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Skwabie

Is the A-10 still viable for modern CAS?

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There's a bit of discussion in the Beta AAR thread so thought I'd start one here.

Throughout history the USAF always have some type of slow-moving, rigid, low altitude aircraft with good loadout capability for CAS support. The A-10's predecessor A-1 Skyraider enjoyed a good career in Korea and Vietnam. The "Thunder" series, F-105 Thunderchief, F-84 Thunderjet, P-47 Thunderbolt were the AF's work horses for supporting troops on the ground. But the question is, is there still a need for this type of aircraft in the future.

From the technical side, I think the A-10 is still a very capable CAS platform.

It is a slow mover. Despite the amount of advances in sensor technology, there still is no substitute for putting the good ol' Mark I eyeballs on the ground because you're not restricted by a sensor's field of view.

It has good endurance. It can loiter over the battlefield for a prolonged time, providing support whenever needed.

It has good loadout capability. A myriad series of missiles, bombs and rockets can be simultaneously carried, plus 1000+ rounds of 30mm ammo. It can make multiple passes before going winchester and need to RTB.

It is tough. It's designed with the concept that getting shot by small arms fire while mud-moving is inevitable. Various measures are taken to ensure it can survive after sustaining extended hits.

It is easy to operate and maintain. Doesn't need constant TLC for fancy avionics and stealth coating. Minimum amount of composite material on the airframe but aluminum. Can takeoff from front-line airbases due to slow speed and resistence to FOD.

It incorporates latest array of weapons to enhance survivability. Precision guided munitions can be dropped from altitude and range to avoid getting shot at by SPAAs and Shorads or anyone armed with an AK-47.

On the other side of the coin, there're more and more emerging signs that the A-10 is becoming obsolete.

Its survivability is the biggest problem. On the modern battlefield, being slow is dangerous. IIRC even the F-18 hornet, due to its inherent design to fly relative slow, was criticized for it in high threat environments in the 1st gulf war. The A-10 is prey for enemy fighters. It is highly susceptible to single digit SAMs, which has widely spread to every 3rd world countries worth mentioning. It is less likely to evade Manpads and AAA when it is being shot at because it's slow. Armor will not matter in these situations.

Secondly with the advances in avionics, stand-off PGM technology and network centric warfare there's less and less need for close support that the A-10 excels. A 250lb small diameter bomb (SDB) can be launched from 10nm+ away and score a hit on exactly where the troops want it, without radio voice comms at all if required. The SDB can be carried in large quantities even by loadout limited fighters like the F-16/F-35. The DAS on the F-35 provides 360 degree enhanced vision and SA for the pilot, possibly completed outdating the MK I eyeballs and predicts a way for the future.

It is no question that if the A-10 is still viable, will at most operate as a second-tier front line aircraft. But, are such units still needed for future operations in the grand scheme of things?...

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The A-10 did a great job during the last 2 invasions of Iraq. The Iraqi army, despite beeing one of the best equipped and trained in the ME, was torn to pieces by coalition aircraft.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began on 20 March 2003. Sixty OA-10/A-10 aircraft took part in early combat there.[85] United States Air Forces Central issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict on 30 April 2003. During that initial invasion of Iraq, A-10s had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. A single A-10 was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq

from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II#Afghanistan.2C_Iraq.2C_Libya.2C_and_recent_deployments

1 month of high intensity warfare, hundreds of missions against a compareably well equipped enemy, and only a single aircraft lost. Sure, the Iraqi airforce was destroyed on the ground during the first days of the war, but that is the premise for using aircraft like the A-10 anyways.

Th real advantage of the A-10 is cost-effectiveness: the costs of a single weapon system are ~12 mln dollars. A single F-35 costs almost 7 times as much. But is it 7 times as effective in the CAS role? I doubt it. There may be though some financial advantage in fielding 1 single type of aircraft that can fulfill CAS and other missions when compared to having a multirole aircraft and an additional dedicated CAS aircraft.

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Drones controlled and semi-autonomous will largely (not fully) replace them and air superiority very soon.

No risk to pilots being a major factor. Less weight, longer endurance, and soon better performance.

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Some time ago I wrote a little essay on CAS.

It's in Spanish and also in a very casual language, as it's intent is more towards a broad audience than a technical one.

I suppose that it could be easily translated by any current online tool.

I think it covers almost all the pros and cons, and at the end is focused on the Pucará, for obvious reasons.

http://argie-mibosque.blogspot.com.ar/p/apoyo-aereo-cercano-la-cenicienta-que.html

I hope you'll find it interesting.

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The A-10 is still viable, absolutely.

But given the deficits, sequestration, required budget cuts, certain programs have to be phased out/cut. The F35 is coming and something else had to go.

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The F35 is coming and something else had to go.

And we may just be dealing ourselves a bad hand there. The F-35 has many critics who say that it is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle and piece of junk. Those critics may be wrong; such things have been said about other aircraft that turned out to be acceptable performers. But from the casual look that I have given the F-35's development history, I have to admit that it makes me nervous.

Michael

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Actually I think F-35 "le Frog" is a good jet. UFO-ish sensors and Windows vs DOS like avionics compared to other aircrafts. Flight performance is the biggest concern but it's going to be a capable AG platform for sure.

(some vids of DAS

)

On the other hand why do you want the -35 to replace the A-10. The F-16, F-18C/D and AV-8B apparently is outdated by it completely. It even outclasses the F-15 a bit in BVR due to stealth and sensor suite. A-10 actually is one of the jets that has the least overlapping capability with the F-35 far as I see, along with the F-18E/F and F-15E bomb trucks.

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They came on line while I was in the Army. As one of those receiving support, I think it was one of the best designs we've come up with. When you combine effectiveness and cost into some kind of metric to measure, you'd be hard pressed to beat it.

But my experience is old. For nostalgia's sake, I'd love to see them stay around, and I think cutting them may be a silly budget move. There is cost in everything, but I think (and this is not backed by any evidence), that there is still a role for them.

I do see that unmanned drones can fulfill much of that same role now and even in the last few years their capabilities have greatly increased, so I can understand the con argument too.

I'd like to see some hard analysis of how much of a replacement an armed drone could be as I feel my "evaluation" is based more on what was, than the current state of affairs.

Great aircraft though, and incredibly effective.

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They came on line while I was in the Army. As one of those receiving support, I think it was one of the best designs we've come up with. When you combine effectiveness and cost into some kind of metric to measure, you'd be hard pressed to beat it.

But my experience is old. For nostalgia's sake, I'd love to see them stay around, and I think cutting them may be a silly budget move. There is cost in everything, but I think (and this is not backed by any evidence), that there is still a role for them.

I think they are about the best thing going for counter insurgency CAS. I'm not so sure about using them in a full-blown war against an opponent who is anything like a technological equal.

Michael

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Right, apparently AF was facing budget cuts. There're reports of programs being cancelled across the board on the net. In 2013 active squadrons were even stood down and grounded (including F-22 squads) due to lack of funds to fulfill flight hours. This is just sad. Reminds me of Russia in the 90s just after the cold war.

So they tried to save some $$ and wanted to retire the hog fleet, it was already slowly being phased out when each jet reaches their life cycles. Latest news is with the planned retirement not coming thru the a-10 fleet is tying up maintenance personnel preventing the F-35 reaching IOC.

So yeah, US internal politics and stuff. I guess they should've talked it over with the Army and related powers before they planned out the retirement.

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And we may just be dealing ourselves a bad hand there. The F-35 has many critics who say that it is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle and piece of junk. Those critics may be wrong; such things have been said about other aircraft that turned out to be acceptable performers. But from the casual look that I have given the F-35's development history, I have to admit that it makes me nervous.

Michael

A lot of the criticisms is overblown, you have a lot of initial teething issues and the overly ambitious design goals have had to be scaled back, but nothing abnormal in a complex weapons systems. I have not seen anything that suggests that the F-35 will not perform as well as expected.

Even the cost, estimated at between US $150-175 million per unit for the USAF CTOL F-35A is reasonable when you consider Australia recently paid US $141 million per unit for new F18s and the Europeans are paying close to US $190 million per unit for the Eurofighter Typhoon, both of which are older designs.

Now whether NATO needs a new fighter-bomber is a different debate. Certainly the 1999 Kosovo Air war showed that the current generation of F-15/16/18 were getting close to no longer being able to handle sophisticated air defence systems. The F-35s with their stealth tech should perform better. Also both Russia (i.e T-50) and China (i.e. J-20) are developping their own fifth generation fighter designs.

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If you look out 15 or twenty years, which I admit is EXTREMELY difficult, I just think that maned aircraft in general are going away. Sensors clear across the EM spectrum are improving at a frighting rate. If you have to operate at 50,000 feet and mach 2.5 to survive, is their any reason to have a person on board?

I think much more close support is going to come from MLRS type systems. And they will spend a great deal of time and effort shooting at each other.

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Man-in-the-loop kill decision, or automated? Personally, I'd like another human being to be the one to decide if I die, not an algorithm.

Oh, you mean man-in-the-loop-via-datalink? Okay...now we jam you. Who's the trigger puller?

Drones/UAV's have a place. That place is getting larger. I don't THINK it'll ever replace man-in-the-loop.

(Kill decisions for air defense are a different matter.)

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The A-10 is still viable and could be 'donated' to local PDs around the country ;)

*Just Kidding* although I was at a Law Enforcement Christmas party just last Friday where the subject of Military Surplus equipment doantions was being hotly discussed. If C.A.S. was on the table for reduced cost / donation status I assure you A-10s would be on the 1st page of a wish list ... not 'need'... but wish. Some of the equipment now available for them is more a ZED Apocalypse kit than they will ever 'need.' Lots of fun to 'train' with but does a local PD need?

For nostalgia's sake, I'd also love to see the A-10 stay around. I have only see them fly in person at air shows. If that flying tank does not get your attention... you are on the wrong medication :) not to mention they just look darn cool.

c3k has some solid points "Man-in-the-loop kill decision, or automated? Personally, I'd like another human being to be the one to decide if I die, not an algorithm."

Don't want someone 'hacking' me to death using a drone that belongs to someone else;)

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The man in the plane will go away if the survivability is low enough. You can debate what that loss rate is an when we will reach it, but the trend lone is pretty clear. I can see a lot of tech breakthroughs that decrease aircraft survivability terahertz sensors come immediately to mind. I don't see many that increase it, especially if you want to buy more than two of them.

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video of the USN F-35C undergoing sea trials on the U.S.S. Nimitz last month.

that is one beautiful aircraft or maybe I have just been watching too many F-35 vids. :)

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Man-in-the-loop kill decision, or automated? Personally, I'd like another human being to be the one to decide if I die, not an algorithm.

As long as the drone that kills you isnt sentient, technically the man who wrote the algorithm makes (or better: made) the decision if you die or not. The drone itself does not make any decisions, it just does exactely what it has been told to do by its creator. If it does something it wasnt supposed to do, then it is the creators fault who gave it the wrong instructions. If there is a bug in the code and the drone recognizes and specifically targets orphanages and puts a couple of hellfires into each it finds, it is the programmer who is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not the drone. The problem is you cant put the programmer in the kill-loop - he makes the decision who might die and who might not years before the military actually puts the autonomous drone in a position where it gets a chance to kill someone. So basically using autonomous drones 1) removes the kill-loop problem from the hands of the military and puts it in the hands of civillian technicians and 2) puts those civillian technicans in a situation where they have to predict -in theory- every possible situation the drone might run into. Practically that is not possible. An autonomous drone will always run into situations that havent been forseen by its programmers, and it will then not be able to act appropriately. There will always be a certain amount of uncertainity. So using armed autonomous drones is a bit like closing your eyes and firing a shotgun at somewhere you think the enemy could be - maybe. The possibility of producing collateral damage will always be very real when using autonomous drones. On the other hand, they do have numerous advantages that can not be denied. Weather or not they should be used is a question of of weather or not the military advantage that comes from using autonomous drones outweights the potential collateral damage they might cause.

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The last I heard Ukraine had grounded its small drone fleet due to signals interference from Russian ECM assets. And lets not forget the previously top secret RQ-170 drone currently being reverse-engineered in Iran. And the hacked live camera images from American drones over Afghanistan/Pakistan being streamed on the net. Drones still have some way to go when you're facing a technologically sophisticated adversary.

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As long as the drone that kills you isnt sentient

SkyNet:eek: It is interesting that this forum where armchair historians congregate have such an appetite for science fiction:o

More seriously though I think the problem with UAVs is their ability to perform complex tasks like a manned AC, atm they just seem to do recon and limited CAS. I'm guessing datalink technology hasn't yet provided enough bandwidth to offer the remote operator too much control yet. And the AI sentient UAV is... well in "Stealth" with hot Jessica Biel..

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A lot of the criticisms is overblown, you have a lot of initial teething issues and the overly ambitious design goals have had to be scaled back, but nothing abnormal in a complex weapons systems. I have not seen anything that suggests that the F-35 will not perform as well as expected.

Even the cost, estimated at between US $150-175 million per unit for the USAF CTOL F-35A is reasonable when you consider Australia recently paid US $141 million per unit for new F18s and the Europeans are paying close to US $190 million per unit for the Eurofighter Typhoon, both of which are older designs.

Now whether NATO needs a new fighter-bomber is a different debate. Certainly the 1999 Kosovo Air war showed that the current generation of F-15/16/18 were getting close to no longer being able to handle sophisticated air defence systems. The F-35s with their stealth tech should perform better. Also both Russia (i.e T-50) and China (i.e. J-20) are developping their own fifth generation fighter designs.

Awesome comparison. Heard all the cynicsom about F35 but none of if compared the costs.

Looks like Typhoon cost more "This means that we UK taxpayers will have shelled out no less than £215m for each of our 107 jets – that's $350m at today's rates,"

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/03/eurofighter_nao_analysis/

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F-35 has some great capabilities.

F-35 has some incredible limitations.

F-35 has some very high costs.

Mix the above as needed to come out with your preferred result.

Sometimes cheap weapons are just a waste of money.

Sometimes expensive weapons are just a waste of money.

I personally would love to see a more robust version of the A1 Skyraider resurrected. 8 hours endurance, massive lift capability, shade-tree mechanic repairs, etc. However, it would only be useful in low intensity conflict. (Or one where air superiority/supremecy exists.)

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The A-10 is still viable and could be 'donated' to local PDs around the country ;)

*Just Kidding* although I was at a Law Enforcement Christmas party just last Friday where the subject of Military Surplus equipment doantions was being hotly discussed. If C.A.S. was on the table for reduced cost / donation status I assure you A-10s would be on the 1st page of a wish list ... not 'need'... but wish. Some of the equipment now available for them is more a ZED Apocalypse kit than they will ever 'need.' Lots of fun to 'train' with but does a local PD need?

What, pray tell, would a PD need or even want an A-10 for? For starters, the operating costs of even a single one would exceed the budgets of all but the very largest departments. And what would a PD use one for that would not be better served by an armed helo? This scenario strikes me as downright insane.

Michael

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The man in the loop is relevant for hitting targets that are not already under some form of observation. For a strike that already requires a FAC its not that relevant. Enough jamming will break that link in the chain as well. Assuming the FAC/ observer can get through to anybody at all though, you just want the requested bang on the requested coordinates. I don't think putting a pilot at risk to get that done is going to make sense for very much longer.

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I personally would love to see a more robust version of the A1 Skyraider resurrected. 8 hours endurance, massive lift capability, shade-tree mechanic repairs, etc. However, it would only be useful in low intensity conflict. (Or one where air superiority/supremecy exists.)

Exactly. The US military has long been in the position of acquiring aircraft on a "one size fits all" basis, where we end up with a jack of all trades but master of none. So far we have gotten away with it because we haven't had to come up against an opponent who would seriously stress that system. But some day we may need to fight an air force that has heavily invested in aircraft that are optimized to perform specific missions just a little be better than anything we can field, and this could lead to serious embarrassment and excess shedding of US blood.

Michael

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The man in the loop is relevant for hitting targets that are not already under some form of observation. For a strike that already requires a FAC its not that relevant. Enough jamming will break that link in the chain as well. Assuming the FAC/ observer can get through to anybody at all though, you just want the requested bang on the requested coordinates. I don't think putting a pilot at risk to get that done is going to make sense for very much longer.

The man in the loop/pilot in the cockpit is important in situations where something unexpected develops requiring a split second decision to do something unplanned. I don't know how often that will occur in future wars, but I am pretty sure it won't be rare.

Michael

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