Recently a news was posted in a few media outlets that the Congress calls for a comparison between the F-35 and A-10.
At first look this makes sense. The F-35 is supposed to replace the 40+ year old A-10 in service and in it’s ground attack missions. The life of the Warthog was extended many times because of it’s great capabilities and now we are at a point that once again it is supposed to be sent for retirement.
It is natural to compare two aircraft if one replaces the other but is this OK if you compare two different constructions like those two? It’s like comparing apples to oranges. They are both round, you can eat both of them, they have some skin and are sweet. But can we compare them?
Leaving the fruit realm and going back to aviation – can the F-35 do the job? Can it make slow, precise, very low level attacks, receive a hard beating, and come again to do the job? Can all of it’s sensitive equipment sustain some hits, even from low caliber weapons? What will happen if one of those systems is broken? Will the Congress test reveal that?
Less is more. The A-10 is supposed to do one job and do it good. The pilot sits on something that can not be replaced – the A-10 cannon is a unicorn. 30 mm long barrel canon that can destroy heavy armored vehicles can be a game changer. It can also strike with many other weapons but this is not the place to write about it. The data is there.
The F-35 is like a swiss knife. You can cut a tree with it but why not use an ax a battle ax like the A-10?
The US government once made a decision to close the F-22 line. Now we know that this was a mistake. Will the A-10 retirement be a comparable mistake? The future will tell but we are here and now.
The F-35 will never be as good as the A-10 in ground support when flying close to the ground and under fire and the A-10 will never come close to the marvels the F-35 can do but maybe it would be feasible to combine the two? Allow them to work together, stream data from the F-35 to the A-10, highlight targets, find them, classify them and give the A-10 a chance for a pin point attack in an environment it was born to live and fight – close to the ground. A machine like the F-35 which is supposed to be a fighter, precise bomber and ground attack can not be as good in all those things as a specialized aircraft but it doesn’t mean that we can not use it’s high-tech equipment to push the limits of the A-10 even further.
The geopolitics is changing very fast, you can say that we live in very interesting times. Can the US afford to lose an asset like A-10 in such difficult time?
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg L. Davis