I like to give the Air Force a hard time. And they often deserve it. But not always. And there’s a segment of the blue-suiters that every grunt likes- the A-10 Warthog community.
The A-10 has often been shunned to a degree by the Mach 2 “Fighter Mafia” and the aluminum overcast “Bomber Gang” of the Air Force. They’re the red-headed stepkids of the Air Combat Command. More than once, the Air Force has hoped to jettison the A-10 to the scrap heap.
With that in mind, we have to give the Air Force an attaboy for doing the right thing.
The A-10 was purposely designed as a very simple aircraft, almost bordering on being crude. The most sophisticated sensor on board was the human eyeball. Flight instruments weren’t much more advanced than what you might find on a Cessna.
But the march of technology has resulting in almost every air-dropped weapon being a precision guided weapon these days. And the need to operate at night means that powerful sensor systems are a must for close air support.
The Air Force hasn’t been blind to this reality. Several years ago, they figured out that if cheap A-10s were flying close air support missions, they wouldn’t have to use expensive F-16s and F-15s to do them. So they invested in a program to bring the A-10 fleet up to 21st Century standards. Strategy Page has the details.
In the comments, you’ll see the usual suggestion that the Army should own the A-10 fleet (you can’t have an article appear anywhere without someone in the comments suggesting it). The last time the Air Force talked about retiring the A-10, after Desert Storm, the Army pretty much jumped up and said “sure, we’ll take ’em!” But they didn’t really want them. They knew the Air Force wasn’t about to let the Army operate fixed wing jet attack aircraft.
But there’s another argument why the Army shouldn’t be in the Warthog business. The Air Force’s has over 30 years of institutional experience operating not just the Warthog, but also all the maintenance and ordnance associated with it. They have an existing personnel pipeline of people that are familiar with the aircraft and the mission. And they are showing that they are, in fact, dedicated to supporting the aircraft and its mission.