit out the war (or be bown in
place) as stripped canbirds. Indeed, perhaps the most famous A-10 which supposedly to an SA-9 or 13 hit blowing off most of it's starboard spanwise
panel is _buried in Saudi Arabia_ where it last landed.
On a statistical level, the DS .2 and .3 loss/damage rates (for sorties generated) on the F-16, were almost half again fewer than those of the A-10.
Despite the Hog representing less than 15% of the mission force (the F-16 was around 60-70) and flying only 30 percent of the total sorties (I will
admit it accounted for 50% of known BDA accredited).
Why? Because the A-10 takes upwards of 5 minutes to climb back to perch from a gunrun 20K-->7K foot altitude. The TF34 are just all over the place
in terms of efficiency as the 'nickel plated core' degrades and no-one can fix it without effectively replacing some very pricey items. The 100B
mod program only restores about 90% of the original thrust and while this is flat-rated to about 8,900lbst and 25,000ft, the fact remains that the
A-10 is _well_ below .5 on a fully loaded T/Wr scale.
i.e. It plays down to where it 'can' make multiple weapons passes. Because it_cannot_ play smart platform at altitude.
Of 11 aircraft lost between 1991 and 2002, 6 were A-10s.
Other than that, this is a step in the right direction for the program, I'm looking forward to the flight tests.
During the post Russian civil war period, Bagram airbase, less than 30km outside Kabul, still the nominal capital, was _completely_ shut down by
simple rocket and mortar fire. It became the veritable Davis Monthan of AfG.
That I know of, it's been hit at least twice the exact same way, 'since we won'.
Take a look at these maps-
Note that from the principal MOBs of Herat, Kandahar and Bagram, it can take an A-10 cruising at 300 knots anything up to three quarters of an hour to
get to some critical border areas. When it /does/ do so, it often cannot overtop the local peaks. More importantly, not only is your base security
force commitment tripled. But your _total_ CAS force is divided by three. Because nobody at an 'outlying alternate' can get to you _in time_ if
you lose one MOB as a given canton goes hot.
The A-10 is old. The A-10 is hard to maintain, even after the upgrades. The full suite-3+ 'PE' level of which will not be achieved for at least
another 7-10 years. And the A-10 _fails_ at it's most basic mission which is to provide timely air support. Because they are too few. And perform
too poorly for the effectiveness of ther weapons systems, to cover all potential garrisons with _5_ minute airpower. CAS in AfG in fact averaging
about 26 minutes, if you were on the ATO list.
A UCAV force, with 8 GBU-39 'passes' on each aircraft, could maintain 2-3 CAS orbits per day, per base coverage zone, at about 1,200 dollars per
flight hour per airframe. Using just 27 aircraft in 2.5 shifts of 9 aircraft, each able to fly at 450-500 knots _anywhere_ to cross cover a sudden
activity spike while the hotpad aircraft spooled up to replace them. To do that with an A-10 force requires about 60 aircraft per base and a minimum
4-5 shifts to keep from fatigue-killing your pilots. At probably 2,500-2,700 dollars per flight hour, per jet.
THAT is what /combat persistence/ and _munitions effectiveness_ costs you to maintain an 'any good at all' cabrank system of on-call support.
Would the F-35 be any better (than an A-10 in this mission)? It's radar and EOTS would be. Configured for external carriage, it's total (IAM)
'precision engagement' load would be. It's dollars per flight hour cost numerics probably would not be. And you would kill aircrew trying to make
best use of it's monumental fuel fraction, assuming the F135 makes TSFC and/or likes flight idle loitering.
The A-10 needs a replacement. The problem is it doesn't need an F-35. And the platform which is best suited to the loitering CAS role is in fact
superior to the F-35 at Interdiction/Strike. So of course the All Manned, All The Time, Air Services will not let common sense take it's best
course. Because more than the Warthog community would be out of a job.