A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush
Air Force begins work on the speed, lethality, durability and capability of a new “A-10” type aircraft to provide US military ground troops with effective close air support for decades to come .
Senior service officials are now exploring the concepts of “draft requirements” – and assessing what kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the plane would need, officials said. from the Air Force to Scout Warrior.
Many of the A-10’s basic technical attributes and combat advantages will be preserved and developed with the new effort, officials said.
The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Force’s subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – led the service to begin the process of developing a new longer term A-10. platform type.
Following the announcement earlier this year by Pentagon executives that the A-10 will not begin retiring but will instead serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials now hope to retain a close air support aircraft for many years beyond the previous one. projected time frame.
Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense for the Air Force to seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been very successful in attacking ISIS targets such as convoys of fuel and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of aircraft that can carry and deliver a large arsenal of bombs, including larger precision and laser-guided weapons.
This type of firepower, combined with its 30mm gun, titanium armor plates, and built-in redundancy for close air support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential type warfare. force against force on a larger scale. . The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to play in the widest possible range of combat scenarios, including counterinsurgency, support for nearby ground troops, and firepower, protection and infantry support in full-scale warfare.
Air Force officials told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply modernizing the existing A-10 fleet substantially to extend its life, acquire an existing aircraft off the shelf, or develop a new close air support platform through a development effort.
“We are in the process of developing this draft requirements document. We are currently staffing it around the Air Force. When it is ready, we will compare it to what we have, compare it to the maintenance of the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another aircraft, and we will work on that process, ”a declared the lieutenant-general. James Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, recently told reporters.
Holmes went on to explain that the service was exploring, in general, ways to achieve, preserve and maintain “air superiority” in potential long-term and high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations for a close air support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculation surrounding these issues.
Accordingly, the Air Force will seek the “optimal” type of close air support platform by weighing various considerations such as the differences that might be between existing aircraft and future development platforms.
Cost and affordability will also be a very big part of the equation when it comes to making decisions about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.
“The question is, where exactly is the sweet spot as we discuss between what is available now and what would be the optimal replacement for CAS. We are working along this continuum to see exactly what requirements we can afford and how many we need to be able to accomplish the mission, ”added Holmes.
Several industrial platforms, such as Raytheon’s TX aircraft and A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among the options being considered as items that could potentially be configured for a close air support aircraft.
Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate approximately 1,900 A-10 or A-10 type close air support aircraft.
Having the funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that despite the previous plan, the service did not want to remove the A-10.
Previous plans to withdraw from the A-10 fleet were purely budget driven, senior Air Force officials have always said.
“I don’t want to withdraw it,” Welsh told a congressional committee in early March.
Air Force officials previously said the emerging multi-purpose F-35 would be able to resume the close air support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun, and maneuverability, the F-35 is unlikely to be able to succeed in these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also a consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes that must be preserved for decades.