Screw the A-10. The Air Force should have kept the A-7.

I’m not anti-Warthog. But nor am I convinced it is the end all and be all of Close Air Support. CAS is a mission, not a platform.

There is a fair history of certain aircraft being successfully used by both the sea services and the Air Force. Three examples of tactical aircraft that pop immediately to mind are the A-1 Skyraider, the F-4 Phantom, and the A-7 Corsair II. What do these three platforms all have in common? They were originally designed for the Navy, then successfully operated (in modified form) by the Air Force. And while Robert S. McNamara is rightfully scorned for, among other things, the failed joint service TFX program,* he does deserve credit for forcing both the F-4 and the A-7 upon the Air Force.

The Navy bought the A-7 as a replacement for the A-4 for the light attack mission. The Air Force joined the program in 1965, but dragged its heels so that the A-7D didn’t enter service until 1970, and didn’t make its first combat deployment until 1972. In spite of that, it was highly successful in Southeast Asia.

Almost immediately after the Vietnam War, the Air Force began transferring it’s A-7s from the active force onto the Air National Guard.

The A-7D was an excellent ground attack aircraft. It had a fantastic load capability, excellent endurance, and was a very stable, highly accurate bombing platform. It’s avionics were quite capable for the time.

Given reasonable upgrades to the engine and avionics, the A-7 could still be providing excellent Close Air Support to US troops, at low cost.

*The F-111 bomber for the Air Force was quite successful, but as a program, the TFX was a dog, and the very idea of the F-111B as a fighter was ludicrous.

14 thoughts on “Screw the A-10. The Air Force should have kept the A-7.”

  1. I don’t know about the A-7D, but the F-4’s and F-111’s of the various USAFE TFW’s all flew on our RBS site. Besides being a pretty good CAS platform, the F-4 was an admirable fighter, too. Just ask Robin Olds and Steve Ritchie, the only Ace for the USAF in Vietnam.

    The F-111 was designed as a low level fast attack bomber and with the FB designation, as a dedicated strategic nuclear strike aircraft.

    We had a F-111 crash one night, either because he turned off his TFR or it had a malfunction…right into the side of a mountain.

  2. The A-10, while built with CAS in mind, was built around the 30mm cannon as an anti-tank weapon for Europe. I think there was room for both.

  3. I concur, the A-7 was retired far to soon, and should still be serving the Fleet, and the Marines. No matter how good it is, the distaste the USAF has for the USN would have doomed the SLUF.

  4. The ol’ “not invented here syndrome.” It’s almost like military procurement doesn’t have the services combat needs at its heart.

    1. NaCly – you mean in tandem with your statement that not only are the true needs not considered but that many acquisitions are awarded to the cheapest bidder?!?!

  5. Combat system aquisitions by the military is broken, with rare exceptions. The Virginia class submarines are one exception. The Spruance class DDs were another.

    It’s not the original bid that really matters, it’s the change orders. Plus, the lead times lengthening from development to IOC only provides money to the contractors. We were much better off with fast IOC times and slightly less golden aircraft. It’s a big world out there, and more aircraft helps deter, rather than a few much delayed “perfect” aircraft.

    Look at the boat names closely:
    Here is a closeup.

  6. Taking TacAir away from USAF and placing it back with the Army, where it belongs, would solve a lot of trouble. For the most part, what the Army needs, the Marines could also use, and vice versa. I think it would solve a lot of problems.

  7. QM, I agree. The AF has lost the mandate for TacAir by its actions over the last 10 years. Would you rather have the Marines take over TacAir vice the Army? It would increase force structure, but you get a better product.

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