F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.

Bruno Anthony

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The F/A-16. I like the concept and its HMS. There are more informed people here than me about this plane, so what does the forum think?

Aside from my 2 opinion cents, I can provide AvWeek and Aerospace Daily articles from back in the day.
 

Triton

Donald McKelvy
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All I know about the CAS F-16 proposals is from F-16.net:

"A-16, F/A-16, F-16A (30mm gun)"
http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article18.html

And it's not complimentary. Just schemes to dispose of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II in the United States Air Force inventory.
 

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A-16's LACK OF BROAD ACCEPTANCE FRUSTRATES GEN. WELCH
525 words
30 January 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 20, No. 20
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry D. Welch, frustrated by extended studies of close air support requirements, said the A-16 variant of the General Dynamics F-16 fighter will do the job but many in Washington choose not to believe it.

In an unusually frank response to a question at an Air Force Association symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, Welch said that he and Gen. Robert D. Russ, head of Tactical Air Command, "have looked diligently at 28 candidates for close air support. There have been hundreds and hundreds of hours and some $27 million spent on just generating and examining those 28 candidates."

Welch said that "We have provided all that data to all of those (who think they understand the problem), who need all that information to arrive at their conclusion. They've been unable to do so. And you have a right to ask, 'why have they been unable to do so?' Very simple. The data does not say Mudfighter," the relatively inexpensive type of aircraft that many prefer over the A-16.

But, said Welch, "I don't give a damn how you slice that data. I don't give a damn how if you turn it upside down. I don't care how you look at it. The data does not say Mudfighter. The data says A-16."

And, "since the data doesn't say what (the so-called experts) want it to say, guess what we're doing? All this time while no decision is being made, we're buying F-16s.

"So, we're sort of in a strange situation. Those who don't want the F-16 as the primary close air support airplane ought to be determined to get an early decision. Those of us who think a version of the F-16 is the smart way to go ought to be perfectly content with" the whole exercise.

The situation, Welch said, confirms his view that in Washington, "it is a common management technique to save time in reaching a conclusion by omitting all the relevant facts."

A retired four-star general attending the symposium told The DAILY that the "unusual degree of asperity" in Welch's comments meant he was "tired of being sandbagged" on the issue. If delays continue, the former top officer said, the service may some day find itself unable to do an adequate job of close air support.

Lt. Gen. Michael J. Dugan, deputy chief of staff for plans and operations, echoed Welch's comments in another address at the symposium. He blasted "numerous CAS (close air support) experts on the Potomac" and said the U.S. is "about to enter the new negotiations on conventional forces in Europe with the Soviets in a position of advantage, or at least us in a position of operational deficiency--a deficiency that we need a close air support aircraft to respond to."

Dugan said that "For the future, under any budget climate, and especially in times of fiscal constraint and reduced force structures, the A-16 is the right answer...."


STUDIES COULD DELAY CAS AIRCRAFT BY THREE YEARS: GEN. DUGAN
1056 words
3 February 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 24
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

A series of studies of close air support requirements could delay introduction of a new CAS aircraft by at least three years, Lt. Gen. Michael J. Dugan, deputy chief of staff for plans and operations, reported.

Dugan, addressing an Air Force Symposium in Orlando, Fla., last week, traced the studies and stressed the importance of proceeding quickly with the Air Force's choice, the General Dynamics A-16.

He said the Air Force agrees with the Army's concept of the future battlefield--"fluid, non-linear, emphasizing mobility, speed, firepower, lethality and operations tempo of friendly forces"--and has committed 27% of its tactical fighter resources, more than 730 aircraft, to the CAS mission.

The A-16, he said, "may not be the perfect solution" to the Army's needs, "but it's damn close: it's proven, it's lethal, it's affordable, it's supportable (and) we have an in-place infrastructure...."

The A-10 doesn't meet evolving requirements and "can't be modified to meet them," he said. It "does just what we designed it to do" but is no longer adequate. The A-10 "isn't under-powered," he said, "it's over-dragged." The AF doesn't want "grandson of (the Douglas) A-1," nor is it "looking for son of A-10," Dugan said.

Not only must the AF "hit the target the first time and on the move," he said, it must do so in large numbers. The capability of fighter aircraft "is slashed" if they work singly or in small numbers, he said, but "this is the vision of the CAS experts on the Potomac."

"Somebody out there thinks of CAS as raindrops that sprinkle down on the battlefield like a spring shower," Dugan said. "I think of CAS like a thunderstorm that rains down death and destruction in masses of airplanes and tons of munitions, that goes for important targets and important forces and does something with impact on the battlefield."

Gen. Robert D. Russ, head of Tactical Air Command, said in another address at the symposium that "special interest groups in and out of the government" are hampering progress in the CAS effort. These group, he said, "sometimes are at odds with the goal of producing a winning team. I don't think they're at odds with our objectives, but they're myopic in their view of the product that they have and what they're trying to sell. They want their solution. They want their pet rock, and no matter how it impacts the team and no matter what the cost."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry D. Welch said the situation reminded him of an experience he had at a recent banquet.

He said that, "as the waiter came around passing out the butter, I asked for a second pat of butter. The waiter said, 'One person, one pat.' The host at the head table said, 'Don't you know who that is? That's the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and he's our guest speaker.' And the waiter said back, 'Don't you know who I am? I'm the guy in charge of giving out the butter.'

"The reason I tell that story," Welch continued, "is that Washington and the Pentagon are full of people who think they're in charge of giving out the butter."

A Slow Process

Dugan said, "you can't get discouraged about single-man special interest groups that don't understand Army requirements, that don't understand Air Force contributions, and don't understand close air support from the commander's perspective, (but) that's the situation that we face in Washington today."

He gave this history of the effort to come up with a follow-on CAS aircraft:

--In 1982, the Army published its Air-Land Battle concept stressing maneuverability, firepower and numbers.

--In 1983, the Air Force endorsed the idea and declared the A-10 inadequate.

--In 1985, industry responded to an AF request for information on CAS aircraft with some 28 candidates. In June, Tactical Air Command drafted a statement of operational need for a follow-on CAS plane. The Air Force's fiscal 1987 program objective memorandum included more than $400 million a year for each year of the five-year defense plan to get started on a new CAS plane. The Defense Resources Board disapproved TAC's mission need statement and directed a review.

--In December 1986, the Air Force endorsed LTV's A-7F and the A-16, but the the Office of the Secretary of Defense disapproved the A-16 and formed the Close Air Support Mission Area Review Group to carry out additional feasibility studies.

--In 1988, the Dixon amendment to the base closings bill required the Secretary of Defense to assess the 28 aircraft candidates, study the idea of transferring the CAS mission to the Army, and prepare a flyoff test plan.

--In December 1988, OSD approved a program budget decision (PBD-235) that puts an additional $2 million per year in the FYDP to support further studies, provides funds to re-engine a single A-10, funds the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for CAS simulations and additional CAS studies, and provides a production wedge in the FYDP with some production funds in the last year, fiscal 1994.

"The net result" of all these studies, said Dugan, "could delay follow-on CAS capability and IOC by at least three years if it's not dealt with decisively, and now."

"Clearly we're in good shape in the United States Air Force" overall, Dugan said. "Every once in a while it's easy to get discouraged about one of these things that come up, a little pimple on road to progress. But we have a view of the future and we have a picture of how to get there and we know how to do it in an affordable fashion. And to meet the requirements of our customer, we need to get on with the job, especially when the issue underlines the very essence of tactical air power and our relationship with the U.S. Army."

"We know what it takes to be responsive, and it's not another study," Dugan said.
 

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BUDGET CUTS POSTPONE A-16 IN FAVOR OF F-16, A-10 UPGRADES
452 words
14 March 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 50
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Budget cuts have forced the Air Force to abandon--for now, at least-- plans to retire the A-10 and buy A-16 close air support (CAS) variants of the F-16, Pentagon officials said yesterday. The mission will be met in the near term by modified A-10s and F-16s.

The Air Force offered up an F-16 procurement cut from 600 aircraft to 480 over the next four years as part of the Bush Administration's coming defense budget reduction (DAILY, March 8). This leaves "no room for A-16," one official said, but the AF hopes the plane will be revived "in the out-years."

In the meantime, the service plans to upgrade older F-16s and A-10s with forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and terrian-avoidance equipment. Some armor plating will be applied to the modified F-16s.

The A-10/F-16 upgrade was proposed to the AF recently by Deputy Defense Secretary William H. Taft IV, officials said. The service accepted the plan in light of zero-real-growth budget constraints.

The AF has said it can't keep the A-10 because the plane is too slow to survive the CAS environment, but an official reported that there are no immediate plans to equip the aircraft with a higher-thrust engine. "That's not affordable just now," he said. "It wasn't something that was planned. But it will be looked at some more."

Another official confirmed that the AF won't have to evaluate a new- design, low-cost "Mudfighter," as some Pentagon and congressional A-16 opponents have advocated. The AF has consistently fought the Mudfighter, saying it lacks the resources to develop, buy or support another airframe. AF Chief of Staff Larry D. Welch recently insisted that CAS study data "does not say Mudfighter" (DAILY, Jan. 30).

Under the new plan, the first F-16s would be modified for CAS in 1993. The start of A-10 retirement had been planned that year, but officials could not say how much its service life would be extended. As many as 300 A-10s and more than 500 F-16s could be upgraded, but one official said these quantities are "still rather iffy." The Air Force fields about 650 A-10s.

The cost of upgrading the F-16s and A-10s would be about $1.8 million per aircraft, an official said. The A-16 was to have been modified on the assembly line with a unit flyaway cost of about $13.2 million. A-16s would have been part of the previously planned F-16 buy, not additional aircraft.


GALVIN CRITICIZES CAS 'NON-DECISION,' WANTS BAI CAPABILITY
329 words
27 March 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 59
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

NATO commander Gen. John R. Galvin is impatient with the lack of progress in picking a followon close air support aircraft and with attempts to redefine the CAS mission, a Pentagon memo reveals.

In a March 9 message to William H. Taft IV, then the acting defense secretary, Galvin said debate over the CAS followon "has apparently led to a 'non-decision'" on an issue vital to field commanders. He criticized Pentagon proponents of a so-called Mudfighter for their "frequent attempts to redefine my...requirements," and he asked Taft to "move forward" on a solution that addressed Galvin's warfighting needs.

The "non-decision" to which Galvin referred was Taft's plan to modify existing A-10s and F-16s for CAS rather than go to a new-production F-16 variant, the A-16. A long-term program would be deferred until the early 1990s (DAILY, March 14).

In his memo, a copy of which was obtained by The DAILY, Galvin said he wouldn't "presume to recommend" a specific aircraft. He endorsed the A-16, however: "It seems to me that the A-16 provides the flexibility and capability I need."

Galvin said the A-10 has served well and will have a role "in future low intensity conflicts," but it won't meet his needs in the future high intensity European environment. The 1990s battlefield will require an aircraft to perform both CAS and battlefield air interdiction (BAI), he said, not a "CAS only" plane.

"NATO recognizes this and combines CAS and BAI into a single mission called offensive air support (OAS)," Galvin said. Army and Air Force requirements mirror this approach, which "is completely consistent with my operational needs."

Mudfighter proponents have "only blurred the picture," Galvin argued. "I believe this issue has been studied enough, and I urge that we now move forward and identify a solution that meets the needs of the warfighting commanders."



AIR GUARD CLOSE AIR SUPPORT UNIT TO FLY MODIFIED F-16s
773 words
28 March 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 60
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

At least one Air Force unit dedicated to close air support is transitioning to F-16s from A-10s, despite uncertainty in Washington over picking a follow-on CAS aircraft.

The 174th Tactical Fighter Wing, a New York Air National Guard unit based at Hancock Field in Syracuse, is the first Air Force CAS unit to receive F- 16s. It shipped its last flight of four A-10 Thunderbolts to various other reserve units last week.

Some of the unit's A-10s went to Truax Field, a Madison, Wis., reserve base, while others were converted to an OA-10 configuration to replace OA-37 Dragonflies in service at NAS Willow Grove.

Lt. Col. Robert Purple, base commander at Hancock, told The DAILY that despite the assignment of 20 F-16A/B fighters, the 174th's mission "is going to remain close air support." This is because Air Force protocols with the Army covering CAS demand that a certain number of units be CAS-dedicated.

The aircraft will be modified, but to what degree they will resemble the proposed A-16 will depend on funding and policy decisions made in Washington.

He said the unit has a history of leading the Air Force in CAS developments, adding that if the A-16 ever comes to pass, he expects the 174th to be the lead unit for the plane.

The debate over CAS has boiled down to a comparison of a new-production A-16 variant of the F-16, and a so-called "Mudfighter," a low-cost, heavily armed turboprop. Lack of progress in picking a CAS follow-on prompted a memo from NATO commander Gen. John R. Galvin urging the Pentagon to "move forward" on a CAS solution that meets his requirements (DAILY, March 27).

Galvin, whose front-line NATO forces would be the first beneficiaries of a new CAS aircraft program, was critical in his March 9 memo of then-acting defense secretary William H. Taft's plan to modify existing A-10s and F-16s for CAS, deferring a long-term program until the early 1990s.

Gen. Robert D. Russ, chief of Tactical Air Command, visited the 174th earlier this year and assured the unit that the Air Force's CAS decision was to use the F-16 "in whatever version or form," another unit official said.

The official said that at a minimum the F-16s will have to go through the Block 30 upgrade to accomplish the CAS mission. Plans so far call for nine gun pods, similar to the 30mm cannon pods tested on F-16s last year, to go to Syracuse with the aircraft, where the unit will put the planes through a period of "testing and refinement," he said.

The 174th TFW, known as the Boys From Syracuse, has been in Field Technical Training (FTT) for the aircraft for several months, using in some cases borrowed aircraft until the full complement of F-16s arrives.

"We're already training pilots," Purple said. "We have seven or eight pilots, but we just don't have the iron for" full scale operations. Funding problems delayed aircraft deliveries for three months, but "as soon as the iron flow starts, we'll be starting (training) in earnest." The 174th hopes to begin taking delivery of the aircraft next month, because "there's a lot of work to be done," he said.

Pilots from the 174th took part in limited testing of an F-16 fitted with a 30mm cannon, mounted in a centerline pod, last year. They didn't fire the cannon, but one AF official said an "A-16 test" is coming up later this month.

The 174th evidently will serve as a test case for flying the F-16 in a CAS role. The 174th routinely trains with the 10th Mountain Brigade and several artillery units at Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y. In addition, Hancock Field is a training base for the annual NATO Checkered Flag exercises, and every summer the 174th deploys to West Germany to fly with Luftwaffe Tornados.

A unit official noted that the F-16/Tornado combination is much more compatible than the A-10/Tornado match. In addition, the combination better serves what unit pilots believe is the evolving CAS mission--battlefield air interdiction (BAI). The official said brigade and corps commanders in the field already have at their disposal tube-launched weapons that supplant the traditional role of the CAS airplane.

"It may be time to redefine CAS," the official said, "looking at an echelon-type war of interdiction."
 

Bruno Anthony

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OF GALVIN MEMO ON CAS/BAI
274 words
28 March 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 60
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Following is the text of a memorandum sent March 9 by Army Gen. John R. Galvin, NATO commander, to William H. Taft IV, then the acting defense secretary, criticizing delays in decisions on how to upgrade close air support/battlefield air interdiction forces (DAILY, March 27):

"I have watched with interest the debate in DOD concerning the follow-on close air support (CAS) aircraft. Up to now the debate has shown little progress and has apparently led to a 'non-decision' on an issue of vital importance to warfighting commanders.

"It is my view that as I look into the 1990s, tomorrow's battlefield will require tactical aircraft with operational flexibility to perform both CAS and battlefield air interdiction (BAI). NATO recognizes this and combines CAS and BAI into a single mission called offensive air support (OAS). Similarly, the current Air Force and Army statement of requirements for CAS/BAI emphasizes flexibility and is completely consistent with my operational needs. Frequent attempts by others to redefine my basic warfighting requirements toward a 'CAS-only' aircraft have only blurred the picture.

"The A-10A has served well and it will have a place in future low intensity conflicts, but it will not meet my needs in a future high intensity European environment. I will not presume to recommend a specific follow-on CAS/BAI aircraft although it seems to me that the A-16 provides the flexibility and capability I need. I believe this issue has been studied enough, and I urge that we now move forward and identify a solution that meets the needs of the warfighting commanders."

AIR FORCE, ARMY CHIEFS BACK A-16; AF SEEKS FY '90 FUNDS
717 words
30 March 1989

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Vol. 149, No. 62
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

The chiefs of staff of the Air Force and the Army have lined up behind the General Dynamics A-16 as at least a near-term close air support/battlefield air interdiction (CAS/BAI) aircraft, and the Air Force is seeking A-16 funds in its revised FY 1990 budget proposals.

"There is now reasonable consensus within the Department of Defense that, whatever the ideal long term solution, the A-16 will be a very significant addition to CAS/BAI capability," AF Gen. Larry D. Welch and Army Gen. Carl E. Vuono said in a memorandum to Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We should therefore proceed to deliver some part of the F-16 buy in the A-16 configuration," Welch and Vuono said. "Funding for the A-16 is included in the revised Air Force budget beginning in FY '90."

Welch and Vuono said the AF will pursue A-10 upgrades "for continuing near term close air support and longer term low intensity conflict." Some A- 10s will be converted to an OA-10 configuration "to perform the FAC (forward air controller) role and provide some light battlefield support."

The two chiefs said decisions on the A-7F, an A-7 CAS variant, should be made after two prototypes being built by LTV have been flown and evaluated.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The DAILY, was sent to Crowe on March 1, a week before Army Gen. John R. Galvin, NATO commander, wrote Deputy Defense Secretary William H. Taft IV criticizing the Pentagon's apparent "non-decision" on CAS/BAI. Galvin didn't recommend a CAS/BAI aircraft but said "it seems to me that the A-16 provides the flexibility and capability I need" (DAILY, March 27).

DRB To Resolve Issue

Taft was reported to have rejected the A-16, approving lesser CAS retrofits for the F-16 and an A-10 upgrade, and to have deferred a long-term program until the early 1990s (DAILY, March 14). Sources said yesterday, however, that the modifications-vs.-A-16 issue remains and will be resolved by the Defense Resources Board, which will take up budget revisions next week.

President Bush told the Pentagon last month to cut the Reagan Administration's final defense budget proposals by $6.3 billion in FY 1990 and $60.5 billion in the FY 1990-94 period. The Air Force is proposing to cut back F-16 production to 120 aircraft per year as part of its share of these cuts (DAILY, March 8). Additional funds to develop A-16 modifications and incorporate them in the production program would reduce the net budget decrease.

Welch and Vuono observed that the "circle of players" in the CAS debate "is growing with DOD, the Joint Staff, GAO, several consulting groups and congressional hearings all playing some role." The Joint Chiefs should "lead these deliberations to ensure the right perspective," they told Crowe.

They noted that commanders have distinct requirements for CAS, BAI, deep interdiction and air superiority, and that the evolution of armed helicopters "adds a new dimension to the battlefield that influences the mix and emphasis on fixed wing support of the close battle." Ideally, a CAS/BAI aircraft would enable commanders to "swing tactical air support from close air support to battlefield interdiction or vice versa on an instant's notice" as battlefield needs change, they said.

Without an A-16, the Air Force has structured itself to provide 6.5 wings of dedicated CAS aircraft and a total of 28 wings that can contribute to CAS if needed, Welch and Vuono said. Nine wings are "particularly well suited" but not optimized for BAI and 24 wings can contribute if needed.

"It should be obvious that it is not possible to pluck a 'close air support' force out of the tactical force and hope to have any kind of rational approach to providing the varieties of support needed to meet changing needs across the width and depth of the battlefield," they said. "The tactical air forces must be able to respond quickly and with great flexibility to the priorities set by the theater commander to meet those needs."
 

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Sorry, not all of these articles are in chronological order:



A SECTION
Order for New Ground Support Plane Causes Upheaval at Pentagon
George C. Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
554 words
27 January 1987

The Washington Post
WP
FINAL
a09
English
(Copyright 1987)

A battle is raging behind the scenes at the Pentagon over an order to the Air Force to design a new plane that would support ground troops by destroying enemy tanks and helicopters.

The two-sentence reference to this "close air support aircraft" in Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's new posture statement belies the institutional upheavals that this seemingly modest step has caused, according to Pentagon officials.

Pentagon civilian leaders, including David Chu, head of the analysis and evaluation office, and Richard P. Godwin, the new overseer for weapons buying, rejected the advice of Air Force and Army leaders and persuaded Deputy Defense Secretary William H. Taft IV to proceed with the design study on the new aircraft.

Army and Air Force officials favor a modified version of the supersonic F16 fighter, called the A16, for that role. Weinberger has said that the A7 attack plane, used extensively in the Vietnam war, might be adapted as an interim close air support aircraft.

During Pentagon budget debates, the civilian leaders argued that, rather than rely on sophisticated planes like the F16 or vulnerable ones like the A10 antitank aircraft, it was time to develop a plane that could fly slowly enough to pick out small targets like tanks, carry armor-piercing weaponry and yet have the agility and acceleration to escape the battlefield before enemy gunners could shoot it down.

Under Taft's decision, reflected in the new fiscal 1988 defense budget, the Air Force will take $10 million from existing accounts this year to start the design effort and would receive another $10 million out of the fiscal 1988 budget now before Congress. Officials said that several aerospace contractors would be paid to design new generations of close support aircraft and that winning designs would be picked in the spring of 1988. After that, two prototypes might be built for a fly-off competition.

Air Force leaders, besides leaning toward adapting an existing aircraft for the close support role, have been reluctant to start a new program in this era of austere Pentagon budgets. Pentagon officials said the Air Force leadership fears that a new, close support aircraft would consume money needed for the advanced tactical fighter (ATF) under development.

"They're afraid they'll get stuck with another A10," said one Pentagon insider, "even though all Weinberger is talking about is a design evaluation."

Critics contend that the A10 close support aircraft now in service falls short of the need, partly because it is too easy to hit. The A10's ground support mission was compromised, according to Pentagon critics, by the insistence that it be capable of remaining airborne with a load of bombs for long periods. "We really don't have a survivable close air support aircraft today," said one enthusiast of the design initiative.

The Army's master plan calls for spending billions on armed helicopters to help protect soldiers on the battlefield from enemy armor. A new support plane might jeopardize the Army's long-range plan, officials said.

In his posture statement, Weinberger said, "The design goal will be to provide a significant increase in capability over the A10, while maintaining a low unit cost and high readiness."
 

Triton

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This discussion probably should go to "The Bar." The United States Air Force's Close Air Support role is intertwined with a political battle with the United States Army and the service's intense dislike for the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

From F-16.net:

As for the A-16 Block 60, the project failed because the 30mm gun generated excessive heat that damaged inner components of the left fuselage.

In November 1988, the 174th [Tactical Fighter Wing] of the New York [Air National Guard]began transitioning from the A-10A Thunderbolt II to the F-16A/B block 10, becoming the first unit to operate the F-16 in a Close Air Support role.

During Desert Storm, their 24 F-16A/B aircraft were equipped to carry the General Electric GPU-5/A Pave Claw pod on the centerline station. The pod houses a 30mm GAU-13/A four-barrel derivative of the seven-barrel GAU-8/A cannon used by the A-10A, and 353 rounds of ammunition. The aircraft received the new designation F/A-16, and were the only F-16s ever to be equipped with this weapon, intended for use against a variety of battlefield targets, including armor.

If the tests were successful, there were plans for a fleet of F/A-16C's with the same armament. To demonstrate the concept, the AF installed Pave Penny avionics, 30mm gun pods and European One paint jobs on 7 F-16C's (#83128, -129, -130, -131, -132, -144, -2??). F-16B no. 2 (#75752) was given similar treatment except for a Falcon Eye system. These aircraft flew from Nellis with the 'WA' tailcode.

The F-16s from the 174th were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm, but the project proved to be a miserable failure [emphasis added]. Precision aiming was impossible for several reasons:

  • The pylon mount isn't as steady as the A-10's rigid mounting
  • The F-16 flies much faster than an A-10, giving the pilots too little time approaching the target
  • Firing the gun shook the aircraft harshly and made it impossible to control
  • Essential CCIP (continuously computed impact point) software was unavailable
Pilots ended up using the gun as an area effect weapon, spraying multiple targets with ammunition, producing an effect rather like a cluster bomb. It took only a couple of days of this before they gave up, unbolted the gun pods, and went back to dropping real cluster bombs - which did the job more effectively.

The F/A-16C plan was quietly forgotten. The USAF still has plans to replace the A-10 with F-16s, but they no longer involve 30mm gun pods (or, apparently, a designation with an "A" in it).
Source:
http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article18.html

Experience has shown that the A-16 and the F/A-16 were poor Close Air Support platforms.

Now this discussion will quickly degenerate into a battle over whether the United States Air Force should continue the CAS role or if it should be given to the United States Army and a battle over the worth of the A-10 relative to the F-16 in the CAS role.
 

sferrin

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I read somewhere that the results of the 30mm gun pod on the F-16 were less than stellar. Given that the pod doesn't appear to have made it on the F-15E either. . .
 

Triton

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I guess it depends on how important you view the General Electric GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm rotary cannon to the CAS role.
 

John21

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I'd say its pretty important. Especially in today's conflicts where no or limited collateral damage is a must. I watched a video of a gun-run on a Taliban dirt bike with two riders and it was pretty accurate.

Frankly since the A-10 is going to be serving for almost 30 more years and the Air Force doesn't seem to give CAS the respect it deserves, they should be handed over to the Army. Heck along with the planes, have its pilots, maintainers and support equipment also rotate to Army service. Keep them in the same location and just give them a new paint job and scroll Army on the side.
 

chuck4

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Would a more modern single or double barrel 30mm gun using better gun laying technology and firing higher tech projectiles a better deal?

I am not sure a 7 barrel 30mm gun firing 4000 rounds a minute from an aircraft that has to boresight on an enemy who is also firing back will do less collateral damage than a Hellfire fired from a more secure location further away or behind cover.
 

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Laser guided cannon shells will put all that to rest. Accurate low-collateral damage hits from 0-40k. They already have it in a 50cal and dev projects are in the works for the F-35's 25mm.
 

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The Russians were developing a mobile 45mm smoothbore for the Su-25... with guided rounds muzzle velocity and round weight become less important - so such weapons become more practical.

I wonder if this is more likely?

P.S. Any info on such unorthodox guns is most desired!
 

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TEXT OF WELCH-VUONO MEMO ENDORSING A-16
1022 words
31 March 1989
Aerospace Daily

ASD
Vol. 149, No. 63
English
Copyright 1989 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Following is the text of a memorandum sent March 1 by Gen. Larry D. Welch, Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. Carl E. Vuono, Army chief of staff, to Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supporting an A-16 close air support/battlefield air interdiction aircraft program:

"As you know, the circle of players addressing close air support issues in Washington is growing with DOD, the Joint Staff, GAO, several consulting groups and congressional hearings all playing some role. It is important that the Joint Chiefs lead these deliberations to ensure the right perspective.

"The Army and Air Force have devoted years of intense concentration to this subject and the broader subject of overall tactical air support of air- land operations. In 1973, at the direction of then Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams and Air Force Chief of Staff George Brown, the Army and Air Force embarked on a renewed focus on harmonizing Air Force tactical air support capabilities to the needs of the ground forces commander. The objective was to put an end to parochial doctrinal and roles and missions arguments, and to instead focus on how the future AirLand battle is likely to be fought and on the demands of the future battlefield on Army and Air Force capabilities. Each Army and Air Force Chief since that time has strongly reinforced that drive for cooperative understanding of the demands of the air-land battle.

"In 1982 the Army, after much study and coordination with the Air Force, published its new AirLand battle doctrine. From 1982 to 1985, the Air Force with help from the Army focused on refining the need for tactical air support of the new AirLand Battle and refining the statement of the doctrine itself with the 1986 revision of FM 100-5.

"It is clear that the Army continues to need the full spectrum of integrated tactical air support--air superiority to protect forces and infrastructure from enemy air attack and to provide freedom of action for other tactical air and helicopter operations, deep interdiction to reduce enemy capability to reinforce and support combat operations, battlefield interdiction to control the flow of enemy forces forward to the battle area and set the conditions for future operations, and close air support to provide firepower at critical times and places at the point of contact.

"It is also clear that the continuing development of armed helicopter systems adds a new dimension to the battlefield that influences the mix and emphasis on fixed wing support of the close battle.

"The mix of these needs changes daily and hourly and varies widely from place to place on the battlefield. There will be times and places where the demand for close air support requires everything that can contribute to that mission. At other times and places, the need for close air support will be lighter and the demand for battlefield air interdiction or deep interdiction may be the heaviest. The Air Force has structured the tactical air forces to accommodate that constantly changing need with some 6.5 wings of dedicated close air support aircraft but a total of 28 wings that can contribute to close air support if needed. Further, there are 9 wings particularly well suited (though not really specialized) for battlefield air interdiction but a total of 24 wings that can contribute to battlefield air interdiction if needed. Lastly, there are 7 wings dedicated to air superiority but 25 wings that can contribute to that mission.

"It should be obvious that it is not possible to pluck a 'close air support' force out of the tactical force and hope to have any kind of rational approach to providing the varieties of support needed to meet changing needs across the width and depth of the battlefield. The tactical air forces must be able to respond quickly and with great flexibility to the priorities set by the theater commander to meet those needs.

"The same changes in the modern battlefield that led to the 1982 AirLand battle doctrine also demand a followon close air support aircraft. Ideally that followon aircraft would allow the ground forces commander to swing tactical air support from close air support to battlefield interdiction or vice versa on an instant's notice to meet the needs of the modern battlefield. For example, the ground commander's concern with enemy tanks in contact may very suddenly give way to concern with suppressing enemy artillery fire from deeper locations or stopping enemy reinforcements in a specific area. Responding quickly to such needs requires an aircraft that can operate effectively deeper into enemy territory.

"In response to the evolving need, the Air Force first proposed to fund a followon close air support aircraft in 1985 and each year since that time. Air Force analysis, and that of other agencies, says that at least a significant part of the near term solution is a new version of the F-16 specialized for the CAS/BAI role. There is now reasonable consensus within the Department of Defense that, whatever the ideal long term solution, the A-16 will be a very significant addition to CAS/BAI capability. We should therefore proceed to deliver some part of the F-16 buy in the A-16 configuration. Funding for the A-16 is included in the revised Air Force budget beginning in FY90.

"The Air Force will also pursue upgrades to the A-10 for continuing near term close air support and longer term low intensity conflict. In addition, part of the A-10 force will be converted to the OA-10 to perform the FAC (forward air controller) role and provide some light battlefield support.

"Two prototype A-7F aircraft are currently being fabricated. Any decision on the future of the A-7F should await the outcome of the subsequent evaluation.

"Your support to quickly resolve any lingering close air support roles and missions issues and to move forward with the Air Force followon close air support aircraft will well serve the needs of the combat forces."
 

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John21 said:
Frankly since the A-10 is going to be serving for almost 30 more years and the Air Force doesn't seem to give CAS the respect it deserves, they should be handed over to the Army. Heck along with the planes, have its pilots, maintainers and support equipment also rotate to Army service. Keep them in the same location and just give them a new paint job and scroll Army on the side.


Viewpoint Let the Army Fly Its Own Close Air Support
1033 words
9 February 1987
Aviation Week & Space Technology

AW
Pg. 11
Vol. 126, No. 6
English
Copyright 1987 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

(AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY military editor Brendan M. Greeley, Jr., flew close air support missions and served with a Marine infantry battalion during two tours in Vietnam. He later commanded a Marine Attack Squadron operating McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawks. Following are his thoughts on assigning the close air support mission to the Army--Ed.)

The subject of close air support evokes strong emotions. Employment of all supporting arms--artillery, naval gunfire and air--to save the lives of Army and Marine Corps infantrymen has long been an article of faith in our ground forces. None of the arguments put forth concerning the value of interdiction or strategic bombing has altered the ground soldier's view that a timely air strike can often solve many of his problems.

The sheer magnitude of getting an air strike on target without endangering friendly troops is appreciated by few except those directly involved. Many things have to go right and it is very easy for one of them to go wrong, especially when executing single-pass attacks against small, hard-to-identify targets on a confused battlefield obscured by dust and smoke.

Coordination at all levels down to the forward air controller and aircrew is essential, and this coordination is easier to conduct if the soldier doesn't have to cross service boundaries. Air Force liaison officers serving with tactical Army units over the years have made things work as well as can be expected, but they are contending with an inherently unwieldy system.

The principle--and the value--of consolidating limited fixed-wing tactical assets under Air Force control is well established. But in the case of the close air support requirement where availability and response time are critical, it has merely created another layer between the Army infantryman and USAF aircraft.

There is no valid reason to prevent the Army from providing its own fixed-wing close air support.

Congress last examined the issue in 1971 during hearings to determine whether the services were buying different aircraft to fill the same close support mission--the Army/Lockheed AH-56A Cheyenne attack helicopter, an Air Force aircraft designated AX and the Marine Corps/Hawker Siddeley AV-8A Harrier. The hearings reexamined the long-standing question: which service should provide close air support? No Change

As it happened, the Army canceled the Cheyenne (but eventually got the Hughes Apache); the Air Force selected Fairchild to build the heavily armored A-10 for the sole mission of providing close air support for the Army, and the Marine Corps, rallying congressional support, got the Harrier.

In effect, nothing changed. Agreement between the Army and Air Force on a series of joint initiatives over the past two years included discussions of the issue but the subject was dropped (AW&ST June 17, 1985, p. 109).

The advent of the armed helicopter has clouded the roles and missions issue. Is an armed helicopter shooting at tanks 2,000 meters from friendly troops performing close air support? Yes, in the sense that the attack must be closely coordinated with ground units to prevent friendly casualties. But also no, in the traditional sense that close air support is a fixed-wing mission.

Concern over the possibility that critics of Marine aviation might try to replace its fixed-wing aircraft with helicopters prompted the Marine Corps to coin the term ''close-in fire support'' to establish a distinct armed helicopter mission that would not displace fixed-wing close air support. Target Requirements

Front-line targets dictate a requirement for both types of aircraft. The capabilities of the armed helicopter against point targets are insufficient to attack heavily fortified positions.

Marine Corps infantrymen supported by their own fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft have an ideal organization but even they have found that constant training is required to make the system work.

Despite evidence that it is the command and control structure and the training that make close air successful, rather than the equipment, Defense Dept. planners continue to waste time searching for the ideal support aircraft and Deputy Defense Secretary William H. Taft, 4th, has directed the Air Force to conduct yet another study--funded at $20 million--investigating more options for the close air mission (AW&ST Feb. 2, p. 19).

As far as equipment goes, simple VHF/FM aircraft radios that net with the ground forces are far more important to the success of close air missions than many of the exotic items that have been bought over the years.

Army and Air Force doctrine now emphasizes attack of the enemy's follow-on forces up to 90 mi. behind the front lines. As a result, the Air Force is looking for a high-speed multimission aircraft, capable of flying either close air or interdiction, to replace the A-10. Modified General Dynamics F-16s and LTV Aerospace A-7Ds are under consideration, along with other options as instructed in Taft's directive (see pp. 22, 23).

But the new aircraft may be off flying interdiction missions just when the Army wants it most, unlike the A-10, which was always available because it was dedicated to providing close air support.

The blurred dividing line of fixed-wing/rotary-wing capabilities should be replaced with a sharp, doctrinal line on the battlefield--namely the fire support coordination line. The Army should have primary responsibility for providing its own air support short of that boundary and if it decides some fixed-wing assets are needed . . . so be it. Army close air support aircraft will not threaten the existence of an Air Force proven in combat and now faced with missions in space and threats from cruise missiles that were barely perceived back in 1947.

As the Army defines the LHX as its next generation of light scout/attack helicopters and the Air Force looks for an A-10 successor, now is the time for the Defense Dept. to shift this mission to the Army. Strong support from Congress and the Defense Dept. is essential. The end result will be better support for someone who deserves it--the U. S. infantryman.
 

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DonaldM said:
From F-16.net:

As for the A-16 Block 60, the project failed because the 30mm gun generated excessive heat that damaged inner components of the left fuselage.

In November 1988, the 174th [Tactical Fighter Wing] of the New York [Air National Guard]began transitioning from the A-10A Thunderbolt II to the F-16A/B block 10, becoming the first unit to operate the F-16 in a Close Air Support role.

During Desert Storm, their 24 F-16A/B aircraft were equipped to carry the General Electric GPU-5/A Pave Claw pod on the centerline station. The pod houses a 30mm GAU-13/A four-barrel derivative of the seven-barrel GAU-8/A cannon used by the A-10A, and 353 rounds of ammunition. The aircraft received the new designation F/A-16, and were the only F-16s ever to be equipped with this weapon, intended for use against a variety of battlefield targets, including armor.

If the tests were successful, there were plans for a fleet of F/A-16C's with the same armament. To demonstrate the concept, the AF installed Pave Penny avionics, 30mm gun pods and European One paint jobs on 7 F-16C's (#83128, -129, -130, -131, -132, -144, -2??). F-16B no. 2 (#75752) was given similar treatment except for a Falcon Eye system. These aircraft flew from Nellis with the 'WA' tailcode.

The F-16s from the 174th were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm, but the project proved to be a miserable failure [emphasis added]. Precision aiming was impossible for several reasons:

  • The pylon mount isn't as steady as the A-10's rigid mounting
  • The F-16 flies much faster than an A-10, giving the pilots too little time approaching the target
  • Firing the gun shook the aircraft harshly and made it impossible to control
  • Essential CCIP (continuously computed impact point) software was unavailable
Pilots ended up using the gun as an area effect weapon, spraying multiple targets with ammunition, producing an effect rather like a cluster bomb. It took only a couple of days of this before they gave up, unbolted the gun pods, and went back to dropping real cluster bombs - which did the job more effectively.

The F/A-16C plan was quietly forgotten. The USAF still has plans to replace the A-10 with F-16s, but they no longer involve 30mm gun pods (or, apparently, a designation with an "A" in it).
Also from F-16.net:

A-16

In the fall of 1989 I was out at Ft. Walters Texas (an hour or so west of Ft Worth) driving around in an M-60A3 tank belonging the 49th armor division. I was there to play target to the A-16 in a series of hide and seek games. Our tank was suppose to find a nice hiding place in the dark and scan the skies with the TTS (tank thermal sight). We were suppose to get a sooting solution with a simulated proximity det beehive (flachette) round before GD's Chief Test Pilot (the late Joe-Bill Dryden) could find and lock in on us with Falcon Eye. In 10 out of 10 exercises he found us first. Most of the time we didn't see him until he literally blocked out the stars above us. After his pass we were able to maintain lock on him until he interposed a terrain feature (the aft section of an f-16 shows up quite nicely on Far-IR).

Besides the new camo and falcon-eye the a-16 had 1 other striking difference from its stable mates.....armor. It had kevlar laminate backed by light metallic matrix. This was installed under the skin around the crew compartment flight control computer and compressor.

What this little exercise proved was that a highly skilled pilot can glide in on a target at mach .95 (with the engine throttled back to idle for noise reduction) and acquire a hidden ground target at night before the target acquire him. After the exercise controller called it quits Bill put on a little impromptu air show and then flew back to GD Ft. Worth /Carswell AFB (Now Ft Worth Joint Use Reserve Base).

Shadow Blade
 

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The full a-16(i.e. F-16 Block k60) was never actualy built although IIRC the AFTI test bed had some of the avionics for the A-16 on it. Are we sure the proposed A-16 would not have worked because the bastardized version used by the ANG didn't cut it with the 4 barrel 30mm?
 

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GUARD UNIT PROVES F-16 GUN POD, BUT NEXT STEP NEEDS BIGGER COMPUTER
676 words
14 August 1991

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Pg. 241
Vol. 159, No. 31
English
Copyright 1991 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Testing and refinement of General Dynamics F-16s being flown as dedicated close air support aircraft by a New York Air National Guard unit has eliminated an earlier vibration problem with the plane's huge 30mm gun pod, and the only outstanding issue is the larger one of making a CAS airplane out of a Block 10 F-16, a Guard official told The DAILY yesterday.

Although the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing--the first CAS-dedicated AF unit to get F-16s--deployed to the Gulf with the pod, the gun was only used for one day, near the end of the war. The unit was never really able to serve as a test case for the A-16 in combat, instead interdicting Republican Guard troops deep inside Iraq.

Still "we've done the gun pod tests this summer," said Lt. Col. Robert Purple, base commander at Hancock Field in suburban Syracuse, N.Y., where the 174th is based. An earlier problem with severe vibration when the cannon was fired turned out "not to be an issue," even though "everyone thought it would be," Purple added.

Getting the most out of a CAS upgrade--for example, using Constant Computed Impact Point (CCIP) to target air-to-ground munitions--requires a lot of computing power, and a problem with the F-16A/Bs being flown by the Boys From Syracuse is that "the computer's not big enough," Purple said. "With the As you take out to put in. With the C/Ds you put in."

Some Air Force officials have said that at a minimum the F-16s will have to go through the Block 30 upgrade to accomplish the CAS mission. Apart from that, Air Force plans for a whole package of CAS enhancements- -including the Agile Eye helmet-mounted display and targeting system, Pave Penny target designation, and an Automatic Target Handoff System-- may be put off to pay for unexpected costs on the F-22 and F-16 (DAILY, Aug. 12).

The 174th's aircraft are still slated to receive further modifications, but to what degree they will resemble the envisioned F/A- 16 will depend on funding and policy decisions in Washington.

"The debate goes on over which Blocks" will receive CAS mods, Purple said, and "with horrible cuts coming the Air Force wants the Guard to share in the cuts." Purple noted that the 174th's aircraft will begin receiving ring laser gyros fairly shortly.

The wing isn't flying with a full complement of aircraft, but that may also soon change, he said. The 174th flies 17 F-16As and two F-16Bs, after losing two aircraft just before and during the war--the first to an engine problem and the second to surface-to-air missile fire two days before the war ended.

That aircraft was later repaired and returned to service, but blew a tire during a landing in Saudi Arabia, causing a crash and fire that nearly destroyed the plane. The pilot escaped, but the decision was made to scrap the aircraft.

"Sometime starting next week we may be getting four more from McConnell" AFB, Kan., he said--two As and two Bs. Meanwhile, pilots will fly a slightly abbreviated flight schedule until after next month, when as many as six aircraft should fly every day.

The 174th began Field Technical Training to convert from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to F-16s late in 1988, and since then has served as a test case both for CAS modifications and for flying the F-16 in a CAS role. The Boys From Syracuse routinely train with the Army's 10th Mountain Brigade and several artillery units at Ft. Drum in Watertown, N.Y., and until recently regularly deployed to Germany to fly with Luftwaffe Tornados.

Early experience already showed that the F-16/Tornado combination was much more compatible than the A-10/Tornado match, and better served the evolving CAS mission--battlefield air interdiction.
 

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A bit of general background in the form of a, quite anti-Warthog, article on CAS from December 1990: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a516342.pdf

The author favours the A-16 heavily although he doesn't outright come out and say it.
 

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CAS has changed a great deal over the past 20 years due to the vastly increased availability of guided weapons. It's still nice to hear that 30mm roar; but for the most part, the A-10 does its job from on-high nowadays and regular fighters can handle tank-busting from 12,000 AGL. The only real advantage I see it having over the F-16 now is loiter-time (still very important to a grunt). Fortunately, by the time it gets replaced by the F-35, we'll probably have drones better capable of handling the boring job of long-duration CAS for Infantry guys in a COIN war.
 

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Here's the paper on which the article I previously posted was based: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a220659.pdf

And here's an 1989 Air War College Research Report that suggested dropping dedicated CAS aircraft altogether: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a217868.pdf

Going back to the A-16 itself, I've just came across a March 1989 document titled 'OPERATIONAL TEST PLAN CONCEPT FOR EVALUATION OF CLOSE AIR SUPPORT ALTERNATIVE AIRCRAFT'.


By the way, according to this document, the Block 30 F-16s which were intended to help subsitute for the A-16 when it was cancelled would have had the F/A-16 designation.
 

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Grey Havoc said:
And here's an 1989 Air War College Research Report that suggested dropping dedicated CAS aircraft altogether: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a217868.pdf
Yeah, I'm not a fan of that idea at all. It doesn't have to be an A-10 loaded for bear, but you need something that can hang around for awhile in the low-intensity environment. CAS isn't just about making the loud noises, sometimes it's handy just to have someone up there giving directions.
 

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There was a recent op-ed in Defense News about the decision to retire the A-10. The author mentioned the A-16 and noted that the USAF had plans in the late 1980s to retire the A-10 in favor of the A-16. He even quoted a USAF general saying that the A-16 was the ideal platform. He said that a squadron of F/A-16s went to Operation Desert Storm and did so poorly that they were withdrawn within a month.

If true, it was a good parallel with what is happening today.
 

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blackstar said:
There was a recent op-ed in Defense News about the decision to retire the A-10. The author mentioned the A-16 and noted that the USAF had plans in the late 1980s to retire the A-10 in favor of the A-16. He even quoted a USAF general saying that the A-16 was the ideal platform. He said that a squadron of F/A-16s went to Operation Desert Storm and did so poorly that they were withdrawn within a month.

If true, it was a good parallel with what is happening today.

Link to said op-ed please?
 

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I presume this is the op-ed to which blackstar refers:

"Commentary: A-10 Still the Best in Its Field"
May. 5, 2014 - 02:16PM |
By CHRIS CHOATE

Source:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140505/DEFREG02/305050019/Commentary-10-Still-Best-Its-Field

Remember the A-16? Don’t worry — the US Air Force doesn’t, either.

Without question, the stepchild of the Air Force is the A-10 “Warthog.” It isn’t pretty. Worse, it’s defined as a single-mission aircraft — a cardinal sin in today’s environment where even air superiority aircraft have to portray an ability to perform a secondary mission.

Yet, thanks to civilian control of the Air Force, the venerable and battle-proven A-10 is now approaching its fourth decade of service to the United States. Throughout its illustrious career, the Warthog has faced only one serious threat: the budget cutters within the Air Force.

Each trip to the gallows for the A-10 has been accompanied by the rationale that other platforms can adequately perform the close-air support (CAS) mission. The common denominators of the “other platforms” have been afterburning engines (read fast), air-to-air radars (read cool and highly desirable for Red Flag and other training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.), and cannons either designed for air-to-air combat or added as an afterthought. In short: characteristics necessary for modern fighter aircraft but having little utility in the CAS environment.

Today’s replacement for the A-10 is the F-35. Like the previous CAS replacements, it has the common denominators listed above. But before the Air Force starts making room for the remaining A-10s at the boneyard in Arizona, it would behoove the service to study its first attempt to replace the slow and ugly Warthog during the 1980s. The blond-haired, blue-eyed choice of that era: the A-16.

According to an April 1989 Air Force Magazine article, the “close air support fighter” for the 1990s was “stuck in the bureaucratic bogs of Washington.” About $27 million had been spent on the issue, and the debate was settled. The answer was the A-16, a modified variant of the F-16.

Critics of the A-16, flat-Earthers of the day, were labeled as supporters of a nostalgic “mudfighter,” an upgraded A-10 or similar plane that was “slow and simple, but heavily armored.” According to the article, such a platform would not survive the battlefield of tomorrow and was not even capable of providing the “kind of air support the Army needs and says it wants.” Speaking at an Air Force Association symposium in January 1989, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Welch said, “The data does not say ‘mudfighter.’ No matter how you slice it, the data says A-16.”

Fast forward to 1991. Among the many types of aircraft sent to expel Iraq from Kuwait were squadrons of A-10s and F/A-16s of the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing. Modified with a 30mm gun pod, the F/A-16s would validate the $27 million study and show the doubters in Washington that the days of the mudfighter had passed. It didn’t work out that way. The A-10 performed brilliantly. The F/A-16 proved to be a near disaster, and the gun pods were downloaded within days of the start of the air war. And the A-16? It was never heard of again.

So what’s different this time? Not that much. Like the F-16, the F-35 will be a remarkable aircraft. It will excel in interdiction and is expected to be very capable in counter-air operations against near-peer competitors. Unfortunately, the ability to conduct traditional, primary, or in the words of the critics, glamorous air operations does not translate well into the CAS environment. “Traditional” air combat values speed; CAS does not. Traditional air combat is one pass and haul ass; loiter time is a critical requirement of CAS.

In CAS, size and numbers matter. The A-10 was built around a 30mm cannon with more than 1,000 rounds. The Air Force version of the F-35 will carry a smaller 25mm cannon with 180 rounds (yes, 180 — that’s not a typo. Strafe the ditch by the line of trees? You’ll need a four-ship of F-35s.

In the Air Force’s defense, it should be noted the Navy and Marine F-35s do not even have a gun. They will have to carry the 25mm cannon in a gun pod. There is not one key aspect of the CAS mission where the F-35 will be better than the A-10. Not one.

No one envies the Air Force’s budget dilemma. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the wars we’re fighting today are ones where the enemy has more in common with a 19th century militia than a modern military. The low-end war is not going away, and to succeed, our nation will need to fight and bring home every son and daughter we possibly can.

For troops in contact, the A-10 is one of America’s best weapons. It should be retained until we can afford a real replacement. ■

Chris Choate is a retired US Air Force colonel who performs operational test and evaluation work with the service as a civilian employee. These views reflect only those of the author.
 

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That's a pretty thin argument in favour of the A-10. It basically hinges upon the use of the 30mm gun pod by the F/A-16. Note: In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles. In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.


The reality is that the A-10 is a dated weapon now and one that is not even used in the way a lot of people imagine it is. Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).
 

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GTX said:
That's a pretty thin argument in favour of the A-10. It basically hinges upon the use of the 30mm gun pod by the F/A-16. Note: In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles. In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.

The reality is that the A-10 is a dated weapon now and one that is not even used in the way a lot of people imagine it is. Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed solely for close air support (CAS) of ground forces. I don't believe that advocates of the A-10 are proposing that the aircraft enter the battlespace solo. It seems to some that supporting the A-10 takes away from the F-16 or the F-35 or is an argument against the F-16 or the F-35. Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why should the A-10 be expected to defend itself against SAMs? It seems like the argument against the A-10 is that it isn't multirole and it is stealing resources away from the much more expensive F-35. No one is advocating sending the AH-64 Apache Longbow to the boneyard because of the threat of radar-guided SAMs and SPAAGs.
 

GTX

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Triton said:
It seems to some that supporting the A-10 takes away from the F-16 or the F-35 or is an argument against the F-16 or the F-35.

Of course it is being used to argue that! Are you denying that?
 

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Triton said:
No one is advocating sending the AH-64 Apache Longbow to the boneyard because of the threat of radar-guided SAMs and SPAAGs.
The Apache is a helicopter. It can hover at an altitude of 6 feet AGL. The A-10 is an aircraft. It can not hover nor can it safely fly for long periods below tree top level. The difference is rather important when facing a high level GBAD threat.
 

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GTX said:
In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles. In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.

The scenarios where the A-10 uses it's gun are limited but important. An A-10 is much more likely to use a CBU or guided weapon than the gun. It's a nice gun with a large magazine, but the gun is only part of the A-10 story. Often the rules of engagement are restrictive and require positive visual confirmation of targets. Because the A-10 can fly under the weather and can loiter, it is a good asset to have. Unfortunately IR and radar sensors can't always give you the picture of the target you need to execute the ROE.

GTX said:
Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).

In most environments, low observables are also overkill - especially under post-DESERT STORM US doctrine. This is why in the 90s there was much talk of "scalable" observables and "first day stealth". Once an enemy's air defenses are rolled back during the initial days of a conflict, observables may not be as important for survivability.


The A-10 gun is has a large magazine, is well integrated into the aircraft, and the plane flys slowly enough to allow the pilot time to set up his gun pass. The aircraft was designed to be survivable while it was vulnerable attacking. An F-15E flys a lot faster, has a much smaller magazine, and the pilot may not have a lot of experience attacking ground targets with the gun (IIRC, in the 90s they didn't get to practice much). Those things can make a big difference.


http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2007/July%202007/0707strafing.aspx
 

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blackstar said:
He said that a squadron of F/A-16s went to Operation Desert Storm and did so poorly that they were withdrawn within a month.
It is instructive to know why F-16 bombing with the NY and SC ANG squadrons was so inaccurate in Desert Storm.

It was discovered after the fact that many of the inaccurate attacks were pressed at very high subsonic and transonic speeds (speed is life, remember?).

Unfortunately, the Air Force had only completed (and validated though flight test) the ballistics tables in the (Mission Computer or Stores Management System, I don't recall which) up to .95 Mach. So, there was no way for the computer to correct for transonic effects above this speed in bomb aiming and release. And now you know the rest of the story.
 

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quellish said:
The A-10 gun is has a large magazine, is well integrated into the aircraft, and the plane flys slowly enough to allow the pilot time to set up his gun pass. The aircraft was designed to be survivable while it was vulnerable attacking.
The A-10’s survivability is only against low level GBAD threats. It’s important to remember that the A-10 was designed for what was effectively a VietNam War requirement (A-X). Where the GBAD threat was 12.7mm HMGs and SA-7s. It has also only been used in combat where the GBAD threat was similar thanks to SEAD/DEAD (ODS, OIF) and fighting more insurgents (OEF). And in both situations there was no appreciable air threat.

Against a high level GBAD threat (Soviet Army) and a high level air threat (regiments of MiG-29s) the A-10 is a dead duck. Too fast to hide and too slow to escape. And airframe ruggedness and cockpit armour is not going to save you when they get you hit by these types of weapons.
 

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"An A-10 Pilot Could Hope to Last Two Weeks Against the Soviets
Cold War planners expected to lose up to 60 A-10s a day"
[War is Boring]

Source:
https://medium.com/war-is-boring/1ebff9bfa4df

The U.S. Air Force is planning to retire all 350 of its A-10 attack planes, blaming budget cuts and the slow-flying jet's trouble surviving against the most sophisticated enemy air defenses.

That problem is not new. The A-10 force has performed well in Afghanistan, devastating lightly-armed insurgents and saving scores of American and allied lives—and losing no jets to sporadic enemy fire. (One A-10 was shot down in Iraq.) But even 30 years ago, Air Force planners expected A-10s to suffer heavy casualties in any serious fight.

In the 1980s the Air Force planned to deploy 68 A-10s to each of six Forward Operating Locations in West Germany in the event of war with the Soviets. The twin-engine A-10s, with their 30-millimeter guns and Maverick missiles, were NATO’s main tank-killing weapon.

According to Combat Aircraft magazine, the flying branch predicted that, if the A-10s went into action, seven percent of the jets would be lost per 100 sorties. Since each pilot was expected to fly at most four missions per day, each base would in theory generate more than 250 sorties daily. At this pace, a seven-percent loss rate per 100 flights equaled at least 10 A-10s shot down at each FOL every 24 hours — and that’s being conservative.

At that rate, in less than two weeks the entire A-10 force at the time — around 700 jets — would have been destroyed and the pilots killed, injured, captured or, at the least, very shook up.

In the brutal calculation of Cold War planning, it was perhaps worth it to expend an entire warplane fleet and all its pilots “in pursuit of the destruction of several hard-charging Soviet armored divisions,” in the words of University of Kentucky professor Rob Farley.

If the Air Force were to face a high-tech foe today, the math would probably be different. It’s unlikely the Pentagon could justify sacrificing hundreds of pilots against anything short of a truly existential threat. And for that reason Farley says he’s ambivalent about the A-10's future.

But in putting the A-10 on the chopping block, the Air Force is assuming it won’t ever fight anything short of a full-scale war against a peer enemy. Do we really believe the era of low-intensity wars has ended?
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
The A-10’s survivability is only against low level GBAD threats. It’s important to remember that the A-10 was designed for what was effectively a VietNam War requirement (A-X). Where the GBAD threat was 12.7mm HMGs and SA-7s. It has also only been used in combat where the GBAD threat was similar thanks to SEAD/DEAD (ODS, OIF) and fighting more insurgents (OEF). And in both situations there was no appreciable air threat.

Against a high level GBAD threat (Soviet Army) and a high level air threat (regiments of MiG-29s) the A-10 is a dead duck. Too fast to hide and too slow to escape. And airframe ruggedness and cockpit armour is not going to save you when they get you hit by these types of weapons.
Describing the A-10 Thunderbolt II as "survivable" or "the most survivable plane ever built" is not the same as claiming that the aircraft is invincible. The United States Air Force also has strike and air superiority fighters to reduce the risks posed by high-level GBADs and high-level air threats, such as regiments of MiG-29s. It does seem that the United States Air Force's customers for Close Air Support (CAS), the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, want the A-10 and are skeptical of the claims that the CAS mission can be adequately performed by high-flying, fast jets with precision guided munitions. There is also disagreement within the Air Force over the capability that will be lost with the retirement of the A-10. I also can't discount the forty plus year battle between the United States Air Force and the United States Army over the CAS mission and the A-10 Thunderbolt II in particular.
 

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Triton said:
Describing the A-10 Thunderbolt II as "survivable" or "the most survivable plane ever built" is not the same as claiming that the aircraft is invincible. The United States Air Force also has strike and air superiority fighters to reduce the risks posed by high-level GBADs and high-level air threats, such as regiments of MiG-29s.
So how is the A-10 meant to do the CAS mission in the face of high level threats? Those other aircraft are for other missions. Capiche?

Triton said:
It does seem that the United States Air Force's customers for Close Air Support (CAS), the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, want the A-10 and are skeptical of the claims that the CAS mission can be adequately performed by high-flying, fast jets with precision guided munitions.
Who said anything about the A-16 being a high flying jet relying on PGMs? It was to be a low flying jet shooting Mavericks at targets just like the A-10. It was just going to do it at about twice the speed thanks to its vehicle system and Falcon-Eye.

Triton said:
There is also disagreement within the Air Force over the capability that will be lost with the retirement of the A-10. I also can't discount the forty plus year battle between the United States Air Force and the United States Army over the CAS mission and the A-10 Thunderbolt II in particular.
The A-10 is great for CAS in a permissive environment. It’s just dead meat doing CAS in a high intensity environment.

As to the separate argument about PGMs in CAS please note that the A-10 required an extensive upgrade to bring it up to spec for the contemporary COIN CAS mission. The F-35 will bring sensor and command integration to the table that will make everything previous look as dead as dinosaurs.
 

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I don't think what I said deserved an insult Abraham. look at the context of the article. Of course there would be losses of A-10s but the article is heavily slanted anti-A-10.


And you saying I am wrong with how NATO was to deal with a scenario of where they were losing on the ground? Of course they would use tactical nukes as a last resort. You misunderstood my point. Depleted Uranium was also to be a last ditch weapon to be used in a losing scenario because it is radioactive and dangerous to be around when fired (dust particles etc). Now it's used all the time with little concern.
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
Against a high level GBAD threat (Soviet Army) and a high level air threat (regiments of MiG-29s) the A-10 is a dead duck.
Very much the same as was the Ju-87 against well flown fighters...sure, when the aerial/anti-air opposition is limited, the platform is second to none. However, in other situations... ::)
 

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kcran567 said:
Depleted Uranium was also to be a last ditch weapon to be used in a losing scenario because it is radioactive and dangerous to be around when fired (dust particles etc).

So when did the plan change? It was obviously used without apparent concern in GWI.
 

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kcran567 said:
Just more propaganda to get rid of the A-10 in my opinion.

Maybe some people need to give up their romantic nostalgia for the A-10? ::)


I find this whole argument for the A-10 akin to the arguments in the 1930s when some wanted open cockpit biplanes rather than going to closed cockpit monoplanes. Sure, the earlier generation (be that the biplanes or the A-10) were effective in their day. However, paradigms change. What was done in one era (such as the GAU-8) is no longer the only or even the best way to do the job. People need to move on. In this case, remember the A-10 as a great platform that did a good job (and I am sure there is no-one here who won't argue that it's gun was an awesome piece of equipment), but its day has come and it needs to exit the stage and let newer, better platforms take on the role in new ways.
 

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kcran567 said:
And you saying I am wrong with how NATO was to deal with a scenario of where they were losing on the ground? Of course they would use tactical nukes as a last resort. You misunderstood my point. Depleted Uranium was also to be a last ditch weapon to be used in a losing scenario because it is radioactive and dangerous to be around when fired (dust particles etc). Now it's used all the time with little concern.


Depleted uranium is naturally occurring uranium that has had the isotopes useful for weapons removed. At that point it is essentially just another heavy metal like tungsten, and there are certain health hazards that come with handling it improperly. Like tungsten it is very dense, which makes it useful for penetrating armor.
Depleted uranium was never a "last ditch" weapon.
 
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