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Grunts of the Air - the A-10 film the USAF wanted to suppress

Nemesis44UK

LE
Book Reviewer
All of this has been said before in the thread, however...

A-10 survivability was designed around 1970s threats it was expected to encounter in a 1980s Central Region battlefield. These were primarily AAA such as ZSU-23/4 as well as first and second gen IR systems such as SA-7, SA-8 and SA-14. Even 20 years ago in the Balkans, the A-10 could not venture into Serb SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 MEZ. To meet current and emerging threats, you need good EW, Low Observability and good kinematics. Any 2 of these 3 will do.

Meanwhile, all military aircraft have multiple levels of redundancy. Moreover, it's all pretty academic if it can't arrive in time.



Some A-10s have certainly returned with serious damage. However, armoured nacelles and a titanium bathtub are utterly irrelevant against an SA-10/20, SA-11/17, SA-15 or similar.

As said previously, I also find pictures of damaged A-10s fairly counter-intuitive. Each of those jets was forced off task, leaving a hole in CAS coverage and requiring C2 assets such as my own to divert other CAS players and scramble GCAS. I saw that happen in Kosovo and GW2.



I wouldn't say the gun was the Hog's raison d'être but it can undoubtedly be extremely effective. However, remember that it's only of use in low altitudes and relatively short ranges using profiles that expose the aircraft to additional threats.

Again, even in Bosnia 20 years ago, the gun was rarely used because of the threat systems present. Maverick was their preferred weapon, as it was in GW1.



I would argue that the A-10 offers no advantages whatsoever against current and emerging threats.



If you wish to see combat losses, ask some A-10s to provide CAS on a battlefield with modern SAMs.

Meanwhile, I will call BS on the claim that USAF leadership is seeking to divest the CAS mission. Indeed, I use the phrase purposely: CAS is a mission not an aircraft. The USAF have spent $Bs in recent decades on CAS upgrades for the AC-130, MQ-1, MQ-9, F-16, F-15E, B-1B, B-52 and...shock...even the A-10. Likewise investment in weaponry, targeting pods, data links and the enormous expansion of USAF JTAC capacity all speak volumes. I've deployed with and worked alongside the Service a great many times, listened to their leadership privately and in public. Not only do the USAF get CAS, they understand what is needed to provide the effects on the ground a lot more than the US Army does frankly. Moreover, it has been enthusiastically embraced from the lowliest FNG pilot to CSAF (again, he is himself a former A-10 pilot).

What I suspect has happened here is one of the pro-Hog lobby has taken a quote out of context. The last 15 years of focus has severely eroded USAF, USN and USMC capabilities in other roles such as interdiction, Large Force Employment, EW, maritime and amphibious ops. With good reason, all of these services are keen to see a more suitable balance of capabilities re-established.

As with many of these articles, Ms Smithberger appears from her comments to have no military experience whatsoever and it is disappointing that links to such drivel are still posted.

Regards,
MM

@Magic_Mushroom - thank you for taking the time to address my questions in such a comprehensive way. I appear to have been labouring under misapprehensions regarding the A-10. I remember seeing them "live" in 91 and along with the Apache, they send shivers down my spine.

Nostalgia, eh?
 
My pleasure Nemesis.

Unfortunately, this topic is being muddied by emotion on both sides and is reminiscent of the GR4 v GR9 debate following the last SDSR. However, the focus should be what the A-10 can do over the next decade rather than what it has done in the last 2.

Regards,
MM
 

Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
Is it not the case that most A10 are operated by Air National Guard? While to us it still looks like a septic A10, there is an important constitutional difference, the ANG is owned by the State, not Federal government. This makes the political in-fighting far more complex.
Those who would alter the UK constitution, or even write it down, should watch this sad fiasco and learn.

Its a plane. It did CAS well in 1970s-80s (when the target array was massed T72/T80/BMP). Its OK in some places at the moment, but is increasingly vulnerable to any air defence more sophisticated than ZSU23-4.

CAS can now be performed as well or better by multi role fighters, most of which also have a good gun. they can also do other stuff.

Anyone but a politician or journalist could see that.

What we are seeing is a dysfunctional political system in action.
 
The New York Times weighing in on the A-10 in their op-Ed page,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/20/opinion/saving-a-plane-that-saves-lives.html?_r=2
Saving a Plane that Saves Lives
WASHINGTON — WHEN American troops find themselves fighting for their lives, there is no better sound than an A-10, a plane officially nicknamed the Thunderbolt II but known affectionately by the troops as the Warthog, firing its enormous 30-millimeter gun at the enemy. It might not be pretty, but the A-10 is our most capable close air-support aircraft, and its arrival on the battlefield signals survival for our troops and annihilation for our enemies.

Yet over the last two years, the Obama administration and the Air Forceleadership have been working overtime to mothball our entire A-10 fleet, 13 years ahead of schedule. They claim that other, newer planes can do the same job, that it’s too slow and vulnerable and that it’s too expensive.

I appreciate the budget pressures that the Pentagon faces these days. But those arguments have serious flaws — and if we retire the A-10 before a replacement is developed, American troops will die.

Before running for office, I was an A-10 squadron commander with 325 combat hours. During my time in uniform and since coming to the House and taking up the fight to keep the plane, I have heard countless stories from American soldiers about how the A-10 saved their lives.

In 2008, Marine Master Sgt. Richard Wells and his team were on patrol in Afghanistan when they were ambushed. “It was the first time in my life that I thought to myself, ‘This is it, we’re going to die, we’re not going to make it out of this,’ ” he recalled in a recent interview.

The Marines were severely outnumbered, cornered, and in close combat with dozens of insurgents. Because of the poor weather, fast-moving fighters above the clouds were unable to identify the targets or get close enough to engage. Soon two Marines were seriously wounded, and the enemy was 50 feet away.

Suddenly two A-10s descended below a heavy layer of clouds. The planes are extremely maneuverable and designed to fly close to the ground. Coming within 400 feet of the mountains, they made nearly a dozen gun passes each, giving Sergeant Wells’s team cover to run to safety. Without the A-10 and the exceptional training and bravery of its pilots, six Marines would have died that day.

True, other planes and drones can do close air support. But every close-air-support scenario is different, and every platform brings strengths and weaknesses to the fight. The A-10 has unique strengths for the most complex and dangerous such missions.

It can loiter over the battlefield for long periods without refueling. It can maneuver in difficult terrain at low altitudes, fly slowly enough to visually identify enemy and friendly forces and survive direct hits. And it’s one of our most lethal aircraft, especially against moving targets, with its 1,174 rounds of ammunition, missiles, rockets and bombs. Not only is the A-10 best equipped for close air support, but it is crucial to leading combat search and rescue missions of downed pilots. After the barbaric murder of a captured Jordanian F-16 pilot by ISIS, these capabilities are more important than ever — indeed, A-10s are on round-the-clock alert during American missions against ISIS.

The A-10 was designed as a Cold War tank killer, and its cannon is the only one in the Air Force that can fire armor-piercing depleted-uranium 30-millimeter bullets. In a recent hearing, I asked the general in charge of our forces in South Korea what the loss of the A-10 would mean for our anti-armor capabilities. It would leave a major gap, he conceded.

Critics knock the age of our A-10 fleet; the last one was delivered in 1984. But with maintenance and upgrades — we just spent $1 billion on improvements to the A-10 fleet — age by itself isn’t a reason to retire the plane. And it’s far from the oldest plane in our fleet: Those same critics celebrate the B-52, the youngest of which is almost 53 years old and won’t be retired until 2040.

Those trying to retire the A-10 also claim it isn’t “survivable” — an amazing claim, given the long list of stories about the plane’s ability to take fire and still fly. In 2003, Capt. Kim Campbell was flying over Baghdad when her A-10 was hit by a surface-to-air missile, punching a large hole in the plane and knocking out its hydraulics. Most planes would have been destroyed; Captain Campbell switched into a mode only available in the A-10 — manual reversion, where you fly the aircraft by brute force, manually pulling on cables when you move the control stick — and flew home safely.

Last year the Air Force said it needed to close A-10 squadrons to free up maintenance personnel. Arguing to scrap a lifesaving workhorse like the A-10 to solve a staffing challenge, while maintaining 15 different musical bands, makes one question the Air Force’s priorities.

Despite all those changing arguments, Air Force leadership told me during a hearing in March that the A-10 decision is simply about money. And yet the A-10 has the lowest per-flight-hour cost of any aircraft.

The A-10 remains in high demand: Warthogs are deployed to the Middle East, where they have been inciting fear in the ranks of Islamist terrorists since their deployment in September, and Romania, where 12 A-10s from the squadron I commanded train with our allies in the face of increased Russian aggression.

Yet the administration and the Pentagon persist. Recently, Air Force leaders said the fight to save the A-10 was “emotional.” Of course it is. Just ask the families of Master Sergeant Wells and his men. The A-10 has supporters because we know it works — and that the American military can’t afford to retire it.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
You wonder why anyone bothers with tedious facts and boring analysis when all you need to get published is "A-10 good! Mucho dakka-dakka! President Obama mean and bad! Nasty Air Force wants our brave men to die!"

Yes, some A-10s have come home with big holes blown in them. Others fell out of the sky in fiery maelstroms of death when hit by missiles (funny, those weren't so popular with US photographers). And because it's slow and sluggish, it gets shot at more often, and hit more often, so gets more chances to either display damage or... die. And phooey to "punched a hole", can an A-10 come back to base if it's lost an entire wing?

http://toocatsoriginals.tumblr.com/post/99058020239/israeli-air-force-f-15d-lands-missing-a-wing

Again, the 1991 experience is instructive: A-10s were shot down at three times the rate of F-16s, despite pretty much only working the frontline "kill boxes": while the F-16s were hitting the full range of targets all over Iraq, and working the "kill boxes" on the way back if they had ordnance remaining. Being limited in role and getting slapped a lot isn't a great positive, no matter how dogmatic your cheerleaders (I'm flashing back to the 1990s and the "Bring Back The Battleships!" crowd who used *exactly* the same fact-free screeds...)

I'm also reminded of the line from "The Magnificent Seven":-

Peasant 1 - "See him! See his scars! He must be a mighty fighter, we should hire him!"
Peasant 2 - "No! We should find who gave him those scars... and hire *them*!"
 
Some slightly disingenuous presentation of facts there by the Congresswoman. Additionally, while I've heard of A-10s sometimes being able to get under the weather, there's been other times where an F-15E, B-1B or GR4 has been able to do a radar let down to do a show of force in the clouds or fog! Swings and roundabouts.

Most importantly, she still doesn't offer a suggestion about what should be chopped instead of the A-10.

Regards,
MM
 
You wonder why anyone bothers with tedious facts and boring analysis when all you need to get published is "A-10 good! Mucho dakka-dakka! President Obama mean and bad! Nasty Air Force wants our brave men to die!"

Yes, some A-10s have come home with big holes blown in them. Others fell out of the sky in fiery maelstroms of death when hit by missiles (funny, those weren't so popular with US photographers). And because it's slow and sluggish, it gets shot at more often, and hit more often, so gets more chances to either display damage or... die. And phooey to "punched a hole", can an A-10 come back to base if it's lost an entire wing?

http://toocatsoriginals.tumblr.com/post/99058020239/israeli-air-force-f-15d-lands-missing-a-wing

Again, the 1991 experience is instructive: A-10s were shot down at three times the rate of F-16s, despite pretty much only working the frontline "kill boxes": while the F-16s were hitting the full range of targets all over Iraq, and working the "kill boxes" on the way back if they had ordnance remaining. Being limited in role and getting slapped a lot isn't a great positive, no matter how dogmatic your cheerleaders (I'm flashing back to the 1990s and the "Bring Back The Battleships!" crowd who used *exactly* the same fact-free screeds...)
6 A-10/OA-10 shot down in 1991 and 3 F-16 were lost.

OA-10A 76-0543 cause: SA-9
OA-10A 77-0197 cause: crash landing after losing hydraulics when hit by AAA
A-10A 78-0722 cause: AAA
A-10A 79-0130 cause: SA-13
A-10A 79-0181 cause: Crash on landing after surviving SA-13 hit
A-10A 80-0248 cause: SA-20

F-16C 87-0228 cause: SA-6
F-16C 87-0257 cause: SA-3
F-16C 84-1390 cause: SA-16

Kinda disingenuous of you implying the A-10 were modern Brewster Buffaloes
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
6 A-10/OA-10 shot down in 1991 and 3 F-16 were lost.

OA-10A 76-0543 cause: SA-9
OA-10A 77-0197 cause: crash landing after losing hydraulics when hit by AAA
A-10A 78-0722 cause: AAA
A-10A 79-0130 cause: SA-13
A-10A 79-0181 cause: Crash on landing after surviving SA-13 hit
A-10A 80-0248 cause: SA-20

F-16C 87-0228 cause: SA-6
F-16C 87-0257 cause: SA-3
F-16C 84-1390 cause: SA-16

Kinda disingenuous of you implying the A-10 were modern Brewster Buffaloes

A-10s: 6 lost, 14 damaged, in 8,640 sorties
F-16s; 3 lost, 4 damaged, in 11,698 sorties.

And the A-10 was pretty much *only* doing the killboxes along the border, whereas the F-16s used those to expend any remaining on the route home from deeper strikes. Similarly, the "uniquely powerful 30mm cannon" wasn't used, instead the A-10's main ornament in 1991 was the very Maverick missile it and its invincible gun was meant to make obsolete - because going low enough to strafe meant being shot to bits, titanium bathtub or not.

The A-10 is underpowered - this was a major problem even for aircraft like the A-7 (there's an excellent account by one Captain Leenhouts of just how little fun it is to be low and slow, having evaded one SAM, in the enemy's air defence envelope in an aircraft without afterburners...) and that means it gets hit more often: and once you're getting slapped with more than 23mm AAA or MANPADS, your chance of surviving the hit isn't much better in an A-10 than a F-16. It's also short on sensors - you can fix that, but a decent targetting pod is expensive regardless.

The A-10 has its uses in a particular niche, but it's a 1960s concept that was struggling with reality even when it entered service. If it's such an incredible tankbuster and invincible CAS platform... why didn't the Israelis demand squadrons of them to either fend off the Syrian hordes or provide top cover to troops on the latest bout of Hezbollah-bashing?
 
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Boeing is now floating the idea of selling the A-10 abroad.....

Boeing has floated the idea of selling refurbished A-10 Warthogs to other nations as the US Air Force seeks to retire the venerable attack airplane.

The company is currently extending the service life of the air force’s A-10 fleet through a re-winging programme, and it recently delivered its 100th modification with more than 70 modifications left on contract.

At a Boeing-sponsored media event in San Antonio, Texas, today, the company’s chief engineer of off-Boeing programmes, Paul Cejas, suggested the US government might pursue international sales of upgraded A-10s. Dozens of A-10s are currently in near-flyaway storage at the air force’s boneyard facility in Arizona, and could be brought back into the operational fleet at any time.

Cejas says he has no exact customers in mind, but Boeing has "begun early discusssions."

“It’s something we would be interested in, but again, it depends where the air force goes with retirements," he says. “If we go that path we would be looking at a modification. It all depends on what the air force does. We have no jurisdiction, and we’ll support whatever they need and we’re positioned for that.”

Congress has long protected the A-10 from retirement, and fiscal 2016 looks to be no different.

Cejas said it would not be fiscally efficient to cancel the re-winging programme this far into the contract, and Boeing would support any potential sale opportunities abroad should the Pentagon and choose to go that route.


More at:

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-discussing-international-a-10-warthog-sales-412606/
 
Turkey briefly looked at buying a small number of A-10s back in the early 90s but that was about the only export sniff the aircraft had.

Today, it would have to compete against modern RPAS and more cost effective manned types such as the AT-6, Super Tucano and Scorpion. I really can't see many countries being interested.

Regards,
MM
 
Look at the Su-25. Slow as shite, two engines, built to last and still gets knocked down, so it's no better. Didn't the Georgians nail an Su-24, too?
 

load_fin

War Hero
Ah, the A10...had a begrudging admiration for the Hog for many years. In the late 80's/early90's, I worked for Landrover at Gaydon (next door to Kineton). Gaydon was old V bomber airbase, converted to a proving ground, but it still looked like a airbase from above.

One day, I'm on the test track, moving quickly on the straight (about 130 mph), when the car starts to make a horrible noise, the like of which I had never heard before. I immediately declutched and put it in into neutral, but the noise continued.

Then it went dark, and an A10 shaped shadow appeared on the tarmac ahead of me...I looked up and there was my "adversary", climbing and turning away at a very low height.

I thought I had a decent job, being paid to drive expensive cars fast, but at that moment, I realized that I was actually in a boring, mundane job.

A few further incidents of USAF A10's making dummy attacks on cars on the track followed, and Landrover complained to the USAF - people were scared, the planes were way too low, and business was being disrupted.

Next time, the RAF responded with a pair of Phantoms (*), and we were privy to witness a low level dogfight over the Gaydon. Never seen a plane roll and turn on a wingtip like an A10.

Maybe the RAF response wan't connected with landrover's complaints, but why let the truth spoil a dit?

(*) memory not infallible (nor is a/c recognition); other fighters are available
 
As ever, it's purely down to money. Without sequestration, the Chief of Staff of the USAF (himself a former A-10 pilot) has stated that he wouldn't get rid of the aircraft. But until funding improves, something has to give.

Personally, I can't see the A-10 going anywhere for a few years yet. Equally, I would not describe it as the 'aircraft of choice' in OIR and the proliferation of Russian SAMs has further highlighted its limitations. Indeed, the observant may note that the article is careful in its wording and only refers to 'Eastern Syria and Iraq'. I therefore find it ironic that conveniently anonymous A-10 pilots are claiming the A-10 is now survivable due to its 'speed, manoeuverability and EW'!

After the lessons of GW1, the A-10 wasn't allowed to enter SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 MEZ in Bosnia 20 years ago. It sure as hell isn't going to do any better against SA-17 and SA-21 today.

Regards,
MM
 
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D

Deleted 4886

Guest
As ever, it's purely down to money. Without sequestration, the Chief of Staff of the USAF (himself a former A-10 pilot) has stated that he wouldn't get rid of the aircraft. But until funding improves, something has to give.

Personally, I can't see the A-10 going anywhere for a few years yet. Equally, I would not describe it as the 'aircraft of choice' in OIR and the proliferation of Russian SAMs has further highlighted its limitations. Indeed, the observant may note that the article is careful in its wording and only refers to 'Eastern Syria and Iraq. I therefore find it ironic that conveniently anonymous A-10 pilots are claiming the A-10 is now survivable due to its 'speed, manoeuverability and EW'!

After the lessons of GW1, the A-10 wasn't allowed to enter SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 MEZ in Bosnia 20 years ago. It sure as hell isn't going to do any better against SA-17 and SA-21 today.

Regards,
MM
But it is cool!
 
Such a shame that they never made a carrier version of the A-10.
The US Marines would know what to do with them.

n.b. obviously it would still be a large machine even folded, and the transit time from carrier to ops area could be a problem............but Ooooraaahhhhhh.

You'd think they'd have learned from the great dust up they had in SE Asia where there was never enough of these simple yet effective assets to go around.

Fits nicely on a carrier too.
 
A-10s: 6 lost, 14 damaged, in 8,640 sorties
F-16s; 3 lost, 4 damaged, in 11,698 sorties.

And the A-10 was pretty much *only* doing the killboxes along the border, whereas the F-16s used those to expend any remaining on the route home from deeper strikes. Similarly, the "uniquely powerful 30mm cannon" wasn't used, instead the A-10's main ornament in 1991 was the very Maverick missile it and its invincible gun was meant to make obsolete - because going low enough to strafe meant being shot to bits, titanium bathtub or not.

The A-10 is underpowered - this was a major problem even for aircraft like the A-7 (there's an excellent account by one Captain Leenhouts of just how little fun it is to be low and slow, having evaded one SAM, in the enemy's air defence envelope in an aircraft without afterburners...) and that means it gets hit more often: and once you're getting slapped with more than 23mm AAA or MANPADS, your chance of surviving the hit isn't much better in an A-10 than a F-16. It's also short on sensors - you can fix that, but a decent targetting pod is expensive regardless.

The A-10 has its uses in a particular niche, but it's a 1960s concept that was struggling with reality even when it entered service. If it's such an incredible tankbuster and invincible CAS platform... why didn't the Israelis demand squadrons of them to either fend off the Syrian hordes or provide top cover to troops on the latest bout of Hezbollah-bashing?

Isn't that a case of different job/different risk? Of course lower and slower is more dangerous - but I wouldn't dismiss the experiences/fears and preference of the boots/flipflops on the ground.
 
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