The Pentagon intends to retire the entire 283-plane fleet within five years, which would save about $4.2 billion before budget cuts. The reason the Air Force gave is that planes like the F-16 and the F-35JSF can perform the same role for close air support that the 1970’s era A-10 can. The problem with using those aircraft to perform what the A-10 does is that neither of those planes can function well in low level close air support (mud fighting) of ground troops like the A-10 can. Think of it this way, you’re on a freeway overpass and when a semi truck passes beneath you, you throw a basketball into the hoop mounted on the truck. The A-10 can do that at ground level whereas if the F-16 and the F-35 would attempt to do that it would be like driving at 60 mph on that same overpass while trying to toss a ping pong ball into a Dixie cup.
The Warthog was built around the GAU-8, a 7 barrel, 30mm automatic cannon (gatling gun) that spits out 1,100 rounds and is the heaviest such automatic cannon mounted on an aircraft.
The A-10 was designed for low and slow, in the mud type flying. While the A-10 is relatively slow it is also armored. The pilot sits inside a titanium ‘bathtub’ that protects him from ground fire. The A-10 may not be the sleekest or the hottest looking aircraft out there, but it does excel at its job, close air support and servicing (engaging and destroying) armored vehicles. Its also one of the few aircraft that can take a lot of damage and remain combat effective. There are persistent rumors that during the Gulf War, mechanics would use duct tape to cover up small holes from ground fire on the A-10 and it didn’t affect any of its capabilities.
Try that with the F-16 or the F-35.
As General John F. Campbell, the US Army’s Vice Chief of Staff states:
“It’s ugly, it’s loud, but when it comes in and you hear that ‘bwrr,’ it just makes a difference.”
The A-10 is one of America’s best weapons. It should be retained until a suitable replacement can be found. If we’re still using the old B-52, originally built in 1952, then there is no reason why the military can’t retain the A-10 until another aircraft that can match the Warthog’s capabilities can be developed.
The below article states that the replacement for the A-10 is the F-35. If you’ve read the article on the F-35 that was posted previously, you know how (in)capable the F-35 is or will be when its finally deployed. You will also see how the Air Force tried to replace the A-10 once before in the late 1980’s with a failed version of the F/A-16.
Some senators agree that the A-10 needs to be kept active and not retired.
It’s possible the A-10 could still be around until 2028. The only problem is that Fairchild, the builder of the A-10, destroyed the molds for the aircraft back in the mid 1980’s when the last plane rolled off the assembly line. That makes spare parts a bit of a problem. If you get a chance, look at some of the military aircraft bone yards, you’ll see that all the A-10s there have been stripped of everything useful, ailerons, cables, landing gear, you name it, its been removed to keep the others flying.
Pilots love the A-10. Mechanics and ground crews love the A-10. The brass loves the A-10. Billions of dollars were just spent to retrofit the wings, avionics, and engines (A-10C version).
How does that make any sense? Spend billions of dollars to retrofit an aircraft so you can retire it? Go back and look at the B-52, we’re still using it as a heavy bomber.
Here’s a little history about the A-10. When it was first deployed to Europe during the Cold War, the Soviets pretty much shit their collective pants. They nicknamed the A-10 the ‘Devil’s Cross’ and restructured their Order of Battle to attempt to deal with an aircraft that was designed to destroy their armored vehicles. Some of you, if you’re old enough, might remember the shake up the A-10 caused when the Soviets started deploying more and more ZSU-23-4 self-propelled anti-air platforms with their armored units in an attempt to defeat the A-10. Fulda Gap anyone? The Soviets as well as NATO had several scenarios pertaining to the Fulda Gap. Once we deployed the A-10, the Soviets paused, took a step back and started reworking their battle plans knowing that the A-10 was a definite force multiplier and a very serious threat to their armored units.
Over the years, the A-10 has done more than engage and destroy armored vehicles. In 2003, it saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers in SWA when it engaged hostile forces that had pinned down a US military convoy. The A-10 was able to loiter in the area and provide precision strikes against a well armed and well supplied hostile force. Most of the engagement involved the use of the GAU-8 gatling gun and the fact that the A-10 carried more than 100 rounds for that weapon. The F-16 and the F-35 carry a maximum average of 180 rounds of ammo for their respective gatling guns. It would have taken several planes to match the amount of firepower that the A-10 was able to rain down.