Some A-10s have been modified with precision engagement technology, and these are the aircraft that should be considered for the COIN operations. The A-10 is a magnificent aircraft with its Gatling gun, Titanium –bathtub” surrounding the pilot, redundant controls, etc. Its retirement would be a bad thing: it can loiter and lumber over over the battlespace, it can take rounds and still limp home, it can deliver a huge amount of ordnance down range, and it has a proven track record of infantry support and pilot safety.
Murdoc Online noted the effort to establish an Air Force Special Operations Command counterinsurgency squadron last month (see USAF Turboprop Strike Fighter?)
I can see this A-10 idea actually happening, if only because it will keep the lightweight prop-powered COIN aircraft like the Beechcraft AT-6B and the Embraer Tucano and Super Tucano out of the inventory. A-10s seem to fly about as slow and low as today’s Air Force wants, no matter what the mission requirements.
If A-10s are shoehorned into the COIN role, light COIN planes don’t get a chance. If light COIN planes, which are relatively cheap to buy and operate, don’t get a chance, there’s no threat to the bazillion dollar super duper jet fighters on the wish list.
As much as we all love the A-10, it’s not the ideal COIN platform. The Captain’s Journal notes the work that would have to be done on aging airframes for the job, but a lot of A-10s are already undergoing modernization. A bigger problem, I would think, is the fact that the plane just wouldn’t have the numbers that a top-notch counterinsurgency plane would have.
So, is the proposal to use A-10s an effort to prevent light turboprop COIN aircraft from getting a chance? Is it an attempt to get a COIN squadron even though light turboprop planes have been effectively banned from the friendly skies? Or does an A-10 really make sense in the COIN role?
Yeah, yeah…A lot of A-1 SPAD fans are going to weigh in. But is there any rational reason to expect A-1s to rejoin the force?
And if jets are the only way to go, what about a re-engined A-37? How would such a plane compare to the A-10 in the counterinsurgency role? Sure, the A-10 has the big gun with a lot more rounds and can carry more ordnance, but wouldn’t the A-37’s load be plenty for most counterinsurgency ops? And you’ve got to love that range/loiter time.
Yeah, yeah…I realize the A-1’s numbers look pretty good for a prop compared to the jets…