World Politics Review has an update on the Air Force’s long attempt to kill off the A-10 Warthog. While the A-10 is much loved by ground forces everywhere, not so much by the Air Force who don’t like carrying water for the Army/Marines.
After all, Hollywood isn’t likely to make a movie with Tom Cruise about a pilot who shoots slow moving tanks.
So, they’re trying to replace the A-10 with the F-35. In all fairness, they make the case that the A-10 will only get more vulnerable over time at low altitude as more lethal weapons come on the market and metastasize throughout the world trouble zones, forcing aircraft to go higher up. At that point, what difference does it make if you have a sturdy, reliable airplane like the A-10 or a poodle like aircraft that requires an extensive entourage of handlers and relies on shaky technology?
The Air Force conceives of itself as a strategic institution dedicated to shaping the entirety of a campaign, rather than as an organization that plinks away at enemy tanks in support of ground troops. Not only does the A-10 stand outside of that self-image, it draws resources away from the Air Force’s preferred strategic mission. By contrast, the F-35 allows the Air Force to redistribute resources from what it considers the antiquated mission of close air support to the much more important, from the USAF’s point of view, strategic mission.
The author recommends that in a perfectly rational world, the Air Force could probably satisfy the close air-support mission with something like the Embraer Super Tucano. I can’t speak to the ability of that aircraft but agree that it’s highly unlikely the Air Force would expend anything but the paltriest of resources on an aircraft that looks so..mid-20th century.