I just reread the summary of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House on a vote of 385-98. At the end of the day, it appears that the House was not interested in agreeing with many of the cost cutting proposals that DoD had hoped for. Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is not an option (see Bric-a-BRAC) , and it looks like the Air Force can keep it’s A-10’s for now. When all is totaled up, the bill accounts for just a shade over $600 Billion in spending. That number is a far cry from what the sequestration number would have been, thanks to the BiPartisan Budget Agreement, but 2016 will be another story. The Senate also affirmed its desire to keep the A-10s in the inventory in its version of the NDAA.
I happen to agree with the Air Force that it is time for the A-10 to go. It’s expensive to maintain and operate and doesn’t really have a place in the 21st Century battlefield. It pains me to say that, because it was a good airplane for the mission, tank killing and Close Air Support. My airplane was also the victim of affordability cuts and the entire fleet was scrapped right after it had undergone an expensive and extensive rehabilitation effort. I’m talking about the A-6 Intruder, retired in 1997. No one came to its rescue unlike the A-10. I’m not quite sure why the A-6 retirement didn’t kick up more dust back then except to say that times were tough, money was tight, and everyone recognized the an airplane like the A-6 was vulnerable at low levels against the threat and that with weapons improvements we just didn’t need an airplane that could carry twenty-two 500 pound Mk-82 bombs. What’s the point? With Tomahawks and Joint Stand Off Weapons there was just no need for the A-6. The same is true for the A-10, in my opinion. With today’s technology, the threat environment where the A-10 would be operating would not be survivable. The assumption is that in order to use the A-10, we would have to have Air Supremacy (meaning no enemy airplane flying) and completely neutralized the hand-held SAM threat on the ground. That’s a tall order!
In today’s world with armed drones…..oooopppps….i meant to say Remotely Piloted Aircraft, there’s just no need to put aircrew at risk. Add to that the expense in maintaining the A-10 and it’s just not worth it……at least not to the Air Force. It IS apparently worth it to members on the Hill who have A-10’s flying in their districts, and the hundreds of airmen required to be in each squadron to maintain the A-10. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you are flying a dinosaur that just doesn’t have a home in the 21st Century.