Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The worth of the A-10

The A-10 has limits against high end threats. However, for everything else it is highly useful. Spent some time with an A-10 training unit many years ago and got a good look at the systems and capability.

Today, it is even more capable with E/O pods and modern precision guided munitions. Slow response for 911 CAS if it isn't nearby but then, nothing is perfect. You won't see the F-35 doing this anytime soon. If ever.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps USMC could acquire and retrofit these in lieu of the proposed F-18 SLEP program reportedly targeted for 50 or so hornets? The retrofit might be cheaper as would probably be the O&S costs?

One has to ponder however; if USAF cannot afford to upgrade and operate existing A-10s and F-16s, how exactly will USAF be able to procure F-35s under FRP rates, let alone retrofit them to block IV and eventually block V capability?

Something doesn't seem to be adding up or not thoroughly thought out.

Anonymous said...

F-35 would have done it better from 30,000' with an SDB and without exposing itself to SAFIRE.

Distiller said...

re second anonymous:
Maybe yes, maybe not.
But: for dropping a PGM from 30.000ft you don't need a F-35, an armed aux airliner-bomber based on KC-X would do just nicely.
And: a 30.000ft attack will never have the psychological impact a low-swooping A-10 with gun blazing has on enemy formations. Think Stuka Ju-87. Paint the A-10s red and play Stuka siren sound from loudspeakers!!

Canuck Fighter said...

Maybe the Land of Auz should pick up a squadron of A-10's from the US for a decent price.

goldeel1 said...

That is a damn good idea Canuck. Which is probably exactly why it wont happen . But seriously though, they could also be operated in the FAC role currently being done by a handful of PC-9's. As long as they have had the wing life extension upgrade there would be little additional equipment needed for RAAF operation except maybe radios. Personally I would recommend 2 squadrons worth of around 24 aircraft. This would allow for training, deployment and maintenance with possibly a handful of airframes kept in storage and or as a rotation pool to even out airframe hours. You could operate them across 2 squadrons or as a single larger one if admin and operating costs are a factor.

As for the F-35 doing it better from 30,000ft, I note you said "would" have done it better not will. And how is engaging some guy with a Dragunov or RPD with an expensive SDB currently somewhere between $70-$90,000 per round going to be better than hitting him with a cannon round from only a couple of hundred feet? Not to mention that an SDB from 30,000ft has a considerably longer engagement cycle and as far as I am aware still does not have capability against a moving target. All the guy has to do is get up and move a hundred feet and your expensive F-35/SDB combination is wasted. Sure the F-35 pilot might see the guy move with all that wonderful EO gear he has but if its after weapons release all he can do is try and tell the guys on the ground and release another round in the hope he doesnt move again.

What is really needed is a supersonic dash successor to the A-10 to shorten those 911/000 calls.

Anonymous said...

The RAAF would be ill-advised to operate a niche aircraft like the A-10.

The RAAF does much better by having its CAS capability in the F/A-18 where the platform and crews are also capable of performing control of the air and strike.

Anonymous said...

"niche aircraft", my a**. Supporting the troops on the ground is, or should be, a paramount concern for any air force. Any air force, that is, that actually puts serving its nation ahead of serving itself.

And BTW, good luck with your SDB when there's heavy cloud cover between the troops in contact, and the Buck Rogers wannabe swanning around 5 miles above...


Canuck Fighter said...

It's a constant argument in the air force between those that like the sexy planes that stay up high and can drop the smart bomb, versus the ground attack, low altitude, take a beating planes for close air support. From WW2 to now rugged planes have been developed or optimized for CAS. I don't see that changing, with maybe the exception of maybe a UAV, which maybe the Army should control given that they're getting shot at. The A10 is inexpensive compared to an F35. The armament payload of an A10 is in another league compared to a F35. Given the way things are going for the F35, one could probably build 6 A10's for the price of one F35, not to mention operating costs, and mission readiness where few planes even come close to the A10 in a CAS role.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd rather have a life extended Hornet over an A-10, as good as the A-10 is for certain tank busting and CAS missions once air superiority has been achieved.

Not to bash the A-10 on the role it has achieved or can accomplish tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can see the A10 is not used for tank busting. The Soviet Army disapeared years ago.
Air superiority is a given at the moment.
It is used for shooting up people with Ak47's hiding in mud huts.
The A10 has been given another 40 years life, the Hornet has maybe 8.

goldeel1 said...

To the Anonymous who said "The RAAF would be ill-advised to operate a niche aircraft like the A-10." (see how confusing this anonymous business is? Please take a leaf out of JRL's book and use a sign off if you won't bother to stick a name on your post). Exactly what constitutes a "niche" aircraft? What, like the 22 Eurocopter ARH Tigers, the 7 CH-47D's, 8 active C-130H's, 16 S-70B Seahawks, 6 Wedgetail, 5 MRTT tankers, or the now retired 14 active DH-4? Sorry I dont understand your point.

The RAAF would be much better served by having it's CAS in an A-10 than a Hornet. The control as you put it would be much more appropriate if put in the hands of an embedded ground controller or a Wedgetail which is after all the whole point of that aircraft, the "C" in AEW&C being a dead giveaway, or an "OA-10" rolled aircraft, which of course has a big 30mm gun to reinforce the point.

The Hornet has other fish to fry like air superiority, maritime patrol and attack and possibly in the near future Electronic Attack. Exactly how can we spread this force across so many roles and still be effective? There is nothing wrong with operating multiple airframe's to carry out a particular task, it both amuses and frustrates me when I hear critics state that we cannot operate multiple types anymore, at the same time that we operate small fleets both legacy and new for particular roles that apparently are exempt from their criticism of this practice. The reality is you operate the aircraft you need in the roles that must be filled and be prepared to pay the bill. I rather suspect that this "omni role is the most efficient" garbage has been peddled by airframe suppliers who hoped to shaft the opposition and take control of the market (see: Lockheed Martin).

In short their is a viable role for the A-10 in Australian service that would free up other RAAF assets to conduct operations that they would otherwise be possibly be constrained in doing if required to conduct basic CAS/FAC/BI work. Which after all is realistically all we can expect the ADF to be involved in given our operational history of the last 20+ years. And even if we did get involved in a higher level conflict, would that not justify even more having another airframe to act as Army support?

Canuck Fighter said...

Why would one want to use up a Hornet ($60M) on CAS missions when an A10 (<$20M) performs the job.

CAS Comparison:

Cost of aircraft - favours A10
Cost of operation - favours A10
Weapons load - call it even with slight edge to A10 because of the 30mm cannon
Mission readiness record - favours A10
Damage/redundancy systems - favours A10
Endurance over the battlefield - favours A10
Time to target - favours F18

The argument that is being used in the US right now is that budgets are being cut and that equipment has to be multi purpose because there is less money. This is a "snow job". Even with the recent cuts, the DOD budget is still at historically high levels. It's like saying, my budget was 300, then it became 600, now I have to do cutbacks and "CUT" it to 500. It's still 500.
The problem has been the plethora of sexy, high expenditure, going no where programs in the Navy, airforce and army, which have been poorly managed.
US defense spending is equal to the next 12 countries, many of which are NATO allies. I fail to understand why oversight does not see through this crap.

Anonymous said...

The problem of a CAS only fast jet aircraft would primarily be the back end required to support it.

Groundcrew, aircrew, logistics chain, facilities, wing headquarters, national capability development....

The RAAF aircrew training system is stretched already producing F/A-18 pilots... We'd need more Hawks, foreign instructors etc....

The F/A-18 (supplemented by ARH) already more than adequately fulfills what CAS need we have. Offensive air support can only happen when control of the air is achieved. The synergy of the F/A-18 is that it can fulfill the roles of airpower in order of priority; control of the air, strike, offensive air support.

scoot7 said...

Things seemingly forgotten (in no order):
The greater skills of a pilot with dedicated mission training; an A-10 pilot spending 90% of his time doing CAS with real JTACs, or an F-16 spending 10% (not counting long-lead predeployment spinup).
The ability to operate below a 1000' cloud ceiling with poor vis against a target that does not allow JDAM (moving, close prox to friendlies, collateral concerns, etc).
The reality of the target-acquisition fairytale: VERY frequently the small unit taking fire is unsure of the exact target location- "on that ridge" or "in that treeline" often means saturate an area with effects at least well enough for the patrol to survive the ambush and move to real cover. GAU8 is flexible enough for that, a full load of 2 GBU38s is not. Infantry will not be excited about either having to lug around a laser designator or having to take the time to set up the equipment to generate high quality coordinates to drop an SDB on (if your range-finder is off by a degree of azimuth, the enemy keeps shooting).
The efficiency/reduced logistics of flying 3hrs on 9k of gas.
Carrying a variety of ordnance on all missions: WP rockets to mark/verify difficult to find targets, AGM65s for tough armor or movers, gun for armor or movers or 'other', IR illumination flares to light up the battlefield for the ground forces (the support in Close Air Support is not just blowing stuff up), and GBUs of course.
GAU8 can produce devastating effects, has enough ammo for numerous targets and can fire extremely close to friendly forces (65m danger close).
Also, speaking to the remaining skeleton force after cutting 1/3 or the jets, of the few remaining squadrons, two are still schoolhouses and one is still permanently in Korea (nondeployable). Despite the reassuring (and purposely deceptive) words of the CSAF, there are very few left to actually fight a new war.
Ok, that's my stream of consciousness.

nico said...

To CanuckFighter:

You said: " Why would one want to use up a Hornet ($60M) on CAS missions when an A10 (<$20M) performs the job. "

Even a better one is why use a JSF at $150M on CAS???? Anyone apart from a few of us here wonder why it is so f*cking expensive and what is the RATIONAL to use a $100M machine to kill a guy with a AK47 in a mud hut????

Perplexed said...

Exactly the same as the Australian Army using an $80++ million dollar helicopter, the Tigre, to shoot up people with AK47's.(apart from the fact it cannot take off in high temperatures with a reasonable load, and needs dozens and dozens of maintainers)
Bushranger you are so correct. A huey 2 for a couple of million or an armed Blackhawk.(get them fixed at the local Holden dealer)
Same with the A10, pure logic driven by recent experience.
Where are the Russian tank hordes these days.

Bushranger 71 said...

Some good discussion this thread. Having done both FGA and helo gunships (VN), I offer some views following snippets (in parenthesis) from a comprehensive 289 page US Army Vietnam War analysis by LTGEN John J. Tolson .

"...The fighter-bomber has a unique capability to place heavy firepower and a variety of ordnance in close support of the ground soldier. The fighter-bomber's most distinctive characteristic is its ability to deliver heavy bombs in support of the ground soldier. The fighter-bomber flies underneath ceilings measured in thousands of feet, to deliver heavy bombs within hundreds of feet of the ground soldier's position and lighter ordnance even closer..."

"...Armed helicopters often operated under low ceilings and weather conditions that restricted or precluded use of tactical air in close support of ground units...Some of the problems were not technical but more operational in nature, such as experienced in the Cobra where pilots missed the telltale noises of enemy fire, which they could hear through the open door of the older armed Huey, and the additional eyes and ears of the door gunners...While many (US Army) gunship crews liked the speed, agility and hard-to-hit slender lines of the Cobra, there was another faction that preferred the old Huey gunships since the door gunners not only provided additional eyes and ears but could lay down suppressive fire to the rear of the helicopter…The debate between the two factions went on through the war..." (271 Hueycobras were lost during the Vietnam War).

"...The enemy also used their 'hugging' tactic which had proven effective in earlier encounters. Using this tactic, North Vietnamese Army forces sometimes moved to within 10 to 20 meters of friendly units manning perimeters and securing positions..."

"...The range and killing power of the minigun was limited and though the 70 millimetre rockets had much more reach and punch, they were inaccurate and had to generally be fired in salvos to blanket a target..."

Ammunition resupply and casevacs during ongoing engagements in jungle scenarios often involved utility helos hovering over a battle, necessitating intimate close air support with very accurate high density 7.62mm or .50in calibres ball ammunition delivered as near as 10 metres from own troops from short ranges. HE cannon ammunition has a safety distance limitation of around 30 plus metres.

Whatever the platform, it should be configured with weaponry appropriate to the operating environment which might include an assortment of podded gun systems (7.62mm, .50 in, cannon) in addition to integral installations. Fixed forward firing weaponry operated by the pilot flying assures accuracy for close quarters situations whereas turreted gun systems operated via a separate brain on an aircraft platform are inherently more risky (due to accumulative errors), particularly in off-boresight shooting and where Star Wars helmets are involved.

Multiple gun redundancy is essential to assure staying in the fight in event of stoppages, plus swags of ammunition – think Beaufighter and JU-88 – and short turnaround time is also a major consideration for battlefield support (15 minutes for refuelling/rearming of a Huey II Bushranger version).

The A-10 is more suitable than the F-18 for low-level/low-vis operations and helo gunship versions (like Huey II Bushranger and Blackhawk DAP) are arguably the optimum platforms for operations at low level in murky conditions with more suitable characteristics than attack helicopters.

John Boyd had it right with his visions for a purpose-built F-16 and the A-10. The RAAF would be better equipped with 2 squadrons of A-10, 2 of suitable interceptors and 2 of another type for strike in lieu of the MRCA notion plaguing present thinking. As for the deficient Tiger attack helicopter, it will not do a comparable job for intimate close air support as a Huey II Bushranger version or MH-60L Blackhawk DAP.

Perplexed said...

Bushranger, I see that after 7 years, they can now allow the Tigre to fly at night, sort of.
God bless DMO and senior Defence MGT.