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Generally speaking your post is true, but as others have pointed out, the A-10 is rapidly becoming an unviable CAS platform due to MANPADS and other improvements in anti-air support.

What the others didn't really point out is that the F-35 is definitely capable of what the A-10 does and more. It is faster, brings a drone-like attack platform, and can engage from much higher altitudes.

And this is coming from someone (see my other comments) that doesn't particularly care for the JSF/F-35. The A-10 needs to go away, and the F-35 will be a more than capable replacement for it.

Now, the other F-35 roles...

It has those survivability advantages, but it has nowhere near the loiter time of the A-10.

Flying at higher altitude is also not necessarily safer - it puts you out of reach of MANPADS, but in clear view of larger SAMs. Evasive flying generally involves nap-of-the-earth flying, which hides from larger SAMs in radar cover and provides MANPADS and AA artillery with short engagement times. The A-10 is also built heavy and robust enough that MANPADS often aren't enough to bring it down - only vehicle-mounted or static air defense systems have big enough warheads.

If anything, the problem with the A-10 is that it's overbuilt. Its cannon is built to take down tanks in an era when air-carried cannons probably can't get through modern tank armor, and is heavier than is strictly necessary for an anti-infantry role. The air force is looking at much lighter planes like the A-29 and AT-6B for low-threat environments, but could perhaps field a plane with similar loiter-time and survivability characteristics to the A-10 with less weight wasted on that ridiculous cannon.

If there are active SAM sites in the area the A-10C isn’t even remotely operable. Nobody is flying Warthogs in defended airspace. In that case your options are another more capable plane or nothing.

And higher altitudes are strictly safer, even against SAMs. If you’re at virtually any altitude above terrain masking you’re in sight of them. Altitude gives you extra time to react plus requires the missile to burn more fuel reaching you in the first place, shortening its range and increasing the tools you have available to defeat it.

There are a lot of things between "modern Russian tank" and "completely unprotected humans". The 30mm gun is excellent against armored personal carriers.

For the tanks, the A-10 carries the AGM-65 Maverick with 136 kg (300 lb) of explosives.

Upgrading the gun would be useful. We can now make even the 12.7 mm ammunition have guidance, so 30 mm should be easy. We could compensate for the density reduction by upgrading to something like the 37 mm used by the MiG-17. Guidance would allow targeting the most vulnerable parts of a tank. The toughest modern tank still relies on vulnerable sensors. One could also just pound the same spot many times, chipping out a hole. Reactive armor is nothing if you can get a second shot in the same location.

How does a guided bullet work? I always thought that was one of those perpetually ten years away kind of things.

They aren't saying as far as I can tell, except that it receives an optical signal at the rear. Some people are assuming it has fins, but none are visible in diagrams. Beginners can hit moving targets at extreme ranges.



Sandia National Laboratories did something similar, but with a non-standard rifle and using a laser target designator. Russia is attempting to do something similar.

From your first link: "Inside EXACTO bullets are optical guidance systems, aero-actuation controls, and multiple sensors"

Of course that could all be a lie to throw adversaries off the scent, but the trouble with trying to keep a bullet top-secret is the moment you use it, the enemy has as many as they want to study...

Could it contain a charge or instability that destroys the useful innovations when it strikes the target, to prevent that? Even regular bullets look deformed when they hit something, it seems like if you want to slow down enemy research you could exploit that

> Some people are assuming it has fins, but none are visible in diagrams.

Many years ago I saw a concept of a guided machine gun bullet in a "scientific" magazine; the concept involved steering by a mechanism that moved a lump of mass within the bullet around.

How in the world does that work? Bullets spin at ridiculous rates; some 3000 RPS. At long distances it'll have made over 10k revolutions before it hits the target!

I honestly don't know. I vaguely remember a schematic I saw some 10-15 years ago or so. It may very well not work at all, it was a concept.

We dont ever commit troops until we have air superiority.

A B-52 could loiter all day long and carry more bombs than a squadron. In fact, the USAF brags about B-1/52’s doing CAS.

So whats the unique need for a fighter that costs as much to operate as a B-52.


>We dont ever commit troops until we have air superiority.

>So whats the unique need for a fighter that costs as much to operate as a B-52.

Achieving air superiority, alongside our limited numbers of F-22s.

The way I understood it, given the very limited number of F-22s, their status of perpetual prototypes and white elephants (IIRC, $700 millions apiece is the most optimistic price range, over 1 billion probable), they will never be used in anything that qualifies as "combat" (bombing from 30000 ft some remote areas of tightly-controlled airspace doesn't really count IMO).

They're expensive, but effective right? They seem like the sort of plane we don't need until we are at war with a near-peer and they are the only thing giving us air superiority. The drop in production was due to the lack of foreign 5th gen fighters to fight against, not because the platform itself doesn't do its job well (AFAIK).

F-22 is not a "perpetual prototype", you're probably thinking of the F-35. And F-22 is optimized for Beyond Visual Range (BVR) detection and destruction of their adversaries before those adversaries even know they're in combat, both via A2G smart bombs or A2A med-long range missiles. If that's the only kind of "combat-not-combat" it ever sees, it will have been worth it - less planes and pilots lost.

That said, it's also one of the best dogfighters in the world in case it ever comes to that, but that kind of combat will be deliberately rare.

F-22s were roughly $200M apiece. Any links to support your $1B pricetag? That's the price of a B2, IIRC.

The B-2 cost $1 billion more than 25 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, it's probably much more. Apparently the F-22 cost something between 150 and 700 millions apiece: https://www.wired.com/2011/12/f-22-real-cost/

Even if you factor in the development costs (which isn't really useful since the purchase was truncated very early), the F-22 isn't close to having cost $1B.

Against third world countries, tin pot dictators and countries without indoor plumbing.

Against countries that can punch back?

That's a luxury the US can afford because for about 50 years it's never fought against a country with an air force capable of challenging it. If the US and China come to blows over Taiwan or Korea, if there's an intervention (however limited) in Ukraine against Russia - then the Army and Marines will have to deal with enemy air presence.

But you have to offset that advantage by the A-10's runway requirements. Strategically (and maybe tactically?), the A-10's inability to be launched from aircraft carriers is a major limitation. Plus, while the Warthog has (maybe?) excelled in our asymmetric wars, the US military sure hasn't. It's a great plane for wars we shouldn't be fighting.

By the same token, the A-10 can operate from unimproved runways. You don't need a carrier, you just need a few thousand feet of dirt. Wherever the troops go, an A-10 squadron can follow close behind. That capability has a huge impact in the response time of a CAS squadron, the number of sorties they can fly per day and their dwell time over the target.

Operating from rough airstrips looks great when touted by the AF, but it usually ignores the problems associated with it. First you need to provide physical security for the strip, facilities for aircrew and maintainers, and finally the two most important things, fuel and weapons.

It's not that "you don't need a carrier", it's often that you "get to use a carrier". Carrier battle groups are much safer than dirt landing strips on foward operating bases.

There is also a VTOL variant of the F-35.

The nice thing about the gun is that if you need to Swiss cheese a jerk in a Toyota pickup (redundant description, I know) it can do the job with nearly zero risk of knocking over the school on the other side of the block and it is a dirt cheap way of doing that.

I generally agree with your comment though, the A10 doesn't work well enough without air superiority and is comically overbuilt for operating with air superiority. The platform is just... old. It needs to be retired, needs have changed but unfortunately the existing menu of aircraft can't really fill all the niche corners of the CAS role as well as the A10 can.

> ...it can do the job with nearly zero risk of knocking over the school on the other side of the block and it is a dirt cheap way of doing that.

Sadly, if only this were true. The gun's published accuracy numbers have 80% of rounds landing within a ~40ft diameter circle at 4,000ft engagement distance. When the gun is fired—typically in one-second bursts—the nose of the plane lifts noticeably by several degrees and so the gun is always employed in a strafing run: you aim a bit below the target, pull the trigger, and let the target pipper rise up across the target. To make matters even worse, its targeting system is the Mk-1 Human Eyeball.

Even in the best possible scenario, you're firing the gun in a high-angle strafe (30º of dive) from 1.2–0.8nm, where you're talking about something closer to a 60ft circle of death that traverses 50ft across the ground while narrowing to 40ft in diameter. Not to mention the 20% of bullets that fall outside this area.

All this is to say that if you fire the Warthog's gun at a target across the block from a school, there's going to be a very serious press conference happening back at home the next day.

You'll see a lot of videos online where the gun seems to perform better than this, but it's always at static target practice ranges where the pilot is flying extremely low and has the benefit of doing multiple practice runs. In real combat footage, the plane is much farther out and the spread is correspondingly much wider. This video does a pretty good job: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvIJvPj_pjE

> The nice thing about the gun is that if you need to Swiss cheese a jerk in a Toyota pickup (redundant description, I know) it can do the job with nearly zero risk of knocking over the school on the other side of the block and it is a dirt cheap way of doing that.

I think the point was that a smaller gun would do. A Toyota pickup doesn't need an anti-tank round. Something more like what the Super Tucano carries would suffice.

Yeah, 30mm is overkill for a Hilux but you don't want to show up with a cluster of .50s on the day they decide to drive the BMP to work.

That said, antitank weapons are good enough that well trained and equipped infantry should basically laugh off a BMP (or any other AFV) in most situations and there's always bombs and missiles.

Isn't pretty much any environment that's permissive enough for an A-29 also permissive enough for AH-64s and AH-1s?

Sure - better at keeping to terrain masking. However, the A-29 has far superior performance; in fact, it was originally designed as a helicopter hunter. It has a maximum speed 60% higher, can take almost twice as much payload, and a substantially longer range. In the context of the asymmetric wars the US actually finds itself in, the A-29 is a very good platform.

This is almost completely inaccurate.

[qoute]The Serbs quickly learned that opening fire on Hogs with AAA or SAMs made them both obvious and high-priority targets. Serb air defenses attempted to plan their missile and AAA shots to maximize the chances of hitting an A-10 while minimizing their own risks. The “SAM bush” was one such tactic. The Serbs would first fire AAA to make the A-10 jink. When they thought they had the pilot’s attention focused, they launched one or more SAMs in the hopes of scoring a hit. The SAM-bush had zero success, and often the A-10s made the Serbs regret they tried it.[/quote]

[quote]On average, Serb antiaircraft missiles and AAA engaged each 40th EOG pilot about six times—several pilots were shot at much more often... One A-10 AFAC point of pride was that, even though we often took aimed fire in daylight, none of the hundreds of strikers whose attacks we controlled were ever hit...[/quote]

from A10s Over Kosovo


The A-10 is a relic and the areas that it can be effective in are shrinking.

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