Continuing relevance of the A-10 Warthog today and tomorrow?

sferrin

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If one can only have either a specialist or a generalist the specialist goes.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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"Tough choices" means having to make tough choices. I know a lot of mouth breathers are going to huff and puff and blame the USAF's top 3 priorities for this, but the reality is sequestration means choosing between nice to have and need to have, and the A-10 falls into nice to have. We get more money they can be saved, but if sequestration is here to stay, the A-10 goes.
 

Vahe Demirjian

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TaiidanTomcat said:
"Tough choices" means having to make tough choices. I know a lot of mouth breathers are going to huff and puff and blame the USAF's top 3 priorities for this, but the reality is sequestration means choosing between nice to have and need to have, and the A-10 falls into nice to have. We get more money they can be saved, but if sequestration is here to stay, the A-10 goes.
No one should be surprised that the A-10 will be one of the two warplanes to be replaced by the F-35A, but if sequestration continues, the question is how many A-10s will be retired. A handful of A-10s that may to too expensive to be maintained could be retired.
 

F-14D

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Of course, this is only what they've been trying to do for over 25 years.
 

beachhead1973

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Next mind that specialized ground support has been the majority of the Air Force mission for quite some time now.

I think the truth is simpler, and ahem; call me a mouth breather if you want; it's what comes from humping rucks up hills, I guess. The USAF has a particular self-narrative and the A-10 does not and has never fit it.

As for specialization; I have heard it said it is for insects. Insects have done pretty well in my opinion and most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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Next mind that specialized ground support has been the majority of the Air Force mission for quite some time now.
indeed, and look at all the aircraft that have been capable of doing it, while doing other missions as well.

I think the truth is simpler, and ahem; call me a mouth breather if you want; it's what comes from humping rucks up hills, I guess. The USAF has a particular self-narrative and the A-10 does not and has never fit it.
I disagree. CAS and the JTAC doctrine has basically ensured that whether you are calling in support from a A-10, an F-18E, or an AV-8B the same doctrine and tactics are used. So simply put, all the other aircraft got good at CAS, (and this has been proven over the last twelve years and even B-52s and BONEs have provided CAS --short of strafing of course) and the A-10 never got much better at doing what those aircraft could. CAS now is "plug in and go" essentially A-10s are being treated just like an F-16 in CAS.

It would help the specialist if there was nothing else that could play his role, but A-10s have become interchangable, and frankly we don't use A-10s like A-10s anymore anyway. What happens when a specialist is no longer special?

most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
That is the idea. ;)
 

yasotay

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"Jack of all trades, master of none." USAF Inc. at its finest.
Although I will acknowledge that with a tight budget the USAF Inc. has to look to its core (priority missions).
I do not agree with Taiidan Tomcat, but hope that he is right about the technology. Lets just hope the enemy never comes up with things like GPS jammers and laser spoffers....
 

sferrin

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beachhead1973 said:
Insects have done pretty well in my opinion and most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
That's why they're called generalists. (And insects are a poor analogy.) Tell me, when you've kept your A-10 and ditched your generalist are you going to fly those Warthogs out the intercept Bears? ;D
 

bobbymike

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sferrin said:
beachhead1973 said:
Insects have done pretty well in my opinion and most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
That's why they're called generalists. (And insects are a poor analogy.) Tell me, when you've kept your A-10 and ditched your generalist are you going to fly those Warthogs out the intercept Bears? ;D
Agree with sferrin plus the advent of precision strike means low and slow isn't really needed anymore. A JTAC just won the Silver Star for calling in air strikes in A-Stan from five different platforms, I think the list was B-1, F-18, F-15, F-16 and A-10 in a 12 hour firefight. Body count 300 dead Talibs, 0 allied dead.
 

ksimmelink

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Having worked on the A-10 in the early years, I regret that this day finally may be here. The Air Force never liked it, especially when its main role - ripping up as many Russian tanks and apcs as possible as they poured through the Fulda gap in Germany - died along with the Soviet Union and East Germany. But it was simple, rugged, easy and cheap to maintain, and effective, and cannot be replaced by a fast mover as was proved over and over again in the Gulf conflicts. I can only hope we don't live to regret this decision, but I do understand the financial realities (even though the A-10 is cheaper to fly and maintain than the other aircraft in the inventory), it just can't do enough to warrant its daily JP-4.
I think that the advent of UAVs really had a lot to do with this decision.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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yasotay said:
Lets just hope the enemy never comes up with things like GPS jammers and laser spoffers....
Its really more than that. A-10s were limited in libya when rumors of Sa-18s surfaced. That saw restrictions on A-10s, AV-8s and AC-130s. (speaking of which the AC-130 is great, and has commonality with C-130 fleets, so there will be gunships still around) One has to ask what happens when troops in contact call for help behind a SAM Belt, or with Air Threats around, and the proliferation of shoulder fired missiles. Causing the A-10 to battle for its own survival means its too busy to help the grunts in the first place, and its relying on those generalists that can kill enemy planes, radars, etc. One could make the case that fighting an enemy with GPS and Laser Spoofers in the first place would indicate a level of tech that would see the A-10 in trouble anyway. In IADs it would need serious help.

The objective is to help the grunts on the ground, if the A-10 is barred from doing that through orders or through enemy action then thats a serious issue. I know it can take damage but damage means turning back and Aircraft damaged in fast moving conflicts don't usually return to the fight and a few A-10s that have been damaged were never put back into service post war. So on the bright note, the pilot gets back at least but its an attrition kill. I know an F-22, an F-35, B-2, and the LRS-B won't ever be A-10s, but they will be able to go places A-10s can't and without having to coordinate multiple aircraft types in a strike. Even F-18E/Fs and F-15Es will have more advantages. The ability to "self escort" is huge.

Its great for LIC, but of course with LIC you don't need a 30MM super armored warplane to take on IEDs and RPGs. Its been kept around for the conflicts we are fighting for the same reason as the B-52, its original role gone, its found a new niche that would cost more to develop something else. Its "useful because its around, not around because its useful"

Ksimmelink is right about it being on borrowed time post Cold War. Remember the A-10 was going to be fighting on the central front in WWIII, heavy casualties were expected and low level required to be under the SAM belts. When the A-10s went toe to toe with the Republican Guard in Iraq, they lost 2 aircraft 1 pilot killed the other captured, And from there on A-10s were removed and F-16s used for deep battle, remember this is the mission they were designed to do and Horner, and Glosson pulled them back, along with the Squadron Commander requesting targets in Kuwait. Why take casualties when you have other options?:

A-10s vs. F-16s

Q: Did the war have any effect on the Air Force's view of the A-10?

A: No. People misread that. People were saying that airplanes are too sophisticated and that they wouldn't work in the desert, that you didn't need all this high technology, that simple and reliable was better, and all that.

Well, first of all, complex does not mean unreliable. We're finding that out. For example, you have a watch that uses transistors rather than a spring. It's infinitely more reliable than the windup watch that you had years ago. That's what we're finding in the airplanes.

Those people . . . were always championing the A-10. As the A-10 reaches the end of its life cycle-- and it's approaching that now--it's time to replace it, just like we replace every airplane, including, right now, some early versions of the F-16.

Since the line was discontinued, [the A-10's champions] want to build another A-10 of some kind. The point we were making was that we have F-16s that do the same job.

Then you come to people who have their own reasons-good reasons to them, but they don't necessarily compute to me-who want to hang onto the A-10 because of the gun. Well, the gun's an excellent weapon, but you'll find that most of the tank kills by the A-10 were done with Mavericks and bombs. So the idea that the gun is the absolute wonder of the world is not true.

Q: This conflict has shown that?

A: It shows that the gun has a lot of utility, which we always knew, but it isn't the principal tank-killer on the A-IO. The [Imaging Infrared] Maverick is the big hero there. That was used by the A-10s and the F-16s very, very effectively in places like Khafji.

The other problem is that the A-10 is vulnerable to hits because its speed is limited. It's a function of thrust, it's not a function of anything else. We had a lot of A-10s take a lot of ground fire hits. Quite frankly, we pulled the A-10s back from going up around the Republican Guard and kept them on Iraq's [less formidable] front-line units. That's line if you have a force that allows you to do that. In this case, we had F-16s to go after the Republican Guard.

Q: At what point did you do that?

A: I think I had fourteen airplanes sitting on the ramp having battle damage repaired, and I lost two A- 10s in one day [February 15], and I said, "I've had enough of this." It was when we really started to go after the Republican Guard.

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1991/June%201991/0691horner.aspx

We can't keep this thing around for a gun that is only used as a last resort as it is.
 

yasotay

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A good argument Taiidan. Still while the US would not allow A-10 into Libya, both France and the UK committed attack helicopters to action there, even though the uber-MANPAD (SA-24) was rumored to be operational, not just the SA-18. They did do more than hover off the coast as well. Also GPS jammers are not overly "high tech" any more, and some "non-state" actors most likely have them. As more of the world gains access to information I suspect that ways and means to surmount our technology will be found.
There is another challenge in that the USAF will NOT allow anyone other than a TACP to call in air launched fires. Just hope every ground unit below battalion has one (hint: they don't). Also I would say that if you do not stop the enemy from closing with you and you are throwing grenades and curses at each other from shouting distances, a laser guided bomb is of no avail to the ground forces. A slower aircraft with a cannon might be able to do the job though... it has in the past. The CAS baton has been handed to the attack helicopter (who can be called in by Army Sargeants or anyone else needing help).
I will defer, as I cannot defend without going into sensitive areas. Not wanting to hide behind the "that's classified" mantra, I will only say that I hope you are right and future enemies do not figure out how to negate the technologies we have. I will miss the Hog, having spent much time working with them. They had our respect because they came down into our dirty world and fought with us.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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A good argument Taiidan. Still while the US would not allow A-10 into Libya, both France and the UK committed attack helicopters to action there, even though the uber-MANPAD (SA-24) was rumored to be operational, not just the SA-18. They did do more than hover off the coast as well.
I don't disagree with this at all, but it also kind of highlights the USAF's hesitation to use/risk the A-10 for its intended role, and would rather assign alternates. This is especially true as the A-10s are flying at medium height, with targeting pods, deploying PGMs-- just like everything else. In that case, why risk them when other stuff will do? As long as the USAF has the option, it will opt to send other things in high threat cases.

Also GPS jammers are not overly "high tech" any more, and some "non-state" actors most likely have them. As more of the world gains access to information I suspect that ways and means to surmount our technology will be found.
Thats a fair point, but if we are now talking about deploying dumb bombs from fixed wing assets in close support of troops going against non state actors, its nothing that can't be handled by a helicopter. i would also be curious if an aircraft like say an F-15E would do able to deploy dumb bombs more accurately, with the help of its AESA radar and other avionics. So again, is the A-10 the best option even when everything goes wrong?

There is another challenge in that the USAF will NOT allow anyone other than a TACP to call in air launched fires. Just hope every ground unit below battalion has one (hint: they don't).
yes, but thats not exactly an A-10 issue. its an organizational one.

Also I would say that if you do not stop the enemy from closing with you and you are throwing grenades and curses at each other from shouting distances, a laser guided bomb is of no avail to the ground forces.
Thats true, but then again I think we both know if we are calling in any kind of fire within grenade tossing distance from a fixed wing asset even an A-10, all bets are off anyway.

A slower aircraft with a cannon might be able to do the job though... it has in the past. The CAS baton has been handed to the attack helicopter (who can be called in by Army Sargeants or anyone else needing help).
I agree with this, as nothing gets lower or slower than a helicopter, but all the teen series fighters and harriers have done gun strafing runs in support of troops, and although they couldn't get as slow as an A-10 it didn't seem to affect the quality of the support. (You may know more about this than me though)

The A-10 may have the biggest gun but it certainly doesn't have the only gun. And I would like to point out that the USAF is the only operator of the A-10, somehow other services and other nations have been able to perform CAS without it. Again I don't think the AC-130 is going anywhere either.

At this point the A-10 is more symbolic than anything. So when it retires it will be the end of the A-10, but not the end of capable platforms (fixed and rotary) providing support for ground forces, and a lot of them have advantage that A-10s don't. I know its going to traumatize much of the internet though.
 

quellish

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TaiidanTomcat said:
I don't disagree with this at all, but it also kind of highlights the USAF's hesitation to use/risk the A-10 for its intended role, and would rather assign alternates. This is especially true as the A-10s are flying at medium height, with targeting pods, deploying PGMs-- just like everything else. In that case, why risk them when other stuff will do? As long as the USAF has the option, it will opt to send other things in high threat cases.
The A-10 was intended to operate in a permissive threat environment with enhanced survivability against the organic AAA assets of it's targets (i.e. ZSU and small arms accompanying tank regiments). Protection against SAMs relied heavily on chaff, flares, maneuver, armor and redundancy, and tactics to minimize exposure. Again, this was in a permissive threat environment.

The nature of the A-10's mission dictated that it fly low and slow compared to fighters, and that was reflected in the A-X requirements. During DESERT STORM aircraft flying below medium altitude encountered losses that were heavier than expected, and that resulted in a policy for Coalition aircraft to prefer flying at medium altitude.
Interestingly enough, later in the war A-10s in Kuwait were allowed to fly at low altitude again - and this increased their effectiveness.

In Iraq and Afghanistan A-10s are clearly operating at low altitude and using the cannon.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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beachhead1973 said:
As for specialization; I have heard it said it is for insects. Insects have done pretty well in my opinion and most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
Here is the full quote BTW:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Its a giant knock against specialized
 

yasotay

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Ha! I knew it! Surgeons and lawyers are insects.
 

Triton

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And probably the United States Air Force would rather break them up than allow the Army to have them. I can't say that I am surprised considering that the Air Force has been trying to get rid of their A-10s for years. And if the Air Force has better platforms to perform the CAS mission, why does the Army covet the A-10? Why does the Army not agree with the Air Force's position on the A-10? A reasonable person would presume that if the A-10s were truly obsolete the Army would not want them either.
 

mithril

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why does the army want the A-10?
simple. the A-10, to invert an old airforce saying, has "every pound for air to ground"

it'll never be suddenly retasked to go intercept some enemy fighter. it'll never be reassigned from CAS duties to nursemaid some AWACS. it'll never be told to load up on recon pods and overfly wherethefuckarewe-stan. it'll never need to fly with a large part of its stores dedicated to air to air missions.

it's a pure air to ground specialist. which means that unlike the F-15's, F-16's, and others, it'll never be told to do something else when a non-ground-support mission comes along. while the Airforce would never ignore the CAS duties, the army just wants to know that when they call in for CAS, there will be a plane ready to respond RFN.. and that it'll be able to do the CAS job every time they call for support.
 

Stargazer2006

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sublight is back said:
The Air Force “has to have a fifth generation force out there” of stealthy, fast and maneuverable aircraft, and the low and slow A-10 just didn’t fit in, Clarke said.
The problem lies in the length of time that will necessarily take place between the moment such a realization is made and the beginning of operational service of that new "stealthy, fast and maneuverable aircraft." You don't just retire an aircraft until there is something better to take its place when it's gone. If the A-10 goes to retirement in the mid-2010s, that means another 20 years, judging from the typical timeline of other defense programs of that scope, and a further 5 years at least to take into account the usual political hassle that plagues most such programs. That means 2040 at best...
Also, by retiring both the F-117A and now A-10A, the USAF will be practically deprived a great amount of ground attack capability, since the Strike Eagle cannot be used in the same type of missions as these two. Makes me wonder why such thinking happens now, when it was obvious even 10 years ago, and probably much before that, that the A-10A would not fit the Air Force's requirements for 21st century CAS anyway.
 

kcran567

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TaiidanTomcat said:
beachhead1973 said:
As for specialization; I have heard it said it is for insects. Insects have done pretty well in my opinion and most generalists fail to excel at any one role.
Here is the full quote BTW:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Its a giant knock against specialized
Ok then, If you ever win the lottery (or maybe you already can afford) A Ferrarri or other sports car of you're choice, make sure you get one that has a pickup bed in the back to haul around concrete. That way you can haul concrete uphill in you're brand new ferrarri. Or how about this, lets mount a large 20 foot cell phone tower on you're new Ferrarri. According to you specialization is only for insects. Or how about an F-22 that can also carry 6 paratroopers and a drogue refuelling device. No thanks, A dedicated CAS should have certain abilities that other aircraft do not. Specialization is good. Like finding the best person for the job. Do you want a plumber to help deliver you're wife's newborn? I didn't think so.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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Triton said:
And if the Air Force has better platforms to perform the CAS mission, why does the Army covet the A-10? Why does the Army not agree with the Air Force's position on the A-10? A reasonable person would presume that if the A-10s were truly obsolete the Army would not want them either.
It doesn't "covet the A-10" It uses a mix of CAS aircraft from all services up to an including strategic bombers and UAVs. The USMC "coveted" the Iowa-class battleships... what happened?

Stargazer2006 said:
The problem lies in the length of time that will necessarily take place between the moment such a realization is made and the beginning of operational service of that new "stealthy, fast and maneuverable aircraft." You don't just retire an aircraft until there is something better to take its place when it's gone.
Aircraft are retired without direct replacement all the time. There is no direct replacement for the A-10 and there never will be. There was also no direct replacement for the SR-71.

If the A-10 goes to retirement in the mid-2010s, that means another 20 years, judging from the typical timeline of other defense programs of that scope, and a further 5 years at least to take into account the usual political hassle that plagues most such programs. That means 2040 at best...
adding to the above. The USAF will never again invest in an attack only manned fighter.

Also, by retiring both the F-117A and now A-10A, the USAF will be practically deprived a great amount of ground attack capability,
The USAF has an incredible amount of attack capability and has been showing it off since 1991 and its namely thanks to the emphasis on multi-role aircraft (F-16s have done and continue to do a majority of strike missions for fighter class aircraft, and of course the F-22 which replaced some F-117 squadrons is vastly more capable in more roles than the extremely specialized F-117)

It also still has big bombers:

Tough targets in Serbian territory could only be reached by the B-2 bomber, which made its combat debut by flying directly from its base in Missouri. The B-2 successfully struck heavily defended fixed targets and mobile targets such as an SA-3.

Afghanistan presented another showcase for range and payload. B-1s and B-52Hs ended up dropping about 70 percent of the total tonnage during the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in the fall of 2001.

...

A new appreciation for the bombers emerged during the ongoing operations when B-52Hs and B-1s proved the value of turning range into loiter time, allowing the aircraft to stay overhead with large weapons loads to support varied ground operations.

On missions in 2004 and 2005, it was common for aircraft to drop just one weapon, or none at all. By the fall of 2006, strikes increased as larger formations of Taliban fighters emerged in Afghanistan. One B-1 crew told of releasing eight 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, plus six 500-pound bombs, on a single mission that fall.

...

There’s another wrinkle. The days of fighters (or bombers, or unmanned systems) operating alone are over. In 21st century scenarios, all these platforms will need to share information and achieve a tactical dependence to get the job done. Heavily defended airspace will present challenges that call for platforms to work together in new ways.
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2007/November%202007/1107bombers.aspx

And lets not forget the AC-130

since the Strike Eagle cannot be used in the same type of missions as these two.
The Strike Eagle is perfectly capable of performing A-10 missions, and has done so in combat many times, along with having more speed and Air to Air capability and other helpful things superior avionics and all weather capability. OTOH the A-10 is severely lacking in F-15E capability

Makes me wonder why such thinking happens now,
budget cuts are forcing the early retirement. the original plan was to have them serving into the 2040s but that is not possible now. So the USAF has to make hard choices. Not surprising it is picking a next generation 21st century multi-role aircraft, an advanced new bomber that will hopefully replace multiple types, and new aerial refuellers, rather than a 1970's era specialized attacker that has seen its job largely supplanted by other types already.

why does the army want the A-10?
simple. the A-10, to invert an old airforce saying, has "every pound for air to ground"

it'll never be suddenly retasked to go intercept some enemy fighter. it'll never be reassigned from CAS duties to nursemaid some AWACS.
Yep, exactly it can do anything except for tasks that other fighters can also do too. An F-16 can launch a HARM, kill a fighter BVR, and deploy ordnance in support of troops in contact all in one mission, and when the coast is clear, you can send in the A-10. Again an AC-130 is also dedicated to grunt support.

it'll never be told to load up on recon pods and overfly wherethefuckarewe-stan.
This is actually pretty funny since the A-10s current mission in Afghanistan is using its pods to scan for IEDs and other signs of trouble before troops pass through (from altitude of course), and only deploying ordnance when asked, and only using the gun as a last resort.

it'll never need to fly with a large part of its stores dedicated to air to air missions.
Dont confuse need with can't Thats part of the problem, what happens when enemy fighters stand between you and the troops you need to help? It may need to fly with AAMs that aren't defensive Sidewinders. It may need to fly into SAM belts, It may need to all of those things in one sortie in fact.

it's a pure air to ground specialist. which means that unlike the F-15's, F-16's, and others, it'll never be told to do something else when a non-ground-support mission comes along.
Which is funny because it relies on those F-15s and F-16s that might be doing other missions to protect it from enemy radar and aircraft.

while the Airforce would never ignore the CAS duties, the army just wants to know that when they call in for CAS, there will be a plane ready to respond RFN.. and that it'll be able to do the CAS job every time they call for support.
keeping in mind the US Army has its own fleet of armed helicopters, UAVs, and of course the Marines and Navy who also give help when called.


kcran567 said:
Ok then, If you ever win the lottery (or maybe you already can afford) A Ferrarri or other sports car of you're choice, make sure you get one that has a pickup bed in the back to haul around concrete. That way you can haul concrete uphill in you're brand new ferrarri. Or how about this, lets mount a large 20 foot cell phone tower on you're new Ferrarri. According to you specialization is only for insects. Or how about an F-22 that can also carry 6 paratroopers and a drogue refuelling device. No thanks, A dedicated CAS should have certain abilities that other aircraft do not. Specialization is good. Like finding the best person for the job. Do you want a plumber to help deliver you're wife's newborn? I didn't think so.
Am I Robert Heinlein? Also I have called the hyperbole police, they are here to arrest your Strawman.

There is a massive public misconception with the USAF, the A-10, and multi-role vs Specialized aircraft. A big part of this is focusing on one small part of the machine, and not the large machine itself. Multi role aircraft are being bashed for providing the safety the A-10 depends on, and if that support isn't available, than neither is the A-10. And don't give me that its armored its invincible crap, because its not, and the Air Force knows it. If its too dangerous, they don't send them. If the A-10 was the ONLY Aircraft that could provide CAS it might be a different story, but the USAF has more CAS capable aircraft than it ever has in its history, and those aircraft can also do other things. So on one side its a 2 way street, and on the A-10s side its a one way street. So no I would not hire a plumber to deliver a baby, however if my doctor could also fix my plumbing and I could only afford to keep one, I would fire my plumber and keep my multi-role Doctor. See my point? I also don't recall ever advocating a transport refueler F-22, but its funny you picked the F-22, which is another aircraft that was considered very specialized and was severely curtailed in favor of (wait for it) a multi role fighter in the F-35

The USN has and will continue to have nothing but Multi role aircraft, as will the US Marines save for the prowler which is being replaced by a multirole aircraft in the F-35.
 

GTX

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In my opinion people get too enamoured with particular aircraft such as the A-10 and make up all these ridiculous arguments as to why they need to be kept or even conspiracy theories behind their removal.


It's a good thing those in power aren't swayed by them or else our frontline combat aircraft might still be canvas with open cockpits...if we made it into the air at all!
 

FighterJock

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What can I add to the debate? Except that it is an stupid mistake to even think about retiring the A-10.
 

Triton

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"Sen. Ayotte To Air Force: Get Me A-10 Answers; Keeps SecAF Nominee Hold"
By Colin Clark on October 08, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Source:
http://breakingdefense.com/2013/10/08/sen-ayotte-to-air-force-get-me-a-10-answers-keeps-secaf-nominee-hold/

CAPITOL HILL: While the federal government remains supine and Congress fails to pass appropriations bills, at least one lawmaker is engaged in a classic use of senatorial privilege: placing a hold on the nomination of a senior administration official.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has made clear her unease with what appears to be the Air Force’s intent to scrap the entire fleet of the beloved and ugly 326 A-10 close air support jets, told the service today she would not let the nomination of Air Force Secretary nominee Debbie Lee James proceed. Why? Answers to questions she posed to the service about the A-10 were “insufficient.” She has sent follow-up questions to the Air Force.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Senator Ayotte’s central concern is that our troops have the close air support they need to accomplish their missions and return home safely. The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft-creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” a congressional aide said on background.

This isn’t really about the quality of the Air Force responses, which probably said no final decisions had been reached since the next fiscal year’s budget isn’t final yet. (I bet they even used that fabulous and most hated term that no decent person would ever use — pre-decisional.) This is all about the Air National Guard (which flies almost one third of the A-10 fleet) and deep-seated suspicion that the F-35A, due to replace the A-10 in its close air support role, just isn’t nearly as good as the Warthog at flying low and killing tanks, other military vehicles and even troops on the ground.

Thunder alley

Air Force Times recently ran this compelling account of a recent A-10 sortie:

In July, the A-10’s capabilities were evident when two pilots came to the rescue of 60 soldiers during a convoy ambush in Afghanistan.

The convoy came under attack while patrolling a highway. They became pinned behind their vehicles, facing heavy fire from a close tree line. The group didn’t have a JTAC, but a joint fire observer was able to communicate an estimated location to the A-10s.

“I flew over to provide a show of force while my wingman was looking for gunfire below,” the flight lead said, according to an Air Force release on the mission. “Our goal with the show of force was to break the contact and let the enemy know we were there, but they didn’t stop. I think that day the enemy knew what they were going to do, so they pushed even harder and began moving closer to our ground forces.”

One A-10 fired two rockets to mark the area with smoke. The wingman came in next and pulled the trigger on the Avenger cannon. The enemy moved closer to the friendly forces.

“We train for this, but shooting danger-close is uncomfortable, because now the friendlies are at risk,” the second A-10 pilot said. “We came in for a low-angle strafe, 75 feet above the enemy’s position and used the 30-mm gun — 50 meters parallel to ground forces — ensuring our fire was accurate so we didn’t hurt the friendlies.”

Of course, F-35 advocates would note that the plane possesses stunning sensors (far better than anything the A-10 will ever have) that allow the plane to operate at higher altitudes with excellent precision. They would also point out it can carry a heavier weapons load (18,000 pounds) than can the A-10 (16,000 pounds). Of course, the A-10′s 30 millimeter machine gun is one of the world’s most formidable ground attack weapons, far more potent than the F-35′s 25 mm gun, and the F-35 cannot carry nearly as much ammunition as the A-10 does (180 rounds vs. 1,170 rounds).

Then there’s the indelible impression the A-10 makes on ground troops. The good guys love the fact it flies low and slow. And they adore the impressive sound of the machine gun as it unloads its rounds into the enemy, not to mention the effect of the rounds that spew forth. The enemy hates all of those things.

A-10 pilots are also encased in a titanium tub that protects them from ground fire, allowing them to feel much more confident as they stare down at the enemy. We won’t really know how successful the F-35A is at its ground support role until JTACs guide some in and they have to do the dirty work the A-10 does so well.

The A-10 isn’t alone in facing the axe. The Air Force is considering scrapping its fleet of KC-10 tankers, F-15C fighter jets and the planned $6.8 billion purchase of new combat search-and-rescue helicopters.

The Air Force leadership made clear at last month’s Air Force Association conference that they wanted to cut weapon systems that have only one role, even if those systems perform that role fabulously well. It’s all part of the increasingly desperate push to find big enough savings to either forestall or meet the demands of the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration. The fight over the A-10 will only be one of many come February, when the new budget is rolled out.
 

John21

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I started a thread on this same issue on spacebattles.com. While its sad to see the A-10 go, I can see why they are thinking about doing this. I figured, why not retire the B-52 instead and give nuclear capability back to a percentage of our B-1B force? The B-1B can do the exact same missions as a B-52 and be quicker and more survivable to boot.

Here's the thread on spacebattles:
http://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/air-force-may-retire-a-10-warthog.270672/
 

TaiidanTomcat

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FighterJock said:
What can I add to the debate? Except that it is an stupid mistake to even think about retiring the A-10.
You were right that didn't add anything.
 

F-14D

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John21 said:
I started a thread on this same issue on spacebattles.com. While its sad to see the A-10 go, I can see why they are thinking about doing this. I figured, why not retire the B-52 instead and give nuclear capability back to a percentage of our B-1B force? The B-1B can do the exact same missions as a B-52 and be quicker and more survivable to boot.

Here's the thread on spacebattles:
http://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/air-force-may-retire-a-10-warthog.270672/
The B-1 also can carry more than a B-52 but costs less to operate.
 

Triton

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The cynic in me wonders if this isn't a fundraiser by the United States Air Force. Let's announce the retirement of an aircraft that enjoys considerable public and political support and we can get more money in our budget in the amount of $3.7 billion over ten years.
 

Triton

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Specific language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014 protects A-10 Thunderbolt II and RQ-4 Global Hawk through the end of fiscal 2014.

"A-10 Supporters Include Protective Language in NDAA"
Dec. 12, 2013 - 02:19PM |
By AARON MEHTA | Comments

Source:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131212/DEFREG02/312120009/A-10-Supporters-Include-Protective-Language-NDAA

WASHINGTON — Proponents of the A-10 close air support aircraft have inserted language into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that should protect the plane through the end of 2014.

Section 143 of the bill also protects Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV from further cuts, the latest blow to Air Force attempts to divest itself of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.

The language prohibits that any funds appropriated by the NDAA “or otherwise made available for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended to make significant changes to manning levels with respect to covered aircraft or to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage a covered aircraft.”

In plain terms, that means that if the NDAA passes as is, the Air Force will be unable to spend any money to prepare to divest itself of either the A-10 or the RQ-4 for fiscal 2014. To drive the point home, further language stipulates that the same rule applies to the A-10 through the end of calendar 2014 as well, ensuring that the first three months of fiscal 2015 are covered as well.

There is one exception: A-10s that the service planned to retire as of April 9, 2013 will be allowed to retire. But otherwise, any wholesale attempts to divest the A-10 will be halted by this language.

That’s a potential blow to the Air Force, which has maintained a stance for months that removing entire platforms from the fleet is the only way to achieve savings needed under the sequestered budget.

But the A-10 has become a lightning rod in Congress, most notably with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., holding up the nomination of Deborah Lee James to be Air Force secretary over concerns that the A-10 may be cut.

Speaking Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, expressed frustrations with what he called a “strange situation.”

“I find myself arguing to get rid of things that I don’t want to get rid of to pay a bill we’ve been handed, and the people telling me I can’t give up anything to pay it are the people who gave us the bill,” said Welsh, a former A-10 pilot himself. “You can’t continue to defend everything and pay a $1.3 trillion bill. It won’t work.”

While the A-10 may be the most visible platform the Air Force wishes to divest, an older battle over the RQ-4 continues.

In 2012, the service attempted to kill the Global Hawk in favor of its older U-2 platform. But Congress intervened, protecting the unmanned system. It appears poised to do so again.

The same language that protects the A-10 during fiscal 2014 applies to the Global Hawk. The NDAA as written also requires the secretary of defense to file a report on “all high-altitude airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems operated, or planned for future operation” to the Armed Services, Appropriations and Intelligence committees of the House and Senate.

That report, due 180 days after passage of the NDAA, will include details on capabilities, cost-per-flying-hour, and planned upgrades for all high-altitude ISR systems, along with other relevant information.
 

F-14D

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Triton said:
Specific language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014 protects A-10 Thunderbolt II and RQ-4 Global Hawk through the end of fiscal 2014.

"A-10 Supporters Include Protective Language in NDAA"
Dec. 12, 2013 - 02:19PM |
By AARON MEHTA | Comments

Source:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131212/DEFREG02/312120009/A-10-Supporters-Include-Protective-Language-NDAA

...and here's how you get around that. In the FY13 budget there was similar language saying that the Army couldn't retire its C-23 Sherpas (which USAF wanted gone for years). A FRAGmentary Order (FRAGO) was issued that indicated that Army wasn't retiring its Sherpas, but instead, “...commenced to store its C-23 fleet in a semi-flyable status” until the FY 2013 prohibition expires Sept.30. After which, “...provided there are no legislative restrictions on the use of 2014 funds to retire C-23 Sherpa aircraft, the Army intends to resume its C-23 divestiture” in the next fiscal year.

As of Oct. 1, all the C-23s except two operating in Egypt that got a temporary reprieve were gone.

Substitute "Air Force" for Army, "A-10" for" C-23" and "2014" for "2013".
 

Triton

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Looks like the United States Air Force will retire 37 A-10s since November 2013 with 283 remaining through fiscal year 2014:

"Additional A-10 retirements on hold until at least end of year"
by Jon Hemmerdinger Washington DC
06:33 3 Jan 2014

Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/additional-a-10-retirements-on-hold-until-at-least-end-of-year-394536/

The US Air Force’s fleet of Fairchild Republic A-10s has escaped the chopping block again – at least until 2015.

The recently-passed National Defense Authorisation Act for fiscal year 2014 prohibits the service from spending money to retire more of the venerable close air-support aircraft, or from “making significant changes” to A-10 “manning levels” during the fiscal year, which ends on 30 September.

In addition, the bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama on 26 December, prohibits the USAF from retiring or planning to retire additional A-10s between October 2014 and the end of the calendar year.

A joint statement from US congressional committees says the law is intended to “provide breathing space for congress to conduct oversight and to consider what actions to take on any force structure changes the air force may propose in fiscal year 2015.”

The bill does not apply to A-10s that have been approved for retirement in previous fiscal years.

The air force had roughly 320 of the aircraft at the end of November 2013, and is retiring A-10s at a rate of roughly two per month. When those scheduled retirements conclude, the service says it will be left with 283 of the aircraft.

The authorisation bill comes amid discussion in Washington DC and within the air force about the future of the A-10 in the current budget-constrained environment.

In a media briefing on 13 December, air force chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh called the close air-support mission critical to the service, but noted that it is considering “fleet divestitures” as a means of achieving some $12 billion in required budget savings. He added that other aircraft can provide close air support and that the USAF has long planned to replace A-10s with Lockheed Martin’s F-35A, which the air force hopes will have initial operational capability by December 2016.

The air force said in mid-October 2013 that it could save $3.5 billion over five years by cutting its fleet of 326 A-10s, reports suggested. In November, however, A-10 supporters in Washington argued that close air support would suffer with type's retirement.

Pierre Sprey, who worked for US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in the late 1960s and helped lead the air force’s A-10 concept design team, said during a seminar that only several thousand people in the armed services understand close air support.

He said A-10 divestitures would “scatter” those personnel, and the people “who know how to bring air power to bear will be gone”.
 

Triton

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"Air Combat Command's challenge: Buy new or modernize older aircraft"
Feb. 2, 2014
by Aaron Mehta
Staff writer

Source:
http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140202/NEWS04/302020005/Air-Combat-Command-s-challenge-Buy-new-modernize-older-aircraft

After a tense budget battle last year, the Air Force is gearing up to defend what service officials have called a series of hard choices about what to keep and what to dump. With finances tight, the biggest fight is over whether to modernize older platforms or risk a capabilities gap while pushing that funding toward recapitalization programs.

Charged with keeping the combat air forces ready to go at a moment’s notice is Gen. Michael Hostage, head of Air Combat Command. He discussed the upcoming budget and challenges the Air Force faces Jan. 27 in a wide-ranging interview.

Q. What should we expect to see for ACC in this coming budget?

A. We made some very hard choices. The only way you save the amount of money that we are being told we have to cut from the budget is to make entire weapon systems go away.

We talked specifically about the A-10, a weapon system I would dearly love to continue in the inventory because there are tactical problems out there that would be perfectly suited for the A-10. I have other ways to solve that tactical problem.

It may not be as elegant as the A-10, but I can still get the job done, but that solution is usable in another level of conflict in which the A-10 is totally useless.

It does not make any sense to cut the other program and cut A-10s if I have to give one up for the other.

I really save the big bucks when I take an entire [platform] and shut it down because I save the squadrons of those airplanes but I also save the logistics infrastructure, the training infrastructure and all of the overhead.

Q. Should we expect to see multiple platforms removed from the budget?

A. Yes. That is the only way to make the numbers meet, the direction we were given. Now, again, whether the politics will let us do those things are another thing. Unfortunately, if I am told, “OK, we understand about the A-10, you can take half the A-10 fleet” — that, sadly, does not leave me in a very good place because now we have to keep all of that infrastructure that supports the A-10. I get to save some portion of money by cutting certain squadrons, but they will save the large dollars that goes with that infrastructure piece, and now I have to go after squadrons of other airplanes so I reduce the overall capability of the Air Force, and I am in a worse place then I would have been if I just cut the whole A-10 fleet.

Q. Do you believe those program cuts can make it through Congress?

A. Your guess is as good as mine. With the budget, we told them what we thought we needed to do, and now it is a matter of the politics of things, whether they will allow us to do it. There is a lot of opposition on the Hill, but that opposition does not come with money saying, “Here. You use this money and keep that fleet.” They are just saying, “No, you cannot get rid of that fleet.”

But they are still cutting the budget so I have to do something, and, unfortunately, the something that is left is worse than cutting the A-10 fleet. It is far worse for the nation if I have to keep the A-10 and cut a bunch of other stuff because they will not give me enough money to keep it all.

Q. ISR is another area that has been politically difficult in the past. Is that impacting your plans?

A. Well, we are being driven by politics to take on a weapon system that is very expensive, the Global Hawk. It appears that I will be told I have to continue to purchase Global Hawks, and given the budget picture that we have, I cannot afford both the U-2 and the Global Hawk. I will likely have to give up the U-2. What that means is that we are going to have to spend buckets of money to get the Global Hawk up to some semblance of capability that the U-2 currently has. It is going to cost a lot of money, and it is going to take time, and as I lose the U-2 fleet, I now have a high-altitude ISR fleet that is not very useful in a contested environment. It will change how I am able to employ that airplane in a high-end fight or a contested domain.

Q. Are there any programs you would fight tooth and nail for in the budget?

A. I am going to fight to the death to protect the F-35 because I truly believe the only way we will make it through the next decade is with a sufficient fleet of F-35s.

If you gave me all the money I needed to refurbish the F-15 and the F-16 fleets, they would still become tactically obsolete by the middle of the next decade. Our adversaries are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet, no matter what I do, by the middle of the next decade.

I have to provide an Air Force that in the middle of the next decade has sufficient fifth-generation capability that whatever residual fourth-generation capability I still have is viable and tactically useful. I am willing to trade the refurbishment of the fourth gen to ensure that I continue to get that fifth-gen capability.

I am fighting to the end, to the death, to keep the F-35 program on track. For me, that means not a single airplane cut from the program, because every time our allies and our partners see the United States Air Force back away, they get weak in the knees.

Q. So you remain committed to the 1,763 figure that has come out?

A. Absolutely. Not one plane less.

Q. What about upgrades to the F-22?

A. The F-22, when it was produced, was flying with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system. But I was forced to use that because that was the spec that was written by the acquisition process when I was going to buy the F-22.

Then, I have to go through the [service life extension plan] and [cost and assessment program evaluation] efforts with airplanes to try to get modern technology into my legacy fleet. That is why the current upgrade programs to the F-22 I put easily as critical as my F-35 fleet. If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22. Because I got such a pitifully tiny fleet, I’ve got to ensure I will have every single one of those F-22s as capable as it possibly can be.

Q. Has the readiness issue subsided?

A. The bottom line is, despite the budget deal, we are still going to the same spot at the bottom of the cliff that we were going to when they started the sequestration madness. They have shallowed the glide path a little bit over the next two years, but we pay it all back in the out years and we still hit at the same spot at the bottom of the cliff.

We still have an urgent need to be allowed to reshape our force, to resize ourselves to fit within the amount of money the country is putting for defense, and as long as Congress is stopping us from doing that, we are going to have difficulty making readiness.

Q. Given budget constraints, how do you encourage the development of new technology?

A. What I am trying to spark is partnerships between labs and industry to produce capability of this leading edge technology that potentially is out there.

Q. What areas might have the highest probability of payback?

A. Obviously, we are very interested in directed energy. We are very interested in the materials technology that is burgeoning.

Nanotechnology is very exciting and holds some great promise.

There are some interesting technological areas out there, but I am sure not going to give away secrets of what the cool toys are we are looking for next. I want my adversaries to be surprised.
 

jsport

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Wow, thank you Triton for posting this. some revelations :)
 

fightingirish

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http://youtu.be/beembhErNro


Code:
http://youtu.be/beembhErNro

http://youtu.be/rEdy84YGf1k

Code:
http://youtu.be/rEdy84YGf1k
Interesting news report about the A-10 cut and its politics.
 

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Retiring the A-10 so fast is not too bright... because even if the A-10 is no longer survivable in it's intended design role as heavy CAS during a high intensity peer to peer competitor conflict....it's very efficient in the wars we are fighting now.

Yes; the need for the huge GUN and the efficient low(ish) speed delivery of dumb bombs are largely gone now, thanks to JDAM being everywhere and the soon(ish) capability of retargeting JDAMs on the fly via datalinks; making it possible for a F-16 to go to air-ground mode on it's radar, pick out a tank column; and try directing JDAMs (or SDBs) to each individual cluster of tank, sending correction data in real time to the bomb(s), making it almost impossible for the tanks to evade; making a very cheap JDAM or SDB the functional equivalent of a EO/IIR Maverick with regards to moving target capability.

But...in such a conflict such as we're fighting now; your platforms spend a lot of time boring holes in the sky over and over in between bomb drops on insurgents.

So Total Cost Per Flight Hour becomes very important; here's the costs from 2013:

ATTACK:
A-10C: $17,716/hr
AC-130U Spooky Gunship — $45,986

BOMBER
B-1B Lancer Bomber — $57,807
B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber — $169,313
B-52H Stratofortress Bomber — $69,708


CARGO
C-130J Hercules Cargo Plane — $14,014
C-17 Globemaster Cargo Plane — $23,811

FIGHTER
F-15C Eagle Fighter — $41,921
F-16C Viper Fighter — $22,514
F-22A Raptor Fighter — $68,362


DRONE
MQ-9A Reaper Drone — $4,762

Some takeaways from the data above:

1.) The A-10C has a slight advantage over a F-16C in flight hour costs.

2.) If we could develop a palletized CAS module with operator stations and JDAMs on a deployment rack for the C-130J, we could get really cheap CAS at an awesome cost.

3.) Drones are awesome.

However, there are some factors which need to be taken into account:

1A.) While drones ultimately are going to be the future; particularly as they get ever higher flying and heavier, allowing them to fly above 90% of light AAA/SAM, they have a very expensive support cost to support each "racetrack" -- you need satellite bandwidth -- and placing satellites in GEO is expensive; so it ultimately limits the effectiveness of drones for the next generation, or until the next generation of military commsats is deployed.

2.) While the cost delta between the F-16C and A-10C is pretty slim -- $4,798/hr -- there's another consideration we have to keep in mind -- total flight hours per aircraft type. The A-10C is pretty cheap to repair or re-wing; it was designed deliberately so as a battle damage repair feature. F-16, not quite so.

With truncation of the F-22 production line at 187 production aircraft; and F-35 costs not quite working out; flight hours on the legacy fighter fleet will be important for the future, particularly since we blew a lot of airframe hours over the last 13 years over Iraq and Afghanistan.

If I was in charge, I'd ask the USAF three questions:

Q1: At what point will our satcomm capability reach the point of being able to support "x" number of UCAV orbits over a country about 200,000 square miles (between Iraq and Afghanistan in size) in area?

Q2: At what point will our heavy UCAV inventory reach 200+ airframes? (we want 396~ Reapers).


Q3: How many flight hours will our legacy teen airframes (F-15/16) be able to go before rewinging if they are forced to take up the flight hours of the retired A-10 fleet? How much will said re-winging or reconstruction work cost? What is the crossover margin for this against numbers of A-10s retained for the near future?

Based on the three answers, I'd then integrate a retirement date for the A-10, with a margin of safety (future congresses may cut Reaper procurement or stretch out the schedule for the commsats to support UCAV Orbits).
 

sublight is back

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RyanCrierie said:
Q1: At what point will our satcomm capability reach the point of being able to support "x" number of UCAV orbits over a country about 200,000 square miles (between Iraq and Afghanistan in size) in area?
In regards to the SATCOM bandwidth available, the X-47B is the future of UCAV. You don't fly it, you just command it with a keyboard and mouse. It is going to come back over the comms, present a target, and ask you if you want to kill it. This is way more efficient than a dude sitting in a hot shack somewhere actually flying the thing and eating up many megabytes of bandwidth via full motion video.
 
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