Old Warthogs should remain flyable
by JAMES STEVENSON, War is Boring, 3 August 2016
The U.S. Marine Corps, tired of waiting for the continuously-delayed F-35B, has gone to the Arizona boneyard to retrieve some of its preserved, first-edition F-18 Hornets to fulfill its close air support obligation to protect Marines on the ground.
Mindful of the aphorism “willful waste makes woeful want,” the Marine Corps preserved its F-18s in the boneyard just in case it ever needed them again.
Killing the Hog (VI)
This is the 7th in a series of postings decrying the Air Force’s plan to kill the low cost, hugely successful, combat-proven A-10 — affectionately known by its pilots and the grunts it supports on the ground as the “Hog.” The AF game plan has been to replace the A-10 with hugely expensive, unproven, problem-plagued F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The A-10 is the only airplane ever designed specifically for Close Air Support — i.e., supporting ground troops in close combat in time sensitive scenarios, where discrimination between friend and foe is crucially important. In this mission the A-10 is peerless, but the Air Force does not like the CAS mission, because it subordinates the AF operations to the ground commander’s intentions. This assignment of control flies in the face of strategic bombing theory, which claims you can achieve victory thru air power alone — and strategic bombing theory, dear reader, is the basic case used to justify the bureaucratic imperatives and huge budgets of an independent Air Force. Readers unfamiliar with A-10 and the background issues surrounding the never ending debate to kill the Hog will find earlier postings at these links:
- Should the AF Retire the A-10? – A Seminar on a Seminal Question, 11 November 2013
- Killing the Hog (I), 2 December 2014
- Killing the Hog (II), 3 December 2014
- General Post’s Mexican Hot Platter, 30 January 2015
- Killing the Hog (III), 8 February 2015
- Killing the Hog (IV), 9 February 2015
- Killing the Hog (V), 11 February 2015
The intervention of Congress temporarily has thwarted the AF game plan by directing the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) to conduct a realistic fly-off and shoot-off between the A-10 and the F-35. The sensible goal this approach is to use the scientific method to determine empirically which plane is more effective in supporting ground troops in combat. Currently that test is scheduled for 2018. That the Air Force was forced by Congress to conduct such a common-sense test is a telling message in itself.
But there is more. An A-10/F-35 fly-off in 2018, while well intentioned and entirely appropriate, is also a charade. The F-35 will not be cleared by 2018 to carry and fire the weapons appropriate for the Close Air Support mission, including its necessary command and control avionics. Even if one makes the patently absurd assumption that there are no more delays in the problem-plagued F-35 program, the OT&E report evaluating the F-35’s capability to carry and fire these weapons in anything approaching a realistic CAS scenario will not be available until 2021. How can the F-35 pass a fly-off/shoot-off comparative CAS test against the A-10 before we know what, if any, CAS capabilities are possessed by the F-35? To ask such a question is to answer it, so don’t expect any meaningful fly-off/shoot-off to be conducted in 2018.
Notwithstanding, the speed bump imposed by Congress, as my good friend James Stevenson explains below, the AF is making the retirement of the A-10 in favor of the F-35 inevitable by quietly destroying those A-10s now in long term storage. There are currently 291 A-10s in active service, with another 99 A-10s in storage in the Arizona desert (including 50 recently modernized A-10Cs with gobs of flight time left on them). But the Air Force is sending these stored aircraft (including A-10Cs) to the breakers. In so doing, the AF is deliberately reducing its ability to maintain the existing active A-10 force structure over the long term.
In short, the quiet AF strategy of destroying perfectly good A-10s guarantees the F-35 will replace the A-10, thereby rendering Congress’s direction for a fly-off/shoot-off irrelevant. This makes a mockery of the powers assigned to the Congress in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution — a document every member of the AF has sworn unconditionally to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Phi Beta Iota: The F-35 is treason at multiple levels. The USAF policy and practice on the A-10 and CAS is treason at multiple levels. And no one says a word. The US Army Chief of Staff should be screaming bloody murder and threatening to resign on the steps of Capitol Hill. This is the kind of corruption a “rigged system” produces. We note with interest that General Philip Breedlove, USAF committed treason against the Obama Administration and in direct contravention of all Congressional and Executive guidelines, in seeking to inspire a war with Russia over the Ukraine. It may be time to abolish the USAF and return to two major military departments — the Navy with the Marine Corps as naval infantry reinforced with organic air, and the Army, with all air capabilities subordinated to the ground/theater commander.