The A-10 is in the news again – they’ll get the axe in the U.S. D of D’s proposed budget for FY 2015, as released by Chuck Hagel yesterday.
This detailed argument in support of the A-10 was written back in November but is still germane.The Air Force wants to retire the A-10, claiming it is old and expensive to maintain. The Army who apparently don’t get much of a vote want to keep it. Because the A-10 can fly low and slow for a long time, it’s very effective in supporting troops on the ground. And apparently it is not expensive to maintain, especially compared to more modern planes which aren’t comparable because they can’t do the sustained low-and-slow. But if the Air Force retires the A-10 it can redirect the costs of supporting the A-10 to other more glamorous, hi-tech aircraft: the Joint Strike Fighter and drones:
Regarding JSF: The Air Force version is optimized for air-to-air combat, not ground support. The Marine version more versatile, with consideration to supporting troops on the ground was scaled back years ago from a Vertical Take-Off design to a Short-Take-Off and Landing design because of insurmountable technical problems and durability testing of that STOL version was recently cancelled cracks in the bulk head and that variant may have to be redesigned.
Regarding drones: Yes, drones might, one day, be able to provide ground support more effectively. One day. Not in FY 2015
The political considerations will probably trump economic considerations and common sense. The pork in the proposed budget for FY 2015 will flow to those districts which are home to the defense industries that are developing the hi-tech options. The impact of canning the A-10 will be concentrated in the very few (two?) districts with A-10 bases – one in Arizona and one in Georgia.