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Possible Death of the A-10 WarthogFollow

#1 Sep 24 2013 at 3:43 AM Rating: Good
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As an old Warthog pilot, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III spoke in near mournful tones Wednesday of the likely mothballing of the venerable A-10 close air support aircraft and tank killer.

“Can we save the A-10?” was the question from the audience Wednesday at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference here.

Clarke, director of the Air National Guard, came at the question in roundabout fashion. He loved flying the A-10 Thunderbolt, better known as the “Warthog,” Clarke said. He noted that the plane was “near and dear to land warriors” for its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm rotary cannon that is the heaviest such weapon mounted on an aircraft.

But the Air Force was “looking at reducing single mission aircraft,” Clarke said, and under the sequestration process “we’re not getting any more money – that option is out.”

The Air Force “has to have a fifth generation force out there” of stealthy, fast and maneuverable aircraft, and the low and slow A-10 just didn’t fit in, Clarke said.

“We’re on board with moving towards Air Force 2023,” the concept for the future of the force which has no room for the A-10, Clarke said.

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, also declared his affection for the A-10, which happens to be an aircraft he has 1,000 hours flying.

“I love that old ugly thing,” Welsh said.

However, the chief of staff explained the service has to take part in finding over a trillion dollars in cuts to the defense budget over the next ten years because of sequestration. In this budget environment, he said the Air Force will likely be unable to afford the Warthog.

The A-10, developed by Fairchild-Republic in the 1970s, was credited with destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks in the first Gulf War and has been a close air support mainstay in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

However, Welsh said the A-10 finds itself on the chopping block because “it’s a single-mission airplane, essentially,” and would struggle in more contested airspaces.

“We’re looking for every option for where you can cut money, every modernization/recapitalization program,” Welsh said. “If we have multiple-mission airplanes that can do the mission – maybe not as well, but reasonably well – you would look at eliminating the single-mission platform.”


Well ****.
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#2 Sep 24 2013 at 3:59 AM Rating: Good
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What? It's just a plane. An old plane. Put it out to pasture.
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#3 Sep 24 2013 at 6:54 AM Rating: Good
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There are have better newer planes now.

Also they're going to stop making the VW Van. Apparently Brazil, the home of the last VW Bus factory, says if VW makes anymore vans they have to have airbags and anti-lock brakes.

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#4 Sep 24 2013 at 6:58 AM Rating: Good
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I'd say sell them to Canada, then you kinda still have them in your ******** but really, they're too new for us.
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#5 Sep 24 2013 at 7:08 AM Rating: Good
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Uglysasquatch wrote:
I'd say sell them to Canada, then you kinda still have them in your ******** but really, they're too new for us.
Not quite time to replace the bi wing planes yet, is it?
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#6 Sep 24 2013 at 7:56 AM Rating: Excellent
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There is nothing that even comes close to replacing the capabilities of the A-10 at the moment. It's literally a flying tank with a massive Gatling gun. We have no other aircraft that is as effective at destroying long armored columns. Helicopters are more vulnerable to gunfire, and event he apache carries a smaller Gatling gun. The Ac130 is definitely effective, but it is also slow and difficult to get in place in time to intercept a fast moving force. The A-10 contains a titanium bathtub armor setup that essentially makes the pilot invulnerable. The rest of the plane is designed with redundancy to take massive amounts of damage. You throw a F-16 or a F-35 in that same environment without a real gun and you end up with a dead pilot and a downed aircraft, or millions of dollars worth of missiles expended to do the same job that $1,000 worth of Depleted Uranium Gatling gun shells could do.

Is the A-10 design getting old? Sure. Could they make massive improvements to the design as it stands and come out with a better aircraft? Almost certainly. Composited radar absorbing outer skin to make the aircraft lighter and allow for more armor around the engines, newer, faster and smaller engines able to meet the same performance envelope while using less fuel, faster cycling gatling guns, better targeting and battlefield integration, all those would be fairly easy to build into a replacement airplane that looks a lot like the A-10 overall, and it's old enough we should be replacing it with a newer model. But we don't have anything even close to ready for that role, and given politics and the airforce being annoyed that the army has airplanes, we probably won't see a replacement anytime soon.
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#7 Sep 24 2013 at 8:07 AM Rating: Good
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I think the problem with the A-10 is more that there's not much, if any, need for what it can do. Maybe they should make an armored drone with that Gatling gun.
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#8 Sep 24 2013 at 10:04 AM Rating: Excellent
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I vote drone with gun, or even better, many drones with guns. So long as they don't end up like flies on the tank's windshield.
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#9 Sep 24 2013 at 10:57 AM Rating: Good
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So many people posting logic in an emotional thread.

The death of the Warthog brings to mind the attempted murder some years ago of Grumman Aerospace Corp. by then Secretary of Defense **** "****" Cheney. He mortally wounded the F-14 Tomcat (Grumman) and the A-6 Intruder (Grumman), both Long Island aircraft. In so doing, he mortally wounded Grumman, which only survived by merging with Northrup.

But Long Island lost over 20,000 jobs thanks to Mr. Cheney. I know quite a few people who never recovered from losing their job. There were too many people with the same resume looking for work. Retraining did nothing for them. Their lives were ruined - lost homes, divorces, 45 year-olds moving in with their parents.

**** **** Cheney.

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#10 Sep 24 2013 at 11:01 AM Rating: Good
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Sure, but how else are we supposed to afford all those new tanks?
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#11 Sep 24 2013 at 11:04 AM Rating: Good
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Sucks for them but it's hardly **** Cheney's fault if Grumman wasn't making airplanes worth buying anymore.
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#12 Sep 24 2013 at 12:14 PM Rating: Good
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His Excellency Aethien wrote:
Sucks for them but it's hardly **** Cheney's fault if Grumman wasn't making airplanes worth buying anymore.
The thing is, they were. Those two had a dozen years left in them, and the Navy wanted them. The F-14D was a ******* sniper. It had 1,000 mile range and could stand back and fire a missile with a 190km range. It had brand new GE engines that were so powerful they could not go to afterburner during carrier launch. Grumman was famous for its flight electronics and that plane had the latest and greatest. ****, the Navy didn't just want that plane, they were in love with it.

If it hadn't been killed off, it would have given Grumman the time to design a new generation replacement aircraft. But, Cheney wasn't interested and he said so. He called the plane 1960s technology when it was really cutting edge technology.

Eh, like many Long Islanders my age, I just can't let go of what we once had. Because what we had was something that was considered by many others to be the best. And we never found out why he hated Grumman so much that he tried to kill it.

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#13 Sep 24 2013 at 12:33 PM Rating: Excellent
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There are still thousands of Soviet era Main battle tanks in the worls, in the hands of people that don't necessarily like us. The reason our tanks rolled over the Iraqi armor so easily was due in part to our A-10 fleet. Ground Attack aircraft is probably one of the roles a drone is well suited for, but there is definitly a need for some sort of ground attack aircraft that can operate in a cost effective manner like the A-10. "go strafe everything that moves" gets awful expensive with missiles.

Getting rid of them after we just finished rebuilding all the wing boxes is especially dumb.

The Tomcat retirement was all political. The Super hornet is not necessarily a better aircraft. The tomcat should have been retired, but replaced by a navalized version of the F-22, not a non-stealth fighter that didn't really offer much improvement, or a single engine stealth fighter that is going to kill pilots until they remember why we put twin engine fighters on carriers. The F-18 fan club has very powerful friends in congress and navy high command though. Don't get me wrong, i like the hornet and the super hornet, but the fact that it got the F-14 killed always irritated me.
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#14 Sep 24 2013 at 1:09 PM Rating: Good
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
There are still thousands of Soviet era Main battle tanks in the worls, in the hands of people that don't necessarily like us. The reason our tanks rolled over the Iraqi armor so easily was due in part to our A-10 fleet.
Sure, nobody is going to disagree with you on that. But that was 5 days of fighting and they haven't been used since so that's 12 years of maintenance on a fleet of jets which makes those $1000 in Gatling gun rounds a lot more expensive.
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#15 Sep 24 2013 at 5:40 PM Rating: Excellent
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You don't use a sniper rifle every day, but when you need one, You really need one. A newer, easier to maintain design is certanly warrented, but for military hardware maintenance costs are secondary to ability to fulfil mission objectives. Sure maintaining only one aircraft is cheaper, but a cheaper program that can't get the job done effectivly isn't a good program.

Plus there is the whole fact of the bad guys being terrified of the A-10. you can't buy that kind of publicity.
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#16 Sep 24 2013 at 6:30 PM Rating: Decent
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Obama's scared of his own plane?
#17 Sep 25 2013 at 6:40 AM Rating: Excellent
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
You don't use a sniper rifle every day, but when you need one, You really need one.

Luckily sniper rifles don't cost a fortune to maintain and are used more often than once every couple decades.
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#18 Sep 25 2013 at 7:01 AM Rating: Good
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MSRP $11,214.00 for the full thing, including modular accessory rail system, though. Smiley: frown
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#19 Sep 25 2013 at 7:51 AM Rating: Good
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
You don't use a sniper rifle every day, but when you need one, You really need one. A newer, easier to maintain design is certanly warrented, but for military hardware maintenance costs are secondary to ability to fulfil mission objectives. Sure maintaining only one aircraft is cheaper, but a cheaper program that can't get the job done effectivly isn't a good program.

Plus there is the whole fact of the bad guys being terrified of the A-10. you can't buy that kind of publicity.
You're still looking at a decade of maintenance for a few days of action. Sure it does the job better than anything else but it's such a narrow job that there have to be alternatives.

As for the fear factor, I doubt the A-10 is a huge factor when you also have drones, missiles, Apache's and in general bigger, better and more of everything than everyone else.
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#20 Sep 25 2013 at 8:06 AM Rating: Excellent
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Decades of maintenance for a few days of action applies to 90% of military hardware. It's not there to be used regularly. It's there to be used for a specific purpose when required. We don't blow up submarines with our anti submarine aircraft everyday either, lets scrap them! Heck, what about all those midair refuling aircraft and troop transports. We don't need them every day, off to the chopper! Our main battle tanks? we have too many of them so everyone is scared to bring theirs out to play, lets melt them down and make golf clubs out of them to sell to china. We don't use our Nuclear deterrent every day, who needs it?

The A-10 does the job better than anything we have currently, for less money. You think maintenance on a jet is bad, try maintenance costs on a bigger fleet of jet powered attack helicopters.

There is not an existing cost effective alternative to the A-10 at this time. Apache's have that slight under armor issue compared to the A-10. A missile will do the job, but it costs a lot more than a handful of shells do.

Also, you know the maintenance costs on the A-10 are the lowest out of all our aircraft currently in service right?
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#21 Sep 25 2013 at 9:30 AM Rating: Decent
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
Also, you know the maintenance costs on the A-10 are the lowest out of all our manned aircraft currently in service right?


FTFY.

In a world where drones can already do most of the work without risking any soldiers' lives, I'd say the money is better spent developing remotely operated weapon systems than maintaining a fits-the-bill-once-per-decade technology. Drones cost, on average, $4~7m each, while a base A-10 costs ~18m. Pilot and mechanical training for the drone program is substantially less than for the A-10 also.


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#22 Sep 25 2013 at 10:35 AM Rating: Excellent
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Nope.

The two X-47B prototypes, which are currently the only "fighter class" drones in existance that could be arguably modled into an A-10 replacement, currently cost $400 million each, give or take. An RQ-4 Global hawk costs about $105. A MQ-9 reaper, which is propeller driven and not fast enough, costs about $6.5 million, but a platform that is fast enough for the role, jet powered, and large enough to carry the Gatling cannon is going to come in right around the same price as an A-10. The life support and ejection systems are expensive, and removing them frees up weight and space, but the computer components and servo mechinisms that replace them are also somewhat expensive. Also you have to factor in the cost of the $25.5 million control module, which can support 4 drones, which makes a MQ-9 purchase cost somewhere closer to 12.8 million. the MQ-9 isn't big enough or fast enough for the A-10 role, so I think you would be up closer to at least 15 million if you just scaled up the airframe, swapped in some faster engines and the weapons system

Also, stealth drones cost more to maintain than a non stealth warthog. Because the paint is very very expensive and any paint chips render your stealth coating useless.
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#23 Sep 25 2013 at 10:37 AM Rating: Excellent
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
...but a platform that is fast enough for the role, jet powered, and large enough to carry the Gatling cannon is going to come in right around the same price as an A-10.

You don't need to emulate the A-10 bolt for bolt, you just need a workable method of blowing up or disabling tanks.
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#24 Sep 25 2013 at 10:48 AM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
...but a platform that is fast enough for the role, jet powered, and large enough to carry the Gatling cannon is going to come in right around the same price as an A-10.

You don't need to emulate the A-10 bolt for bolt, you just need a workable method of blowing up or disabling tanks.


Like a guy on a jet powered hang glider dropping satchel charges.

Edited, Sep 25th 2013 12:48pm by Shaowstrike
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#25 Sep 25 2013 at 10:50 AM Rating: Excellent
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What's it cost to keep a guy in a hanger for ten years between tank columns?
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#26 Sep 25 2013 at 10:52 AM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
What's it cost to keep a guy in a hanger for ten years between tank columns?


Food/room/toiletries would be cheap, it's the price of the on-call private hooker that would kill the program.
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#27 Sep 25 2013 at 10:55 AM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
What's it cost to keep a guy in a hanger for ten years between tank columns?
$30,456 base E5, not including maintenance on them, rank taxes, or rank change and/or time in service and yearly pay increases.

Need caffeinated engine cleaner or whatever passes for coffee 'round here.

Edited, Sep 25th 2013 12:58pm by lolgaxe
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#28 Sep 25 2013 at 10:58 AM Rating: Excellent
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You need a platform that is large enough to carry the primary A-10 weapon, which is the primary replacement role, as well as the A-10's missile load if we are talking a replacement aircraft. Or you could make a drone swarm with smaller guns and fewer missiles per airframe, but then you would need to factor the cost in for the whole replacement swarm. The MQ-9 is not capable of carrying the 620lb General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger or the 1,500 rounds of depleted uranium shells, let alone the missile loadout. Period. it isn't big enough. So you would need a bigger airframe of some sort. The only ones we have that are big enough and fast enough right now are the Global hawk, which would need a wing redesign or the X-47 which would need a complete redesign to accomodate the cannon.

The A-10 offers a cost effective method of blowing up or disabling tanks and entire convoys of vehicles. it's a very inexpensive weapons system overall compared to others, very survivable, which is important because even if you don't have a pilot to worry about, if you are losing a drone every mission you are still going to run out of drones very quickly because the drones aren't that much less expensive, not to mention the whole "what happens when someoen decides to just EMP the **** out of your drone controllers and jam your command and control signals" issue.

Find a cheaper method of disabling and blowing up tanks, and then it makes sense to scrap the A-10s. That cheaper method is likely a redesign of the existing A-10 to make it less expensive to operate than it already is. But right now, we don't have one, there is a need for the capability, and there will be a continued need for the capabilities offered by the A-10.

For reference an AH-64D costs 18 million.
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#29 Sep 25 2013 at 11:06 AM Rating: Excellent
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Well, a theoretical need for the capacity. Really, you could shelve it and just play the odds. Chances are we won't need to blow up an armored column in the next X years. If the dice roll against us and we need to do so, we still can, even if it costs more. Either way, tanks will blow up. So you weigh a 70% chance of saving $X versus the 30% chance of needing to spend $X+$Y. Percentages completely made up, of course.
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#30 Sep 25 2013 at 11:32 AM Rating: Excellent
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You keep trying to replicate the warthog, mounting GAUs onto illfiting platforms.

If the goal is to drop armor collumns you could build a drone that mounts a recoiless rifle, and fairly cheaply have a force of them to rip up heavy armor. Prefferably you'd make them modular so you could swap them from scout, anti-tank and anti-infantry roles.
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#31 Sep 25 2013 at 11:42 AM Rating: Good
The real reason behind the obsolescence is because if they continue to make them they will have to have airbags and anti-lock brakes.
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#32 Sep 25 2013 at 12:31 PM Rating: Decent
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Timelordwho wrote:
You keep trying to replicate the warthog, mounting GAUs onto illfiting platforms.


This. It is not necessary to replace the Warthog, only its primary function, which can certainly be done with cheaper hardware and fewer personnel today than it took even 10 years ago.
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#33 Sep 25 2013 at 12:35 PM Rating: Good
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Timelordwho wrote:
If the goal is to drop armor collumns you could build a drone that mounts a recoiless rifle, and fairly cheaply have a force of them to rip up heavy armor. Prefferably you'd make them modular so you could swap them from scout, anti-tank and anti-infantry roles.
Soon.

And of course it'd be modular. Almost everything in the armed forces is.
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#34 Sep 25 2013 at 1:42 PM Rating: Excellent
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Jophiel wrote:
Well, a theoretical need for the capacity. Really, you could shelve it and just play the odds. Chances are we won't need to blow up an armored column in the next X years. If the dice roll against us and we need to do so, we still can, even if it costs more. Either way, tanks will blow up. So you weigh a 70% chance of saving $X versus the 30% chance of needing to spend $X+$Y. Percentages completely made up, of course.

Well, it's "attack a ground based target in the next X years" rather than specifically armored columns. Basically anything thats not a large bunker

Timelordwho wrote:
You keep trying to replicate the warthog, mounting GAUs onto illfiting platforms.

If the goal is to drop armor collumns you could build a drone that mounts a recoiless rifle, and fairly cheaply have a force of them to rip up heavy armor. Prefferably you'd make them modular so you could swap them from scout, anti-tank and anti-infantry roles.

So, trade 1,500 shots per weapon for a single shot tube? The GAU-8/A is an incredably effective weapons platform, with a low failure rate, it works well, it's cheap to manufacture, and we already have lots and lots of parts for them. It, along with the armor is the primary reason the A-10 is the most effective ground attack aircraft we have ever built. Sure you can slap the entire missile load of an A-10 onto an F-16 or a F-35, but the gun is what makes it effective. Recoilless rifles are not really reloadable mid air at this point. You could probably design one that would work, but it doesn't exist today.

PunkFloyd, King of Bards wrote:
The real reason behind the obsolescence is because if they continue to make them they will have to have airbags and anti-lock brakes.

And Seat belts!
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#35 Sep 25 2013 at 1:51 PM Rating: Excellent
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
Well, it's "attack a ground based target in the next X years" rather than specifically armored columns. Basically anything thats not a large bunker!

We attack lots of ground based targets without using A-10s. Seems to work pretty well.
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#36 Sep 25 2013 at 1:54 PM Rating: Excellent
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We attack alot of them with A-10's too. A-10's work better than other aircraft on moving target convoys, but they can drop gravity bombs with the best of them too.
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#37 Sep 25 2013 at 2:00 PM Rating: Excellent
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How much better?
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#38 Sep 25 2013 at 2:03 PM Rating: Excellent
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Sure. But it's understood that we can, in fact, attack ground based targets without them do so presently. Not every time but enough to demonstrate that we can do it successfully.

The specialized role that the plane seems to serve is attacking heavily armored targets. This isn't something that comes up every day and it could be reasonable to figure that the few times you need to use an over-and-above, more expensive solution would still be more than offset by the savings from eliminating the A-10. Especially when budgets are being constrained by the sequester. If you really want to save it, get to work eliminating that factor.
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#39 Sep 25 2013 at 2:19 PM Rating: Excellent
I'm starting to suspect that Joph has a secret stash of heavily armored tanks.
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#40 Sep 25 2013 at 2:20 PM Rating: Excellent
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The combat role is Close air support, or CAS. Basically "shoot anything that moves that isn't our guys, and shot anything that gets near our guys" Either attack or defense. Drones armed with helfires take over some of that role, but the ability to get from point A to point B quickly and blow stuff up is what makes it so valuable. It's a combat system. you can't just put the aircraft in mothballs and get rid of the pilots and then dust them off later and expect to use them right away when we need them quickly. Gambling that we won't need our weapons is the best way historically to garuntee we will need them and won't have them when we do.

The A-10 brings range, loiter time, firepower, and survivability to the game. An Ah-64D eats fuel and can't stick around as long or cover as much ground. Drones don't have the firepower currently. Conventional fighters don't do well in the fly around in circles protecting an area role because they burn through more fuel due to their engine configurations being optomized for speed. There aren't enough Ac130's. Anyone who thinks we don't need a good close air support aircraft to protect our ground forces and to cut enemy supply and armor lines doesn't understand the close air support role. It's the same reason nfew people really "got" the P-39 aircobra during WW-II until the Soviets started using them to devistating effect against German armor.

Getting rid of the Sequester would be a great idea. The idiots who let that go through as is simply amaze me. I'd love to get rid of it, but unfortunatly they won't let us use the A-10 to do the job.
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