Skip to comments.USAF studying future attack aircraft options
Posted on 03/10/2016 5:18:01 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
The US Air Force has begun studying future close air support (CAS) aircraft to succeed the Fairchild Republic A-10 as the Pentagon evaluates the weaponry it needs for prolonged operations of one year or more.
The flying branch is looking at tactical air support platform alternatives for low-intensity permissive conflict like counterterrorism and regional stability operations, similar to the types of missions being conducted Iraq and Afghanistan today, where air superiority has been achieved and coalition aircraft can roam relatively freely in support of ground troops.
USAF officials say a portion of a "combat air force study is dedicated to considering alternative CAS aircraft: everything from the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, and the Textron AirLand Scorpion on the low end of the capability spectrum to more sophisticated clean-sheet attack aircraft or AT-X derivatives of the planned T-X next-generation trainer.
The study comes as the air force re-phases its retirement of the hardy A-10 "Warthog" that currently serves in the role. It has pushed back the fleets divestiture from this fiscal year to between 2018 and 2022 at cost imposition of $3.4 billion.
Service officials admit that despite being an ideal close air support platform in high-end conflict with Russia, the long-delayed A-10 replacement, the Lockheed Martin F-35, will be too expensive to operate in the Warthogs day-to-day role.
[F-35] will be particularly capable in contested environments, like Russian doctrine where you would bring your air defences with you, because there will be a limited number of airplanes that can operate in that role, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements Lt Gen James Holmes tells a Senate Armed Services subcommittee panel on 8 March. It would certainly be an expensive way to go after a permissive environment mission and we hope to not have to do that, so we will look at other options.
US Air Force
In written testimony to the AirLand Subcommittee, the four testifying air force officials explain that the study will support a decision process sometime in the next five-year defence spending plan, which covers fiscal years 2018 to 2022. This will serve to ensure that other current platforms and future systems meet future close air support requirements, the prepared statement says.
The A-10 was introduced in 1975 and upgraded to the more capable A-10C configuration in 2007. Its backers in Congress have consistently protected it from the air forces budget axe.
Holmes told reporters after the hearing that the air force needs to figure out if it needs an entirely new attack platform or a more basic off-the-shelf option like the AT-6, A-29 or Scorpion before pushing forward with a new acquisition programme.
There are some very low-end airplanes out there, like the A-29 that were partnering with for Afghanistan and training their crews in, Holmes says. The question is, is it enough? We know that an F-35 is too much, but is an A-29 enough for the mission set we need to do or do we need something in-between? Is there a derivative of our T-X platform that could do some range of lower-cost missions?
Holmes cautions that the T-X Advanced Pilot Trainer programme hasnt even entered development and still many years away from delivering the 350 training aircraft required to replace the Northrop T-38. An AT-X derivative would need to wait until the original trainer requirement is satisfied, and T-X initial operational capability isnt due until 2024.
I dont want to add requirements to that, which would make it too expensive, Holmes says, noting that the air force will likely need a new attack aircraft sooner.
One of the hardest things to do in the [US Defense Department] budget process is to spend $1 this year to save $10 later because you cant scrape up the $1 this year to do it because of other pressing needs, he says. You make that trade of paying more to fly an F-16 vice a lower capability airplane.
The air force has been considering new ways to use F-15s and F-16s in the CAS role through upgrades and new tactics. DARPA has been experimenting with new tablet computer-based software that makes it easier for "JTAC" targeting specialists on the ground to call in air fire with greater accuracy and less collateral damage, under a Raytheon-led project called persistent close air support (PCAS). That programme demonstrated full functionality with an A-10C in May 2015.
The air force should just give the A-10s to the army and let them run CAS. The zoomies have never wanted the mission anyway, and keep trying to kill the A-10 any way they can, including outright lying about its effectiveness vs. their proposed “replacements.”
He “hopes” they don’t find themselves in an environment that doesn’t need what A10 can do, but the F35 cannot.
Hope is not a real good plan. And if they are openly talking about this gap, don’t think the Russians and Chinese are not going to exploit that.
Who trained these people?
The NASA management who killed the shuttle program without a replacement in sight?
There was a time they would have developed the replacement BEFORE doing away with the one now have in service.
I still don’t know what’s so terrible about reviving and modernizing the E/F-111 + A-10 + B-1 package for CAS. The F-111’s may be in the boneyard but I think they could do some good in “regional stability situations”, especially with upgrades to avionics and weaponry. However, I’d heard there were some undesirable attributes and characteristics of the F-111 but I don’t remember what they were.
The government had the tooling for the A-10 destroyed years ago. The AF didn’t want the option of ever going back.
$1.5 TRILLION sunk into the F-35 and now it’s “Whoopsie...silly us...we can’t afford it for CAS. Let’s now investigate every alternative except modernizing a next-gen A-10 and have a 5-10 year gap without any CAS capability.”
Everywhere you look you incompetence.
What are they working on to suppress a Civil War???
Update the A10....there that was easy
So the Air Force whines that the A-10 can only perform in a clean environment, and the F-35 can do the same role and also fend off any air threats that happen to show up. Yet, the F-35’s capabilities in air to air has become questionable, and I think we know the answer to the question of how well does the F-35 deal with a hit from a MANPADS or a ZSU-23-4: not to well.
If the Air Force is concerned if an air threat arrives during a CAS mission, then let the A-10’s do exactly what they are designed for, and have the zoomies higher up flying CAP.
Believe the wings had a habit of falling off in the early days! It was pretty much McManure’s AF version of the Edsel.
Given the current crop of military incompetent but politically correct social experimenters masquerading as military leaders, we can expect that one outcome of this ‘search’ will be a plane that will satisfy all possible requirements, be super high tech, and be so expensive that only a few can be purchased in any given year.
Or that the above ‘leaders’ will ‘study’ the problem until the A-10 is gone and give up on the whole idea, moving on to something even more unworkable, more expensive, and unflyable.
The Army doesn’t want them.
F-111 is expensive to operate and a nugget killer.
The E/F-111? The B-1? For Close Air Support? You’re kidding, right?
Only the poor Air Force could believe for on second that those beasts would be suitable close air platforms.
The primary requirements for close air are tight integration with the supported ground force, the correct and appropriate effects required, and infallible precision. The Aardvark and the Bone are flying dump trucks and require hundreds of square miles of airspace to maneuver.
CAS aircraft need to perform like the A-10 or the A-4 or the A-6 or the blessed A-1. Tight maneuver, tailored and precise weapon packages and intimate connection to the supported troops. Even the F-4 was marginal for CAS except in the most skilled hands.
We like to see their faces before we call “wings level, clear and hot”.
Yeah, weren’t the swing-wing actuator mechanisms in the F-111’s ballscrew and nut assemblies? The F-14s had them too but they didn’t have that problem or did they? I’ve never heard of any problems with the wings of the B-1B, the largest variable geometry-winged military aircraft ever produced.
“The Aardvark and the Bone are flying dump trucks and require hundreds of square miles of airspace to maneuver.”
Have you looked at a map of the ME showing the Islamic State’s territory?
Other than it being a two-place fighter-bomber, what else was there about the F-111 that made it so expensive to operate? Loss rate? Fuel? I don’t think it was loss rate.
During the height of the war in Afcrapistan my son was involved in a battle on the Kush. His team was pinned down by a heavy machine gun and two mortars that were placed in an area that they could not hit with direct fire. Enter CAS. The only aircraft available that day were Bones. The Bones made several runs with JDAM’s using standard techniques - to no positive results. The nature of the ravine meant that the JDAMS could not take a last second turn to impact on the bad guys. Situation desperate, wounded etc. The flight leader took his Bone up the canyon below peak level turned it on it’s side and literally tossed a bomb into the canyon and took out the enemy position. Very brave move but a giant risk to the crew and the aircraft. A-10’s would of made short work of it.
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