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USAF Woes

Kirkhill

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It is definitely murkier now. The USMC just bought MQ-9 Reapers - the Key West Agreement says this from Wiki:
  • The Navy would be allowed to retain its own combat air arm "...to conduct air operations as necessary for the accomplishment of objectives in a naval campaign..."
So if the USMC MQ-9s get tasked for overland missions in Iraq, for example, are they violating the terms of the agreement? I'm not sure.

The USMC has adopted a Long Range Fires strategy in support of the USN. It is using its F35Bs as an ISR asset for targeting Tomahawks and SM6s launched from shore stands.

The USN can adopt a Long Range Fires strategy using its F35Cs as ISR assets for targeting Tomahawks, SM6 and novel Hypervelocity missiles launched from subs and surface ships.

The US Army wants to adopt a Long Range Fires strategy but needs the co-operation of the the USAF for targeting. The USAF could task some of its F35As to act as spotters for the Army, together with its existing large-body ISR fleet, but it doesn't think its large-body spotters are survivable and some of the USAF is reluctant to see the Army develop its intermediate range missile force. It also has other plans for its F35As as a centre-piece of its competing Loyal Wingman strategy.

Key West looks like a decision that might have to be revisited. Especially in light of both UAVs and the Space Force.

All that's needed is to overcome politics, Lockmart, Boeing and Raytheon.
 

SupersonicMax

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The USAF hasn't realized, nor do they seem willing to do so in the near future, that having a dedicated CAS platform actually helps them win wars.

They want the fast moving, missile slinging, high tech jets that can quickly take out enemy air assets, AD systems, and key buildings/bridges/infrasture that turns most of America's wars into "whack-a-mole" conflicts fairly early on. By taking out the enemies ability to attack from the sky, or move freely by taking out bridges and roads, the US can now attack the enemy from all dimensions - and US ground forces don't have to worry about being strafed by enemy airplanes.

Which is fair logic.

BUT... they haven't figured out that if they don't provide CAS to ground forces, especially in a timely manner, that the conflict can drag on much longer than required, with far greater casualties on their side. The Army can't always guarantee CAS in a timely fashion due to not having planes (just helicopters), and the USMC does their best to hold onto the fast moving CAS assets they do have.



With a conflict in the SCS slowly brewing, and with the enemy being of a nature that the US hasn't faced since WW2, the USAF seems to be hedging it's bets that if they will finally be allowed to get rid of the A-10, now is the time. The distances needing to be travelled, the speed of the A-10, and the suspected nature of the conflict all hint that fast movers & high tech will be in high demand - which it will. So, another opportunity to try and rid themselves of the plane they don't want.

(0.02)
That’s not a fair statement. The USAF is very much committed to CAS when it is required. CAS has been predominantly provided by USAF assets in virtually every war since the USAF exists (even to USMC ground units). What the USAF is not, however, is a mere supporter to land forces. Airpower does a lot more than support ground troops although it is happy to do this in support of operational objectives.

What people need to stop thinking is that the A-10 is the only good CAS platform. Sure, it is great in a non-contested environment. Put it up against China and it will not stand a chance at providing the effects to ground forces. An F-35 or and F-15E/EX can provide as good or better effects than an A-10 can with greater flexibility, given their speed advantage over the A-10. You don’t need a dedicated platform to provide good CAS.
 

CBH99

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That’s not a fair statement. The USAF is very much committed to CAS when it is required. CAS has been predominantly provided by USAF assets in virtually every war since the USAF exists (even to USMC ground units). What the USAF is not, however, is a mere supporter to land forces. Airpower does a lot more than support ground troops although it is happy to do this in support of operational objectives.

What people need to stop thinking is that the A-10 is the only good CAS platform. Sure, it is great in a non-contested environment. Put it up against China and it will not stand a chance at providing the effects to ground forces. An F-35 or and F-15E/EX can provide as good or better effects than an A-10 can with greater flexibility, given their speed advantage over the A-10. You don’t need a dedicated platform to provide good CAS.
You are right (obviously). We are in agreement on everything you wrote above - the point I was trying to make, and what I wrote, didn’t mash up in the end. (Just re-read my post now.)

Against China, the A-10 doesn’t make sense. The distances needing to be travelled, its speed, lack of flexibility would all contribute to it not being a great aircraft for a SCS conflict.

Nor did I mean to suggest it was the only good CAS platform. In Afghanistan it was ideal however, due to its decent loiter time & strafing abilities. (More ammo, more strafing runs, armour, can take a hit & keep going, etc)

It was a great platform for that conflict - others were too. In the SCS scenario the USAF is preparing for? Not so much.

(the USAF has been trying to kill the A-10 for ages though, including during the years of Afghanistan and Iraq. That, combined with many articles we’ve all read, had me believe that the USAF wanted mostly out of the dedicated CAS game.)
 

FJAG

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The A-10 is amongst the cheapest weapon system for the USAF to operate at something like $11,500 per hour. A Predator comes in at even less at around $1,500 per hour. Compare that to $67,000 per hour for an F-35. Cost per flying hour for Air Force aircraft

The reference is getting a bit old and costs are changing (Boeing says its down to $35,000 and should fall even more) but effectively substituting a very expensive plane which is very expensive to operate for an existing A-10 which is cheap to operate is not the most brilliant idea for CAS missions in a lower risk low intensity environment like Afghanistan of which there will undoubtedly be some more. There are ongoing conflicts where using Predators and A-10s (which bring different skill sets to the fight) are still the excellent tools and where the F-35 isn't needed (other than to "blood" F-35 pilots).

Reduce the number of squadrons - sure; put a bigger percentage into the Air Reserve - sure; eliminate them - doesn't make sense.

$.02

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daftandbarmy

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With the shortage of pilots, it makes more sense to generalize the force rather than specialize it. The A-10 is a niche platform.

Which means they should give it to the Army, right? :)

Stirring Cbs GIF by Big Brother
 

FJAG

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With the shortage of pilots, it makes more sense to generalize the force rather than specialize it. The A-10 is a niche platform.
Some nails do not need a sledgehammer. Sometimes all you need is a niche tack hammer.

😉
 

FJAG

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Sure but when you don’t have enough people to do everything we need to do, your tack hammer will be unused.
My guess is that the tack hammers will get more actual usage than your sledgehammers - unless of course you throw out all your tack hammers. More importantly, if you use the tack hammers where appropriate you'll save so much money that you'll be able to buy and run more sledgehammers Mark II down the road.

😉
 

tomahawk6

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I suspect there will be A10 's in the Air Guard and USAFR along with some F16's.
 

Loachman

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I saw plenty of A-10 dry CAS missions on minor and major exercises in my three years in Germany - one of the Kiowa roles was FAC (Forward Air Control) and we did it quite a lot. They were great, but I really didn't think that what I saw them doing was as survivable as they thought it was. Thirty-plus years later, it's even less survivable. There are better ways to kill tanks than by shooting them in the face at close range.

Nice aeroplane, and it has a well-deserved reputation, but its day has sadly passed.

Nor did I mean to suggest it was the only good CAS platform. In Afghanistan it was ideal however, due to its decent loiter time & strafing abilities. (More ammo, more strafing runs, armour, can take a hit & keep going, etc)

All irrelevant, actually. There was never any shortage of aircraft of all sorts and sizes aloft, and nobody stayed up for longer than a couple of hours or carried more than a couple of bombs as they tended to land with as much as they had when they took off. If they did run out, another pair of something would take over.

It made no difference what dropped the bomb or launched the Hellfire - Predator/Reaper, A-10, Harrier, AH-64, B-1, Mirage, F-15E...

All occasionally missed as well.

A Predator comes in at even less at around $1,500 per hour.

There is much that a Predator cannot do - manoeuvre rapidly for one; it takes forever to grind around a huge circle in the sky to set up for a re-attack after the first bomb fails to detonate (but watching the three Taliban flee in panic in all directions when it thumped in beside them was one of the funniest things that I have ever seen).

but effectively substituting a very expensive plane which is very expensive to operate for an existing A-10 which is cheap to operate is not the most brilliant idea for CAS missions in a lower risk low intensity environment like Afghanistan of which there will undoubtedly be some more. There are ongoing conflicts where using Predators and A-10s (which bring different skill sets to the fight) are still the excellent tools and where the F-35 isn't needed (other than to "blood" F-35 pilots).

Keeping an aircraft on inventory for a very limited capability is like keeping bows around in the age of firearms.

The more modern aircraft can do the A-10's job - deliver things that go "bang" where (usually) and when desired and live to do it again - and much, much more. The A-10 cannot do anything other that its single role.

And, once we can do CSS (Close Space Support) by precision phaser fire from the USS Enterprise in orbit, the F-35 will also become irrelevant no matter how good it once was.
 
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