A Dirty Little Secret about the A-10

As usual, the emotions are running high surrounding the Air Force’s intent to retire the A-10 Warthog. Congress says no to Air Force plans. Air Force digs in its heels. Members of the Air Force sing its praises to Congress. Deputy Commander of Air Combat Command tries to shut that praise down:

A top U.S. Air Force general warned officers that praising the A-10 attack plane to lawmakers amounts to “treason,” according to a news report.

Maj. Gen. James Post, vice commander of Air Combat Command, was quoted as saying, “If anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it … anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason,” in a report published Thursday on The Arizona Daily Independent.

Obviously, that’s a pretty stupid thing for MG Post to say. You can read the rest of the story for the background and the PAO trying to unspin the General’s dumb statement.

But as usual, the comments section has something that gets mentioned every single time in the last 20 years the retirement of the A-10 has been discussed:

You can be sure he does not want these planes transferee to the Army, who would be glad to take them an use them for the next 20 years.

And therein lies a dirty little secret.

The Army would never try to take over the A-10 fleet.

In the midst of a drawdown that might see the Army slashed to as few as 420,000 active duty troops, there is simply no way the Army could find the warm bodies to fly the A-10, let alone maintain and support it. And it’s not just the operators at the tip of the spear. While the A-10 is capable of austere operations by Air Force standards, it would require investments in training and support equipment that the Army has no need for. For instance, the armament of the A-10 alone would require entire new career fields with associated training and personnel management costs.

The money and manpower requirements would come out of other Army programs (likely the attack helicopter community). And given that the Air Force, whether it has A-10s or not, will still be tasked to provide Close Air Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction, the Army would simply not see the costs to other priority Army programs as in any way justifying taking on a new role, let alone one with very old aircraft with increasing maintenance costs.

And no, the Marines don’t want it either.

21 thoughts on “A Dirty Little Secret about the A-10”

  1. The REAL reason the USAF is hating on the A10 is the rear bird strikes. That and it does not have a pointy nose…..OK….both of those, and it is not supersonic (see 1st reason)

  2. I just dont get the fascination with it.

    Sure, in Iraq, its gun was the dogs bollocks, but in a Fulda War, no one expected it to make cannon kills, it was a standoff missile platform.

    I’m yet to see a Stinger carrier, Avenger/Linebacker operator, or Patriot operator say they cant get to sleep at night for fears that that A10 will gun them,

    1. Someone must have expected it to make cannon kills. That is why, after all, it was designed from the start with a cannon.

  3. Are we going to have to start losing planes and pilots before people realize that the battlefield has changed and the A-10 has become obsolete?

    1. Jeff, they’ll love whatever they can get in a pinch, but the A10 can carry more ordnance for more on-station time, and can actually fly slow enough to see what they’re shooting at … and also what they’re not supposed to be shooting at.

      Ask a guy in the trenches which one he’d prefer to have overhead. I dare you.

      1. I still think they’d prefer the platform that isn’t going to be mission-killed by one hadji with a shoulder-fired missile, which rules out the A-10. If payload and loiter time are so important, get a B-1. The A-10 has been involved in too many fratricide incidents for me to lionize the Mk. 1 Mod. 1 eyeball. We’ve spent billions developing sensor packages to tell friend from foe, and they work just as well at 10,000′ as they do at 500. If low-and-slow was the ne plus ultra of CAS, we would still be flying P-47’s.

    2. Low and slow is not the only virtue of the Hog. The ordnance load and loiter time is even more important. Fratricide is going to be problem with any airborne platform. The A-10 is loved by grunts in a way no other airborne platform is, and for good reason. That’s not lionization, it’s simply a statement of fact.

      1. What is the loiter time of an A-10 with an engine blown off? What is the ordnance load of a smoking crater?

    1. Last time USAF was going to retire the Hog the Army said they would take them. USAF then changed their minds and kept them. I’m sure the Army would like to take them this time too, but they can’t afford it this time.

  4. “Someone must have expected it to make cannon kills. That is why, after all, it was designed from the start with a cannon.”
    Against secondary targets, sure, but it carried 6 mavericks and 2 sidewinders as well as that cannon.

    “Jeff, the guys in the sandbox might disagree about the “obsolete” bit. From what I’ve heard they all lurve them some Hog.”
    Yeah, against a super obsolete enemy an obsolete platform, is fine.
    Against an army with a high concentration of layered air defence assets?

    Im yet to meet an air defence operator who thinks the A10 is anything but a victim,.

    1. Given the improvements we’ve seen in anti-air, CAS has become problematic in anything other than a situation like the Rock Pile. Even Apaches are going to have a very hard road in the next real war. The supply of Stingers to the AFG rebels during Soviet times was one of the largest factors in driving Ivan out.

    2. The GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. It killed a number of them during Desert Storm.

      “Against an army with a high concentration of layered air defence assets?”

      Against that, no aircraft is safe. You certainly won’t get B-1s loitering in lazy circles at 10000 ft. Still, someone has to do it, and the A-10 has a better chance of surviving it than the alternatives.

      I don’t know what the A-10 loiter time is with one engine out, but I am sure it exceeds that of the F-35.

      We have 63 B-1 bombers in service. There just might be higher priority missions for an aircraft with its capabilities. Given its cost, I hope so.

      Speaking of cost, both initial and operating costs (including physical infrastructure) are higher for the alternatives.

  5. Isn’t this the same crowd that has been talking up the Tucano or whatever it is? Guess what: we currently have A10s and in the war we were in for the last 12 years, it has been pretty lethal. Show me the next most likely 2 conflicts, and I predict that Warthogs would be relevant in them, and a whole lot less to operate then F35s, while likely being more effective. Oh, and yes, it Was designed around that gun. Mavericks too, but that airframe was built around getting the GAU-8 to a point about 2 miles from a Soviet tank and then Bbrrrrrrrr……..boom. IIRC, 10x 2 second bursts. Yes, a good case can be made to replace the A10, but it hasn’t been made yet in my mind. Obsolete? B52, anyone? I would love to transfer A10s to the Army, but I doubt it would ever happen.

  6. I believe the last bit of fraticide was done by a B-1 with an ostensibly sub-par USAF ground entity. I can appreciate some of the thoughts here in as being well thought out but for two things: until it can be black & white performance proved, its demise may well be ill advised. Two: I countenance myself carefully whenever I’m thinking of using the word “never,” Given the performance of the the A-10 in Desert Storm and up to present time I would believe that performance based assessment would be appropos. The USAF is already claiming an F-35 issue because of money diverted to the A-10…this is the same USAF that got itself into the C-27J program, gained the upper hand as it were, and then killed it (the program). I’ll concede the argument that I’m mixing apples with oranges but not the budgetary, planning, or logistical “expertise” of the USAF. I remember too the RUMINT when the USAF first ostensibly wanted to lose the A-10’s and the Army’s apparent willingness to take them over which all went to ground when Desert Storm started up which then made the A-10 the Air Forces darling leading them to keep it as a crown jewel…how feckless and insincere. Those Apache helo gunships were hanger queen AH-64A’s which is why they fit the ARNG so well. The full-time staff of civilian technicians (McDonnel Douglas not Mil Techs), was staggering. I believe the program should be administered/decided by some of the luminaries in this web site. If they paid 4 or 5 of them 100,000K a year each I know I would have more belief in the decision making process AND the process would come in under budget….hell, it would be under budget if they threw in an old serviceable Navy Ship for leisurely cruises or other altruistic purposes.

    1. “The USAF is already claiming an F-35 issue because of money diverted to the A-10”

      Which is a little odd since they plan to replace the A-10 with the even more expensive F-35.

      Re. the AH-64, I seem to remember that the Army brass refused to commit them in the Balkans because they didn’t want them flying over hostile territory because they wee too vulnerable. No such worries about the A-10.

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