The idea was for the Air Force’s new F-35 stealth multi-role fighter to be able to take over the close air support (CAS) role of the A-10 Warthog. However, the F-35 has been floundering, and the troops still need a plane to bring accurate hell from the sky to the ground. The plane that does that, and does it well, is the A-10 Warthog. So, last month, acquiescing to reality, the Air Force Material Command announced that it is bringing the A-10 depot line for maintenance and repair beck to full capacity.
On paper, the Air Force plans to start mothballing the A-10 in 2018, with the last Warthogs sent to the boneyard by 2021. But last month Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said that the retirement of the A-10 would likely have to be delayed further as the military continues to rely on the low-and-slow attack plane for close-air support (CAS) missions flown against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Even more telling, the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) is bringing the depot line for A-10 maintenance and repair back up to full capacity, according to Aviation Week. HotAir Article
Aside from the F-35 taking over the A-10 mission, the other grand idea that the Air Force has is to support the A-10 with two other off-the-shelf turboprop aircraft: Brazil’s A-29 Super Tucano or the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, until a new aircraft can be developed to replace the A-10. Of course that A-10 replacement can’t be pursued right not because the F-35 is such a budget busting black hole. Popular Mechanics Article
For the life of me I do not understand why the Air Force is so hell bent to get rid of the A-10. The aircraft is easy to fly, takes a great deal of battle damage and comes home, blows the crap out of whatever it is sent to take out on the ground, and is a plane we know well how to build and maintain. In other words, it works great for its mission … and is the Air Force’s only CAS mission platform. So you might think that the old adage, “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it!,” would apply here. But for some reason that is not so. But the decision to keep the A-10 going is, so far as I’m concerned, very good news. It’s just a bit sad and maddening that it has taken the continuing failings of the F-35 to get the Brass to pull their heads out of their backsides.