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Two Relevant Pieces on the A-10 Controversy

 
b-1b-lancer
 U.S. Air Force photo of B-1B Lancer by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

In the last few days, David Axe’s “War Is Boring” website ran two useful and highly relevant pieces about the A-10 close air support aircraft, Capitol Hill defense-think, and the B-1B bomber—the latter touted by the Air Force as a suitable replacement for the former.

Recent history and a 2007 incident in Afghanistan undermine the Air Force’s case for the B-1B—and against the A-10.

In an impressive piece of reporting, Axe describes a 2007 incident when A-10’s literally saved a large number of ISAF (British) troops from being killed by a B-1B in an unfolding friendly fire incident—which was averted literally at the last second thanks to the operating characteristics of the A-10 and the specialized training of its aircrew.  It is an instructive lesson about the continuing need for the A-10.

Find Axe’s insightful article here.

A U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft prepares to refuel an A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from the 124th Operations Support Flight over Utah Feb. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards/Released)


The day before, “War Is Boring” ran a commentary by Pierre Sprey and myself.  The piece addresses the recent action by the House Appropriations Committee, conducted in a manner to hold Members unaccountable, to deny funding for retaining the A-10.  While adding at least $1.6 billion for preferred hardware programs, the committee could find nothing to support the A-10, and it did so when the morning headlines were revealing the death of five American soldiers in another friendly-fire tragedy—this one carried to fruition by a B-1B bomber.  The committee studiously avoided the hypocrisy of its funding numerous big ticket hardware goodies and declaring itself poverty-stricken for the A-10, and it also demonstrated its own purposeful obliviousness to unfolding events directly relevant to the debate at hand—the then-available Washington Post and Fox News revelations that the friendly fire event had occurred and that a B-1B was responsible.

Find this commentary here.

Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight

By: Winslow Wheeler
Director, Straus Military Reform Project, CDI at POGO, POGO

Mr. Wheeler's areas of expertise include Congress, the Defense Budget, National Security, Pentagon Reform and Weapons Systems

The goal of the Straus Military Reform Project is to secure far more effective military forces and much more ethical and professional military and civilian leadership at significantly lower budget levels.

We would like to thank Philip A. Straus Jr. and family for their generous support.

Submitted by Blacktail at: June 26, 2014
A couple more facts the USAF doesn't mention; 1- The amount of sorties the A-10 has flown in the past couple of years in Afghanistan haven't fallen --- they were *deliberately held-down*, in order to make the A-10 look bad. 2- The USAF claimed not to have any data on any sortie rates for any aircraft based in Afghanistan from before 2006. That was the year in which they finally began to improve Afghanistan's decrepit runways enough that aircraft like F-15s and F-16s could operate from them --- before that time, the only fixed-wing combatants operating at these bases were A-10s, because they were the only US combat aircraft with ruggedized landing gear! 3- The A-10 has only just been upgraded to A-10C standard in 2007, and the whole fleet was re-winged by Boeing in 2010, zeroing-out it's service life. 4- Also in 2010, the USAF publicly declared that the A-10 would remain in service until 2028, when the new Boeing-made wings would finally wear-out. Only 2 years later, the USAF started saying the A-10 urgently needs to be retired. 5- The USAF has yet to explain how the B-1B is supposed to fly low and slow enough to visually distinguish friend from foe, or what sort of optics and sensors the fleet already had to begin with that make it adequate for CAS. They also have yet to explain how the B-1B is supposed to perform strafing and rocket attacks in support of US troops. 6- Similarly, the USAF has yet to explain how the B-1B is supposed to match or exceed the A-10's low-speed and low-altitude handling characteristics, and survive enemy ground fire as intense as the A-10 has.

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