Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wired: A-10 Warthog "Is Ruthlessly Effective, and the Grunts on the Ground Absolutely Love It Because It Keeps Them Safe"

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 1:30 PM

Wired comes out with a stirring defense of the A-10 Warthog after a GAO report showed the Air Force didn't take a very serious look at the savings and costs of retiring the plane:
The Air Force claims shutting down the A-10 program would save $4.2 billion over five years, but a new report from the Government Accountability Office shoots that down, finding USAF analysis incomplete.

More worrying (and unsurprising, to anyone who’s been paying attention), the GAO report says dropping the A-10 would “create potential gaps” in close air support. Even though every A-10 flying is more than thirty years old, it remains “the only or the best Air Force platform to conduct certain missions” like escorting helicopters (the Warthog can fly really slowly, making it effective at protecting the pokey choppers) or engaging small boats that could threaten US ships (See: USS Cole).

Close air support is a vital job that, when properly executed, can mean the difference between life and death for soldiers. It’s highly dangerous, because it requires flying at altitudes low enough to discern friend from foe, leaving the plane particularly vulnerable to ground-based anti-aircraft fire.

But the Warthog was specifically designed for close air support: the cockpit sits in a 1,200 pound titanium tub, specifically designed to withstand fire from anti-aircraft shells at close range. Every system is double or triple redundant, and it can take a ridiculous amount of abuse. It can continue flying if it’s lost an entire engine, part of its tail, or even half a wing.

And, because the A-10’s role is so important, it’s designed for easy repairs to keep it in the air. Entire engines can be quickly and easily replaced. Most repairs can even be made in the field. Many parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides of the plane, and the A-10 can take off from rough and unpaved runways. Because it has huge wings, a high wing aspect ratio and huge ailerons (almost 50 percent of its wingspan), it’s incredibly maneuverable.

The Warthog is basically a flying gatling gun, and it’s terrifying if you’re on the angry end.
Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-CD2), who led an A-10 squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said last week that the GAO report "confirms what I have worked to highlight over months of hearings: that retiring the A-10 without a replacement would create dangerous capability gaps and put American lives at risk.‎ Not only did GAO find that divesting the A-10 would eliminate our ability to conduct Close Air Support, Combat Search and Rescue, and other critical capabilities, but that the Administration's budget justification for doing so is based on incomplete information. While this report is welcome news, it will not eliminate the threat to the A-10, and I'm going to continue to fight to make sure we keep these vital capabilities."

Meanwhile, War is Boring has gotten ahold of a report that shows significant problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that is supposed to replace the A-10:

A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can’t turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy’s own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January.

“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the unnamed pilot wrote in a scathing five-page brief that War Is Boring has obtained. The brief is unclassified but is labeled “for official use only.”

The test pilot’s report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history’s most expensive weapon.

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