Thursday, May 21, 2015

The USA might sell its A-10s... LET'S GET 'EM!

Lose the USAF roundel...  Keep the teeth.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka: the "Warthog") is nearly universally accepted as the best close air support aircraft ever built.  Originally intended for use a "tank-buster" for use against a Soviet ground army in the Cold War, the Warthog has gone on to assert its usefulness over Afghanistan, Iraq, and other inhospitable environments.

The key to the A-10's success has always been its rugged simplicity.  It is almost the antithesis to aircraft like the F-22 and F-35.   It eschews stealth design, bleeding edge technology, and supersonic speed.  Instead, it flies slowly, shrugs off small arms fire, and carries a big freakin' gun.  It is the airplane equivalent to Wolverine.  It is simply the best at what it does, but what it does ain't pretty.

Yet...  For some reason...  The USAF wants the A-10 gone.

Ostensibly, the USAF's rationale for retiring the A-10 is to save money.  That money is needed for more "important" things, like the F-35.  Since the A-10's close-air-support role can (in theory) be handled by multirole jets like the B-1B and F-35, keeping the A-10s is seen as somewhat redundant.

Under the same logic, owning a pick-up truck makes no sense if you own a Bentley, since that Bentley can perform most of the duties of the pick-up.  This reasoning is ludicrous, of course, considering that the pick-up is far more capable at certain tasks for far less operating cost.  A Bentley owner would do well to have a pick-up on hand, since towing a yacht along a dirt road with a $250,000 luxury sedan would undoubtedly lead to expensive wear-and-tear.

For some reason, the USAF would rather have a few more Bentleys.

The math is simply mind-boggling.  Retiring the entire A-10 fleet (about 300 aircraft) would save the USAF less than 1% of its total operating costs.  Putting that money into F-35s would result in, at best, 30 F-35s.  Even the most ardent JSF supporter would not believe that an F-35 is worth 10 Warthogs when it comes to close-air-support.

The move is even more odd considering that much of the A-10 fleet is currently undergoing a refurbishment program that adds new wings.  With this and a few other initiatives, the Warthog could remain in service until the year 2040!

Boeing, currently responsible for the A-10's refurbishment, recently hinted that the Pentagon may be open to selling refurbished Warthogs to international allies.

If this turns out to be the case Canada should do all it can to purchase a few.  At least one squadron, possibly two.

Just imagine...
No, the A-10 is not a suitable replacement for the CF-18.  Not by a long shot.  The Hornet is a multi-role Swiss Army Knife whereas the A-10 is simple can-opener.  It just so happens to be a really good can opener.  A squadron (or two) of RCAF Warthogs could take a lot of pressure off Canada's aging fighter fleet however, taking over the CAS role while the CF-18s (and their eventual replacement) concentrate more on sovereignty, interception, and other missions.

In fact, the CF-18s' current mission against ISIS/ISIL can be handled quite nicely by the A-10, thank you very much.

The advantages of maintaining a small fleet of Warthogs is clear:

1.  It's cheap.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a cheap aircraft.  Even when they were new, the A-10 was substantially more affordable than even the most basic version of the F-16.  Refurbished models could likely be procured at a mere fraction of the cost of today's advanced multirole fighters.  

Not only would it be cheap to procure, but the A-10 just so happens to be inexpensive to fly as well.  When comparing flight hour costs, the A-10 costs almost $5,000 per hour less than the F-16C.  At an estimated $32,000/hr, the F-35 would cost almost twice as much per flight hour.

2.  It works.

The Warthog has resisted several attempts to retire it already.  Instead of going to the scrapyard, it gets sent to the combat zone instead.   It has it earned the respect of the US Congress, ground troops, even Chuck Norris (it's a fact).

Friendly ground troops love it.  The mantra "go ugly early" means for calling in an A-10 to deploy at the beginning of an engagement.  Enemy combatants fear it, calling it names like "The Whispering Death".   Enough said.

3.  It's tough.

The A-10 can survive most small arms fire without issue.  It can fly through flak and still make it home.  It has proven easily repairable in the field.  It can operate from austere airfields.  

When aircraft like the F-35B require special heat resistant landing pads and enhanced security, it is good to know that the A-10 is on hand to go anywhere and do anything.

"It's pulling a little to the right for some reason..."
A small fleet of A-10s would allow Canada to fulfill our NATO commitments abroad with a minimum of fuss and expense.  Not only that, but the Warthog's provides a capability that is still unmatched by assets far more expensive.  Threats like ISIS/ISIL have proven that the A-10 is far from obsolete and the recent refurbishment will keep it that way for decades to come.   

Besides, if the A-10 is the Wolverine of combat jets, it only makes sense that the Canadian superhero's native land should have a few.

Still not enough of an argument?  Fine...

Those of us who have seen an A-10 perform aerobatics know that it would make a pretty decent Snowbird replacement as well.




No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.