Skip to comments.Islamic State fight could breathe new life into the A-10
Posted on 09/27/2014 12:18:20 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
An A-10 Thunderbolt II banks after a strafing run on Aug. 21, 2014, during the Red Flag-Alaska 14-3 exercise at the Yukon Training Area, Alaska.
Months after staving off a trip to the boneyard, the embattled A-10 Thunderbolt II is headed to the Middle East where it could be used to fight Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.
An Indiana Air National Guard unit that flies the Cold War-era gunships, known as Warthogs, is planning to deploy about 300 airmen and an unknown number of its aircraft to the U.S. Central Command region early next month, says a Sept. 17 news release from the unit.
The 122nd Fighter Wing, located at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Ind., has 21 aircraft, though its uncertain how many will be deploying, a spokesman said Thursday.
The Air National Guard release doesnt mention where the group is headed or for what purpose.
The Air Force wants to retire the A-10, an attack aircraft intended for close air support, to pay for its new and costly multipurpose F-35 stealth fighters. Retiring the decades-old fleet of about 300 A-10s would potentially save about $4.2 billion over five years, Air Force leaders have said.
But Congress this summer spared the plane from defense cuts. And now some experts say they wouldnt be surprised to see the almost-mothballed A-10 pulled into the air war in Iraq and Syria, a possibility that could further heat the debate on the planes future.
Designed to shoot Soviet tanks rolling across the open fields of Europe, the A-10 has been the primary aircraft for close air support of ground forces since the mid-1970s. Experts say that capability is well-suited to taking out ground targets in Iraq and Syria.
When you deploy the A-10, they only have one purpose, said Dakota Wood, the senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation, and that is to kill things on the ground. If the expectation is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and help the Iraqis push them out or do anything in Syria, especially in the border area between Syria and Iraq, you will need firepower well-suited to targeting armored vehicles and enemy fighters on the ground.
The A-10 flies low and slow, a capability that reduces collateral damage but also makes it more vulnerable to small-arms fire and portable anti-aircraft missiles, experts say.
The threat in Iraq, where Islamic State militants have shoulder-launched, man-portable air defense systems, is manageable, said Gareth Jennings, aviation desk editor for IHS Janes Defence Weekly.
Syria could pose more of a challenge for the A-10, Jennings said. It would not only be going up against ISIS and other military groups, but you do have the Syrian government to contend with.
The Syrian government, which has more sophisticated air defense systems, has not interfered with early strikes in the country but theres no guarantee that will continue, Jennings said. My enemys enemy is my friend only goes so far.
Those risks are worth managing, Jennings thinks, because of the distinct psychological advantage the A-10 and its fearsome 30 mm Gatling gun brings to a fight.
No other aircraft in the world has the reputation of the A-10 in terms of instilling fear into the enemy he said. It can stay over a target; it doesnt come in and drop its bombs and have to leave. It stays over the battlefield, picking off targets at will.
Wood thinks it is probable the Air National Guard A-10s are deploying because of basing options.
To be able to generate more sorties, its better to fly from airfields that are closer to the fight, he said.
The A-10 is more adept than other fighters at launching from short, austere airfields, so it could be the aircraft with that versatility gives the U.S. military more options for sortie generation, he said.
When you look at a map, he said, the A-10s could possibly deploy to Iraq, maybe Saudi Arabia, but theres a strong option for Jordan.
The aircraft could instead deploy to Afghanistan, if the Pentagon wants to shift types of airpower from Afghanistan to Iraq and replace that with the A-10, Wood said, but that seems kind of a cumbersome, expensive dance.
Deployment of the A-10s in Iraq and Syria would certainly extend the debate as to the aircrafts future, Wood said.
It will be a win for the A-10 communities and advocates one more argument in favor of it.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is among lawmakers who say now is not the time to get rid of the A-10, particularly in light of the current Islamic State threat.
Defeating the Islamic State will require effective close air support not just dropping bombs from high altitude on isolated targets and there is no better [close-air-support] aircraft than the A-10, Ayotte said in a statement to Stars and Stripes.
But Wood said the argument still comes down to money.
Even if you said you wanted to keep the A-10, where does the Air Force come up with the money to retain the A-10 and all that comes with it and still get its full complement of F-35s?
Though Air Force brass are intent on retiring the plane, no one is saying because its no good, Jennings said. Theyre saying in this day and age you cant afford to have aircraft that are only good at one thing.
He said this isnt the first time the A-10 has been on the chopping block only to see a decision reversed in the face of a new conflict.
What makes it different (now) is the U.S. Air Force doesnt have the money to support all these different types of aircraft. Unless that changes, Im afraid the writing is on the wall for the A-10, regardless of how it functions in Iraq, Syria and on.
Naaa, Obama would rather chance loosing an F-22 FIGHTER rather than one of those expensive A-10 ATTACK warthogs.
A real tactical expert, he is!
I was a contractor on a job on the Whidbey Island AFB back in the ‘80’s working on rooftop Air handlers right next to the runway from which these guys kept coming and going. I was sorry when the job was completed.
The A-10 belongs in the Army’s inventory, always has.
Give them to the Army, they would know what to do with them.
The Wartho. Go ugly early. Love that plane.
It’s a world driven by procurement fever in the generals who, once their sinecure is completed, move over to consulting.
FYI it was Dick Cheney who ordered the jigs to be destroyed. The Pentagon didn’t want this aircraft to begin with and has been trying to kill it off ever since it was first deployed. Congress initially ordered 750 of them. The number ordered was high so the Air Force couldn’t send all of them straight to the National Guard as they flew off the assembly line.
The Warthog is the nimblest,graceful, ugly, bad ass out there.
Replace the A10 with an untested aircraft that will be in dev till 2018.... What could go wrong?
The F35 can’t survive even a 1/4 of the damage the A10 has routinely suffered during close air support missions. Who could forget the famous photos from gulf war one of A10’s shot to pieces with literally chunks of metal hanging off. The F35 is a product of greed and corruption in an industry with little accountability and oversight. When it fails, we will see a bunch of hearings full of twatwaffle congress pukes feigning anger and disgust while lining their pockets with industry handouts. Our servicemen and women will die all for some suit wearing douchebag to afford a new home with an ocean view.
Love the picture.
Seeing one of these wartys fly side says through a mountain pass with cannons blazing is amazing.
Were the A-7s destroyed or are they at Davis-Monthan?
They keep floating aircraft that are wholly unsuited for the role as replacements.
Like: the F16, and the F35.
Neither can take the punishment that the A-10 can and return home.
But the higher ups keep repeating the same mantra, same lunacy every time: Plane X isn’t designed to take hits, but to avoid them.
As if wishful thinking and magic can make an aircraft in close support not be hit.
And THIS is a situation tailor made for an A-10 to rip the crap out of.
Cluster munitions and that GAU-30 ripping the crap out of things is the closest vision of Naar that any muslim can get without actually heading there.
Even inert training rounds fired out of the GAU-30 would be impressive.
They'll need a replacement, but the current Iraq-Syria theater is not a safe environment for these planes. It was assumed that they would be swatted down like flies while stemming an invasion of thousands of Soviet bloc tanks streaming through the Fulda Gap, but that the sacrifice would be worth it, because they were trading machines and men for time (to send hundreds of thousands of GI's to continental Europe before the Eastern Bloc armies overran it). There's no reason to risk a single A-10 doing treetop level gun runs against these rebels while Iraq's and Syria's truck-mounted SAM batteries are still at large.
“...where it could be used to fight Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria...”
Is it nuclear-capable? That’s what we need, and what those cockroaches need to worry about.
Shoot half the wing off of a F35, what do you get? A dead or captured pilot. What do you get when you do the same thing to an A-10? One more bombing fun, before returning home.
Send in the A-10s against these ISIS savages & a term not used since Vietnam will be heard again:
I don’t think it is. But we have plenty of nuclear-capable delivery systems, from carrier aircraft to strategic bombers to cruise missiles, ICBMs, SLBMs, fighter-bombers, etc.
I was going to say the same thing. They should be building about 5k more with continual updates in technology incorporated into them.
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