Good Bye, A-10. We hardly knew ye.

Okay, US Air Force, we get it.  You never really liked the Close Air Support mission to begin with.  (Just look at how few pictures of A-10s and UAVs appear on the US Air Force’s Flickr page, as opposed to F-22s, F-35s, and CV-22s)  But if there’s one thing you hated more, it’s ceding bureaucratic turf to the Army even more (RIP AH-56 Cheyenne).  And now, we’re left with this:

Step 1.) Cut costs by deactivating five squadrons of A-10 Warthogs, the US Air Force’s venerable close air support aircraft.

Step 2.) Give the close air support mission to the new F-35 Lightning II, a Pentagon boondoggle expected to cost over one trillion dollars–more than the entire GDP of Australia–over its proposed 50-year career.    

Step 3.) Profit!

The US Air Force tried axing the A-10 after the Gulf War, and pawning off CAS onto sleek jet fighters like the F-16, with little success.  Aside from the A-10, few aircraft can loiter at low altitudes, spot enemies, and deliver–as well as withstand–crushing firepower.  And don’t laugh at the A-10’s two confirmed air-to-air kills; it’s still two more than both the F-22 and the F-25 put together.

Pentagon spokesmen have tried to downplay the issue, playing the “AirSea Battle” card.  But despite the policy papers and rhetoric, why should the US focus its strategic efforts on a battle against the PLAN in the Pacific?  Not to mention, no “near peer” competitor could even hope to field the number of carriers or fifth-generation fighters that the US can.  (Keep that in mind the next time Air Force Public Affairs starts its fear mongering)

Future wars may not be troop-intensive efforts like Iraq or Afghanistan, but the US could find itself empowering regional allies, as NATO did in  Libya.  During that conflict, the A-10 played a huge role, even sinking a Libyan ship with its GAU-8 30mm cannon.  But enforcing a no-fly zone?  Well, we don’t need  the F-22’s help.

Full disclosure:  This post is also a gratuitous attempt to get more hits:  Four times as many hits come from searches for “Warthog Plane” than from “Courtney Messerschmidt”.  Is the A-10 sexier than the Great Satan’s Girlfriend and her hoochies?  Discuss.   

About Crispin Burke

Major Crispin Burke is a US Army aviator qualified in the UH-60 and LUH-72 helicopters. Major Burke has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, and Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras. In what is likely a sad statement on the state of humanity, Major Burke's writings, musings, and irreverent cartoons have been featured at Small Wars Journal, National Defense University, Foreign Policy Online, Wired Magazine, Egremont, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Great Satan's Girlfriend.
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