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>It has been designed and commissioned by people who believe that "most advanced" necessarily means "best" and who are indifferent to the actual tactical and strategic requirements.

They said the exact same thing about the F-15. And the F-18. Both of which went on to spectacular success - the F-15 in particular has never once been bested in air to air combat, while claiming 105 enemy kills (including MiG-29s). It's able to do that due to its big sexy radar and complicated electronics and all the other techno-gadgets that people like Pierre Sprey decried every step of the way because he still thinks we live in 1967.

On the ground, there is less room for innovation. Guns are a mature technology. The primary concern in 2019 are things like reliability and cost, because the difference between an AK47 and an M16 is not that big. They both shoot bullets, they both are capable of full-auto, they both are light. To the soldier holding them, big difference of course - but from the 10,000 mile perspective they're basically doing the same job in the same way. It doesn't make much difference if I'm a general planning strategies whether my rifleman are holding M4s or M16s or AK47s.

Air combat is different, technology is still radically changing things every generation. And if you're caught a generation behind it's hard to make a fight of it. We have jet engines, and our enemies don't. We have solid state avionics, our enemies don't. We have AESA radar, our enemies don't. And now? We have all those advanced technologies in the F-35, like production line stealth, that no other peer enemy yet has deployed on the field. Certainly technology is not everything, you also need training, tactics, support systems. But it is undeniably a massive advantage, and one that's worth a little teething to get.

>The Army and Marines have been crying out for years for a suitable replacement for the ageing A-10. It's the finest close support aircraft ever made, it has a legendary reputation among infantrymen who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the USAF are still planning on retiring it in favour of the F-35, an aircraft that is simply incapable of performing the same role. Even if the F-35 were inarguably an excellent aircraft, it's the wrong aircraft for a vitally important job.

The A-10 is a really awful CAS platform. It's ungodly slow and so takes forever to get on station, the cannon is horrendously inaccurate, it's got a low mission capability rating and the entire concept of its design (low-flying ruggedness) was rendered obsolete with the invention of the manpad. I mean this is the platform that flew the least number of CAS missions of any capable airframe in Iraq 2, yet had the highest number of friendly fire incidents in absolute terms. If you're curious how, the cannon. All the other platforms are using fancy sensors and PGMs, while the A-10 is often going on gun runs with the Mk-1 human eye. The A-10's only two numerical advantages are loiter time and cost per flight hour, but drones exist now so it doesn't even have those unique positives anymore.

The fact that soldiers love the A-10 is meaningless - sailors loved battleships too, even after they were turned into big metal deathtraps by airplanes. The troops just really like giant cannons, even when they're not actually useful anymore.

>Servicemen don't want cutting-edge innovation - they want weapons systems that work reliably in the field and provide useful combat capabilities.

Soviet jets could handle pebbles being blown into their air in takes. They could handle smacking down onto the tarmarc at a velocity that would cripple any modern American jet. They could be nearly shaken apart, but were just built so robustly they'd still make it home. Comparatively American jets were fragile prima donnas who needed huge amounts of maintenance and could only be flown on the most pristine of air fields.

But once they were in the air? USAF planes showed exactly why all that TLC were more than worth it. I'd rather be sitting in an F-15 than any Soviet fighter ever put in the sky. At the risk of repeating myself, the ground pounder ideology of "rugged, reliable, lowest-possible-tech" is suicide in the air. In the air, technology advantages still play a huge role and so suffering a low mission capability rating is quite possibly worth it if you get a massive return on power (within reason of course).






>The fact that soldiers love the A-10 is meaningless - sailors loved battleships too, even after they were turned into big metal deathtraps by airplanes. The troops just really like giant cannons, even when they're not actually useful anymore.

In the same vein, the US developed upgraded Sherman tanks with a bigger, higher velocity 76mm cannon and produced them in mass quantities, but they left them behind during the first weeks and months of the invasion. The men didn't want the new tanks because they hadn't yet experienced a situation where they were woefully inadequate, and the older 75mm guns performed better against soft targets like buildings. Don't fix what ain't broke, and so forth.

Which was a serious mistake. The situation had changed, and the 75mm guns were no longer sufficient to fight more heavily armored Tiger and Panther tanks from longer engagement ranges than they experienced in Italy. They would have fared better had they been forced into using the upgraded equipment that already existed.


I'm not sure that's entirely fair; while troops have sometimes rejected useful weapons systems, they've also been left waiting for years for things that they really need. The obvious recent example is AFVs - when you've got troops in the field welding scrap metal to their vehicles, that should be a clear sign that there's an urgent need. British soldiers knew from a very early stage that the SA80 was total junk, but the MoD pushed ahead with procurement anyway for political reasons.

I think what I'm really suggesting is a move from waterfall to agile procurement. A large proportion of procurement requirements can be satisfied better, faster and cheaper with COTS equipment. Rapid iterative improvements in existing weapons systems can provide more combat capability than big moonshot projects to gain a generational advantage.

The US military has unmatched logistical capability, but that capability is often hampered by slow and unresponsive procurement. Being able to move tons of materiel to any place on earth at very short notice is a massive advantage, but that advantage is squandered if you can't procure the right equipment at the right time.


I wrote a similar post, but honestly you said everything I did and much more effectively and eloquently.

The A-10C is a terrible CAS platform these days thanks to MANPADs. The gun isn’t as accurate or effective as just firing a Maverick or dropping a JDAM/LGB, and those have the distinct advantage of being able to be done with seven or eight miles of vertical altitude between you and the target, rendering pretty much any surface threat completely meaningless.

The F-35’s sensor suite (and altitude) also provides an enormous advantage in situational awareness, which is probably the most important factor in combat operations.


> The A-10C is a terrible CAS platform these days thanks to MANPADs.

As far as I am aware no A-10 has ever been lost to MANPADS or small-calibre fire. Instead several have returned to base with significant damage, exactly as intended with redundant systems.

The A-10 was designed to operate over Central Europe in the face of radar-laid 23mm guns and Gecko & Grail light SAMs. Its primary targets were in fact AAA, SAM vehicles and command tanks whilst CAS was secondary.


Those A-10s were complete mission kills, even if they saved the pilot's life and were able to rtb.

The A10 was designed solely as a tank killer, and was obsolete before it was fielded as the USSR upgraded their tank armor to defeat its gun.

It has never been able to operate in anything other than an environment where we enjoy complete air superiority and near complete ground control. It has never had AAA or SAMs, as targets -- it cannot operate in anything other than a completely permissive environment in that regard. This is not a mystery, it's well known. It was designed to strafe long lines of tanks, was never good at it, and has been obsolete since before it was fielded.


> They said the exact same thing about the F-15.

Er, citation required. I dont remember those kinds of complaints. F-16, sure, and theyd be right.

> And the F-18

Well, that depends on if you mean the F, or the A part. Many thought the F-14 was a way better fighter and had better legs. For attack, we ended up with an a/c with less range and payload capability. Which just makes it more acceptable to replace it with something with even less range. All of which reduces the strike bubble of a carrier group.


No one has ever thought the F14 was a better fighter than the F18. The F14 was an interceptor designed for long range fleet defense, not air to air combat.

The JSF has longer legs than both as I recall.



> They said the exact same thing about the F-15. And the F-18. Both of which went on to spectacular success - the F-15 in particular has never once been bested in air to air combat, while claiming 105 enemy kills (including MiG-29s). It's able to do that due to its big sexy radar and complicated electronics and all the other techno-gadgets that people like Pierre Sprey decried every step of the way because he still thinks we live in 1967.

High tech can easily lead to winning the battle but losing the war. You can have an aircraft that wins every fight that it gets into, but the price of that technological superiority might be that you can't afford to deploy them where they're needed, or can't afford to go to war at all.

The Sri Lankan air force wasn't able to control their airspace in the civil war because their fighters were too fast. I'm sure the F-35's high technology will be well-suited to fighting the Soviet Union. I'm less sure that it will help achieve a successful outcome in the next Iraq, or even the next Vietnam.


Only the discontinued F-117 and the bid-losing YF-23 have better protection against MANPADS than the A-10.

Look at the exhaust, which is where the heat comes from. Nearly all MANPADS are infrared guided. The A-10 hides the engine exhaust by surrounding it with the aircraft's tail. An F-35 doesn't even try to be stealth at the rear, with a great big round hot orifice.

The A-10 can frequently survive MANPADS. It has two engines, physically separated on pods. The F-35 will crash if that single engine gets hit.

Tow a decoy if you want more protection.


While the topic is aircraft, it's worth pointing out the diminished and maybe questionable role of air combat in general. As usual, people think how to win the previous war.

It's all about cyber war, foreign agents supposedly manipulating (US) elections without repercussions, espionage and manipulation of networks and devices on all levels.

This reality requires a complete rebuild of relevant networks, software and hardware, a large "cyber force" of people who have skills that right now only a handful of experts have, and fundamental changes in how society communicates and deals with information.

While your post was entertaining, to me it is about as relevant as a discussion how to breed and train horses for cavalry.


Boots on the ground with logistics to back them beat any army of kids with keyboards. Wartime hacking can only be used to cripple enemy capabilities to some limited extent. It cannot replace taking physical action. In fact, civilian infrastructure is certainly easier to hack than the ad hoc field networks employed by militaries. But attacking civilian infrastructure and critical services like hospitals is a war crime of then worst kind. Doing something like that is unthinkable. The effects would be more like firebombing a city.

I get the sense that what really matters to winning the kind of counterinsurgency the US repeatedly finds itself in is being able to build and defend working infrastructure faster than the competition. Now there would be a strategic shift most people could get behind, especially given its own infrastructure woes.

You say that, but America's traditional villain, Russia, put boots on the ground to annex Crimea. Albeit not with Russian flags on the uniform. It's not all some futuristic fantasy cyber war, and it never will be.

Maybe that's possible because certain governments no longer as strong/united as they used to be, or align politically more with Russia?

And how exactly does a better plane help with the Crimea situation?


An F-35 possibly wouldn't help.

Yet while I'm not advocating starting WW3 over Crimea, given Russia intervened militarily, there arguably should have been more military support for our friends in Ukraine.

I'm likewise not saying there isn't cyber warfare and psy-ops etc, but I'm absolutely saying there are still and will continue to be conflicts where are there are boots on the ground, tanks on the road, and planes in the sky.




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