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Look, I love the A-10C. It’s a wonderful plane. I’ve flown it for years in sims as part of a realism-based squadron. And I too am sad that such an iconic plane is being put to pasture.

But it’s beyond time for this meme to die.

The A-10C just isn’t suitable for this task any more. Low and slow just doesn’t cut it. It’s slow to respond due to a cruise speed of 200-220KIAS (compared to 550-575KIAS for an F-15E). Having to get to within 1.0–1.2nm to employ the famed GAU-8/A Avenger (or rockets) makes it a MANPAD and AAA magnet. The gun is limited in the types of targets it’s effective against nowadays as well. And if you aren’t using the gun or rockets, you’re dropping JDAMs (GPS and laser-guided bombs) or firing air-to-ground missiles like Mavericks. If you’re using these, you’d rather do so high and fast: you get both increased effective range and more forgiving margins of error during weapon release.

And if you’re doing this, you might as well just put them on an F-15E which outclasses the A-10C in terms of carrying capacity, response time, survivability (unsurprisingly, not getting hit because you’re at 600KIAS at 30,000ft is better than surviving being hit because you were flying 250KIAS at 500ft), weapons availability, and virtually any other trait you can imagine other than “loiter time”.

And response time trumps loiter time hands-down, especially when loitering dramatically increases the odds of losing the pilot and/or airframe to surface fire. On top of this, if you're in permissive airspace there's always a tanker nearby to extend your ability to loiter (and if you're not in permissive airspace, your A-10C fleet is grounded anyway).

The A-10C is lauded, and rightfully so, because it was such an effective CAS platform. But it’s not any more. All of the praise you hear about it it real and deserved, but comes from the perspective of people who saw it in action because that’s the plane that filled the role and so that’s the plane they saw in action. With other planes now filling that role, you will hear the similar praise about those planes for pretty much the same reason. The people who aren’t singing its praises are the commanders who see the frightening number of lost or damaged airframes and see how poorly it stacks up against other planes readily available in our fleet.

Edit: And I have to respond to this point.

> We know it's a hell of a lot less reliable than existing US aircraft and competing foreign aircraft.

The F-35 is literally one of the most reliable aircraft we have ever flown (second only to the F-22). Since 2006 (thirteen years), we've had four losses. For the F-22, it's four losses in twenty-two years. The F-15? 46 were lost from 1972–1985. And nearly twenty-five percent of our F-14 fleet has been lost in non-combat accidents.




The above comment is remarkably uninformed, though par for the course on HN.

Loiter time is extremely important for ground support. Otherwise the enemy just waits for the F-35 to fly over.

And reliable means dispatch rate, not losses, especially for tiny fleets (under 200) like the F-22.


This requires the enemy to realize there’s an F-35 even coming. At distances and altitudes an F-35 is going to engage in CAS from, they might as well be invisible.

I’m not saying that loiter time isn’t important. It is. But it’s not as important as arriving sooner, employing more ordnance faster, avoiding killing friendlies, and not getting shot down. All of which the Warthog are objectively terrible at. And if you do need that extra loiter time, there’s always aerial refueling.


Again, this is nonsense since the F-35 will never be flown at low altitudes for CAS since the Air Force won't risk their fighter pilots.

Also, aerial refueling can only be done away from the battlefield where the tanker is safe.


I think the poster above implies that the CAS will be done from high altitude using guided bombs and missiles.


Correct. The irony is that the GP claims I'm uninformed, but is apparently completely unaware that the USAF already has their fighter pilots performing CAS with the F-15E (Strike Eagle) while the Navy does so with the F/A-18E/F (Super Hornet). It's true that the Air Force won't risk their fighter pilots, which is why this happens fast and at high altitude, and this exact same same reasoning is why the Air Force is retiring the A-10C.

Furthermore, if combat is happening in an area too unsafe for tankers to operate nearby, your Warthogs won't be operating there either.


Thank you. Also thank for all the info you wrote on the CAS A-10 vs F-35 debate here, you changed my mind on that question (for what it's worth, since I have not stake in the matter as I'm not American, my country won't ever buy F-35 and I'm not in the military).


You don't need to flow low when your bombs are guided, have a 74km standoff range and can follow moving targets.


Also, if you need the loiter time AND an A-10 could operate in the area... Might as well just have a MQ-9 Reaper orbit overhead 24/7.


Not sure if all your time in pretend combat included this detail, but the fast-movers are usually bingo fuel after doing like 1 run.


The only way that would be true is if they dropped tanks. If they had to drop tanks, they were already in a situation where the A-10 would have to turn around and go home without even attempting a run.


> I love the A-10C. It’s a wonderful plane. I’ve flown it for years

Ah great some first-hand military combat experience here for once!

> in sims as part of a realism-based squadron

Ah, ok then... a computer game...


First, you shouldn’t even trust a real A-10 pilot on this topic, because “flying a plane” is not a skillset particularly relevant to “determining which fleet of planes best serves the needs for the role of CAS over the next forty years of combat”.

Second, I mentioned this to simply establish myself as someone who very much loves this plane. Flying military sims doesn’t make me an expert on the topic, but it does give some indication that this is a topic I’ve cared about and researched on my own in the past several years. If you have a disagreement with any of the actual points I raised, I’m all ears.

Third, you might be surprised to see how far these “games” have progressed in the past thirty years.


The DCS games get pretty damn detailed, and the A-10C looks good. [0] It is one of their older planes from what I can tell, though. As for what "pretty damn detailed" means, check out this half-hour tutorial [1] on how to start the plane.

0: https://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/en/products/planes/wa...

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2rYwwrq6Z4


> The F-35 is literally one of the most reliable aircraft we have ever flown (second only to the F-22). Since 2006 (thirteen years), we've had four losses.

How many F-35s were operational in that time? Without that information, the number is meaningless.


As far as MANPADS are concerned, the A-10 is stealth.

Nearly all MANPADS are infrared guided. The A-10 hides the engine exhaust by surrounding it with the aircraft's tail. This is better than the F-35 and F-22, and about as good as the YF-23 or F-117.

Any of those aircraft can be additionally protected by a towed decoy.


"Look, I love the A-10C. It’s a wonderful plane. I’ve flown it for years ..."

YES?

"... in sims"

Doh.




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