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

It would seem that despite all the detractors the A-10 Warthog has not only survived, but is now getting upgrades and capabilities that will now take it forward in proposed service life.

As a fan of this aircraft I am delighted to see that people more directly involved think it worth retaining in the inventory.

 
It seems that recent budgets recently proposed have confirmed the A-10 will be around for a while longer. The come-back kid is alive and well and the new upgrades reported on in the previous post now well under way.

Only six years ago the entire fleet were to be completely retired and the Hog enthusiasts in this Forum derided as simpletons. Central to the upgrades, the need to remain survivable in contested environments ie the means to evade threats, through the use of precision standoff weapons from much longer ranges, and use of updated tactics. This include ability to tackle these threats up to 50 miles away before then following up with traditional CAS mission abilities.

With FAC’s now able to send very accurate digital friendly positions, and more accurately designate targets, A10’s now have the ability to fire multiple precision weapons from further away against multiple target on a single pass. Suite 10 upgrade will be out in spring 2021, a foundational step in the modernisation adds precision weapons, glass cockpit, and a laser designator pod.

The HRDS 11.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel Multifunction Color Display with a digital primary flight display gives high definition targeting pod footage and a new engine displays. It provides modern navigation instruments improving situational awareness in Instrument Meteorological Conditions, and targets more visible through higher definition displays of targeting pod footage and improved map imagery.

The multiple target list improvements enable the pilot to engage different targets with three different weapon types on a single pass. It includes full AGR-20 APKWS integration, which provides ability to target at the maximum kinematic range of the rocket, with aiming solutions within rocket tolerances. GBU-31(V)3 JDAM integration brings expanded capabilities for using new fuze types, with improved JDAM feedback. Threat information can now be shared between A-10s and other assets using the data link, which allows all flight members increased situation awareness.

The re-winging program now underway extends life up 10,000 flight hours without depot inspection and will permit modified aircraft to remain in service through 2030 or beyond. New parts suppliers for the engines together with modern techniques may restore the original engine thrust of the General Electric TF34 engines from the present de-tune that the aircraft currently operates with.


 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
A cynic might merely note that for decades, the point of the A-10 was supposed to be that it didn't need all the "useless boondoggles" like targeting pods and long-range precision missiles since it would simply swoop in and blast the enemy to bits with its mighty cannon, missiles and cannon shells glancing from its impenetrable titanium hide...

So, reality (finally!) catches up that you need to "not be hit" rather than try to tough it out. Unfortunately (for A-10 aircrew and anyone relying on them), they're still in very deep trouble if something like a SA-22 avoids being seen and struck while the A-10 tries "following up with traditional CAS mission abilities"...

Still, that's politics for you. It's got shades of Patton designing a new cavalry sabre and a (berserkly impractical) manual of arms, and having to be ordered by Pershing to stop being silly and have his men use their firearms while chasing Mexican bandits - it might be "traditional" but it isn't effective or wise, even if the sight of a squadron of horsemen at the gallop with sabres drawn might be rousing, it goes badly wrong if the enemy shoot back.
 
The resurrection of old by new technology is ongoing. If it is still useable, use it.

The largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built was the Tupolov 160. Now in 2020, it is still the largest heaviest combat aircraft, fastest bomber in use, and largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown. Entering service in 1987 it has been upgraded and 16 remain in service today.

The B53 entered service in the 50’s around 58 remain in service. The Northrop Talon, the worlds first supersonic trainer still remains in service with various air forces today. It is die to be phased out of USAF service when the Red Tail T-7 begins service.

Obviously some may only be used in certain scenarios, but certainly examples abound of old equipment that can still be used.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
The resurrection of old by new technology is ongoing. If it is still useable, use it.

The largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built was the Tupolov 160. Now in 2020, it is still the largest heaviest combat aircraft, fastest bomber in use, and largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown. Entering service in 1987 it has been upgraded and 16 remain in service today.

The B53 entered service in the 50’s around 58 remain in service. The Northrop Talon, the worlds first supersonic trainer still remains in service with various air forces today. It is die to be phased out of USAF service when the Red Tail T-7 begins service.

Obviously some may only be used in certain scenarios, but certainly examples abound of old equipment that can still be used.

Looking at the A-10's peers, the A-7D Corsair II was bought by the USAF for the "high end warfighting" CAS mission, to support the A-10 (intended for low-end counterinsurgency only) - long gone.

The F-111 was bought as the ultimate night/all-weather interdiction aircraft, branching out into strategic nuclear delivery, electronic strike and fleet air defence - all long gone.

The F-15 was derided as an overcomplicated death trap burdened down by radars and missiles (which as any fule kno are useless in war) until it owned the skies, at which point its critics suffered selective amnesia.

The F-16 was meant to be a new F-104 (pilot, engine, gun, nothing else) and was "ruined" by adding all the useless electronics, ineffective missiles, pointless radars, and other "boondoggles" that have made it a success story.

We're now at the point where an A-10 is able to cruise at 20,000' AGL thirty miles from the target, raining datalinked guided death down on it. Excellent, amazing, it's a fabulous aircraft et cetera... except the whole point of the A-10 was to not do that! The A-10 was, supposedly, meant to loiter for an hour over the heads of friendly troops at 500-1000 feet and 200 knots, flying lazy racetracks or figure-8s looking for threats to blow apart with its mighty gun (because it's apparently more efficient to use $13 cannon shells low-and-slow than $10,000 missiles from standoff range, just as "real soldiers" don't waste ammunition but only jab the enemy to death with bayonets)

The mission the A-10 was designed for (being a replacement A-1 Skyraider) is gone. The mission it was pushed into (being a tankbuster in Big Mistake 3) was suicidal and long gone. It's now a slow, heavy, platform for the same sensors and weapons as more capable, survivable platforms.


But, it'll still go BRRRRRRT at firepower demonstrations where nobody's shooting back and everyone will applaud.

Seriously, what niche does the A-10 fill that nothing else can do?
 
Seriously, what niche does the A-10 fill that nothing else can do?
It seems that both Afghanistan and the Middle East were unanticipated conflicts that were very capably covered by the a-10.

It is highly likely that further lower intensity conflicts will be around to be well served, more cost effectively, by their presence, before we get the peer to peer high level clashes where they would be completely out of the picture.

Perhaps a view shared by others who have voted to keep it in service?
 
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jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
It seems that both Afghanistan and the Middle East were unanticipated conflicts that were very capably covered by the a-10.

Did we win them?

Would "not having A-10s" have made a real, noticeable difference?

It is highly likely that further lower intensity conflicts will be around to be well served by their presence, before we get the peer to peer high level clashes where they would be completely out of the picture.

Again, what does the A-10 do that is different, special, unique? Where did the presence of A-10s turn defeat into victory?

And flipping it around, when you get to near-peer conflict the A-10 is a deathtrap - and every penny spent on it is completely wasted in those situations. So is it really a wise investment to divert money from capabilities able to do "real warfighting" and also able to do "standoff strike" and able to do CAS, to those only able to do "beating up rag-tag militias" when resources are finite?

Just as a for-instance, a couple of years ago I was up in Stavanger for the 2018 Trident Juncture exercise. Of note, despite all the available airfields being rammed full of airframes, there wasn't a single A-10 (real or simulated) in theatre, despite "Murinius" having driven tank columns into the "Troms Oblast" - exactly the role you'd have thought the A-10 would have been perfect for. Why not? Because "Murinius" had overlapping and interlocking range rings of SA-21, SA-20, SA-17, SA-15, SA-22 and absolute shedloads of battlefield AD, and sending lumbering 250-knot target drones into that would merely slightly reduce their missile inventory.

So, where's the actual benefit of making A-10s into "sort of like a F-16 for standoff air-to-ground, as long as nobody shoots at it or sends fighters at it..."? Other than being able to do BRRRRRRT! at airshows?


Part of the problem may be on the US Army’s side, with arbitrary rules and a lack of understanding of airpower’s capability and utility. As one USAF Air Liaison Officer (down on the ground calling in air power, having flown 250 missions in Vietnam) put it,

“I recall quite vividly the reinforcement of Army prejudice regarding the A-10 versus any other tacair at both the NTC and Pinon Canyon. During scored exercises, I employed F-16s under close control over deployed armor. They tossed BDU-33 practice bombs from more than 3 miles away to impact the 16x16 plywood opfor tank targets. Referees, despite the visual and obvious hits, declined to credit kills since the "tactical aircraft failed to overfly the target"---sheer stupidity!
When I offered to target night F-111 sorties against OPFOR - and flew the sorties as battlefield prep, the referees gave no credit since they had no concept of the principle of the operation. They did, however give credit for grease-board targeting by artillery (missions not actually fired). Prejudice? Maybe just a bit.”

It's easy to mistake "low and slow and loud" for "more effective" - but as seen, for instance, in Op ANACONDA back in 2002, A-10s flying 'low and slow' with repeated strafing passes failed to suppress or destroy Taliban troops in a well-built sangar, while F-15Es 'walking' 500lb LGBs in inside danger-close was able to do so. Guess what? Most reporting of the incident focusses on how the F-15Es with their puny 20mm cannon with just 400 rounds apiece had to call in A-10s to strafe with their mighty GAU-8s and a thousand rounds apiece, and ignore that "neither 800 rounds of 20mm or 2,500 rounds of 30mm worked and it took accurate bombs to silence the enemy" (as well as the detail that the F-15Es had the endurance to loiter and do BDA while the A-10s shot their guns dry and still had playtime to walk GBU-12s onto the target without killing friendlies)
 
@jwrwlynch perhaps your concerns, advice, and opinions should be addressed to those responsible for the present decision to modernise and extend the life of the A-10?
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
@jwrwlynch perhaps your concerns, advice, and opinions should be addressed to those responsible for the present decision to modernise and extend the life of the A-10?

Are they posting on this thread claiming the A-10 offers unique, irreplaceable and essential capabilities that nothing else can provide?

If not, then I can only address my concerns to those making such claims here.

Of course, those responsible for the present decision are of the same breed as those who forced, into
the 2001 Defense Appropriations bill, that "The committee understands that medical studies indicate the potential benefits of cranberry juice and other cranberry products in maintaining health. The committee urges the Secretary of Defense to take steps to increase the department's use of cranberry products in the diet of on-base personnel and troops in the field. Such purchases should prioritize cranberry products with high cranberry content such as fresh cranberries, cranberry sauces and jellies and concentrate and juice with over 25 percent cranberry content."

So, is updating the A-10 more or less important than feeding Uncle Sam's troops more cranberries, since both measures were signed into law and funded?

I could also point to the continuing procurement of various models of the F-111 during John Tower's time on the House Armed Services Committee: since the General Dynamics plant in Fort Worth was in his constituency, the F-111 kept getting "maybe this model will work!" last chances and continued production (the F-111F was effective as long as it was lavishly supported, the predecessors were infamous dogs). The F-111 is long gone, as is John Tower, but at least it bought the votes in Texas.

I must repeat the questions: did A-10s bring us victory in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Why does spending money to make a slow, old and vulnerable platform "able to do some of what an F-16 does" make sense when the USAF has F-16s?

What is the unique, special, magic that only the A-10 can do?

(Please don't keep deflecting and evading with "but politicians on Capitol Hill are military experts and think it's amazing, ask them" if the answers are "no, it doesn't, and there isn't any" - you're here claiming the A-10 is essential, show your evidence as to why that's the case)
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
It seems that both Afghanistan and the Middle East were unanticipated conflicts that were very capably covered by the a-10.

It is highly likely that further lower intensity conflicts will be around to be well served, more cost effectively, by their presence, before we get the peer to peer high level clashes where they would be completely out of the picture.

Perhaps a view shared by others who have voted to keep it in service?
The A-10 remaining in service is a prime example of ignorance triumphing over wisdom.
 
The last two minutes sums its role up. Why get rid of something that works ( oops- pork barrel politics and buying new unsuitable frames is the answer), B52 in service over 50 years and going strong, this a/c could do the same. Seem to remember the UK having a c/s a/c at one point as well!
 
It seems that both Afghanistan and the Middle East were unanticipated conflicts that were very capably covered by the a-10.

It is highly likely that further lower intensity conflicts will be around to be well served, more cost effectively, by their presence, before we get the peer to peer high level clashes where they would be completely out of the picture.

Perhaps a view shared by others who have voted to keep it in service?
ISTR that the F111 killed more tanks, on fewer sorties than the A10 in GW1
 
(Please don't keep deflecting and evading with "but politicians on Capitol Hill are military experts and think it's amazing, ask them" if the answers are "no, it doesn't, and there isn't any" - you're here claiming the A-10 is essential, show your evidence as to why that's the case)
I am certainly not claiming it is essential, I do happen to believe it remains relevant. I have nothing to do with its funding, or the advice that has resulted in its retention. I have merely reported upon the fact that it has been retained and will be upgraded

There are a number of the USAF inventory that can...and have provided CAS in the recent conflicts where the A-10’s have been around, and others where they have not. B-52, B-1, F-15, F-16, it is also likely that USMC F-35B’s have recently in Africa. All at much greater cost.
 
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Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
It is having money spent on it to enable it to carry out a mission profile which is already carried out by other, kinetically more capable aircraft. In other words, to allow it to survive even in the 'low-intensity' conflicts of recent years, it is having to be changed quite radically.

The slow-and-low profile will get you killed. Also, being slow doesn't get you there; the BRRRRRRAAAAAPPPP!!! might be fun and impressive but there were many instances in recent conflicts where the A-10 wasn't able to get there in time to provide support. Other types were. And as @jrwlynch notes above, the kills-all-it-touches gun in fact doesn't. A JDAM does, though.

Numerous previous posts have noted that putting your pilots in harm's way is the best way to get them killed. If Death From Above only makes itself known with a bloody great bang and a diminishing contrail, then that's a far better proposition than, in the 2020s, emulating von Richthofen.

Define F-35s being in theatre 'at greater cost'.

Yebbut BRRRRRRAAAAAPPPP!!!
 
ISTR that the F111 killed more tanks, on fewer sorties than the A10 in GW1
Certainly killed more tanks. Right equipment at the right time did indeed work wonders.


Funny how the various interpretations of the GAU-8/A are being reproduced by forum enthusiasts. :)

Hourly cost of operating the various types on any particular CAS mission?
 
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jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
I do happen to believe it remains relevant. I have nothing to do with its funding, or the advice that has resulted in its retention. I have merely reported upon the fact that it has been retained and will be upgraded

Which will mean it continues to be a crowd-pleasing cash sink rather than a cost-effective capability, offering no additional utility for the money required to run it on.


There are a number of the USAF inventory that can...and have provided CAS in the recent conflicts where the A-10’s have been around, and others where they have not. B-52, B-1, F-15, F-16, it is also likely that USMC F-35B’s have recently in Africa. All at much greater cost.

"Much greater cost"? An A-10 costs about $6,000 per flying hour (for the pure flying time, as reported here). The F-16 is of course much more expensive at... $8,000 per hour flown. That's just the cost of flying the airframe, nothing else.


What's the cost of establishing and operating (construction, logistics, security...) the airbases overseas for the aircraft to fly from?

Since the A-10 is now a precision-attack platform deploying guided munitions, what's the per-sortie cost of the weapons expended?

What's the relative loss rate of A-10s compared to more survivable platforms, and how are you including that in your operational costs? For instance, in Desert Storm, A-10s (then about $10 million apiece) lost six aircraft in 9,000 sorties, so each sortie cost about $7000 in destroyed aircraft: F-16s (then $18m or so) lost three in nearly 12,000 sorties, so each sortie cost an amortised $4,500.

All of a sudden, the savings from using A-10s look chimerical and illusory.

As for your strange fixation about wowing the crowd by firing its guns at airshows, rather unlikely I would imagine.
What else does the A-10 do that is unique to that platform?

There must be something... but nobody seems to be willing to say what it is, except that it's essential, war-winning, cheap and nothing but A-10s can do it.
 
The A-10 was also operated, in GW 1 and 2, like it's fellows and used concrete runways, not off austere runways and airfields. The only people operating off unimproved surfaces are the Apaches and their fellow helis. The A-10 that was hit by a MANPAD was never flown again,despite it's much touted repairability. Given that the A-10 is routinely criticized for being slow, and that Afghanistan has multiple usable airports, is it more a function of not being too widely deployed rather than a fault of the aircraft. I recall the Harrier being criticized for being slow,compared to the afterburning jets. I thought the whole point of the Apache was that the soldier stepping out of his compound or outpost for a patrol would have an Apache or similar overhead, just in case.
 

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