A-10s for AFSOC COIN Squadron?

Op-For’s Air Force to Stand Up SOC COIN Squadron? links to The Captain’s Journal’s A-10s Aid in Counterinsurgency:

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…


  1. First off, there is nothing written in stone that says the A-10 lines cannot be restarted. That said, we have A-10’s in the bone yard. Next, the A-10’s are already performing the COIN role in Afghanistan and doing it well. Next, I am not sure how much ‘savings’ would be generated by going to new prop plane. What is missing in the argument is that current and future engagements will demand precision attacks. That will require a significant expense in sensors and avionics. The A-10C is already up and running. (As a side benefit SOCOM would be lot more open to spending money to keep the A-10 current then an Air Force looking for ways to kill it.) Now if was selling a COIN aircraft to Iraq – I would go the prop plane way. A prop plane, well made can handle the job. If I wanted a COIN craft working with our forces, I would want the most capable bird for the mission – which in this case is the A-10.

  2. I can’t argue with the A-10 especially if this would give funds to upgrade the fleet. But I always like the OV-10 Bronco. And there is nothing wrong with attack helicopters.

  3. if I were designing a fixed-win COIN aircraft, I would put a turreted cannon underneath with a coaxial TV/IR camera and have a second crew member operate it, like an attack helicopter. But it would be significantly faster than a helicopter, and more reliable, which are the real advantages I think. Of course it would also need to be able to carry JDAMs, Mavericks, rocket pods, etc. That way you could use it like a regular attack plane, or like an AC-130 (orbit the target and track it with the turret), or however you want really. Plus the cameras on the turret would be able to carry the blind spots that the fuselage create – i.e. straight down and backwards.

  4. ‘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?’ I’m one of those SPAD fans who believes that trying to adapt a cheapo civilian ‘fan-powered’ powderpuff derby entry to a full fledged death dealing war machine is akin to entering a 60-horse power rice burner in a formula-I race. I say retool for the A-1. You don’t need a sledge hammer to swat a fly and you don’t need a costly, supersonic, computer heavy machine operated by a highly trained, sophisticated pilot to drop nape and snake on the bad guys hiding in the bush. All you need is a 2700-HP Wright Cyclone radial powered, combat proven, reasonably well armored, low and slow platform driven by a pilot with basic avionic and combat skills. It sounds irrational, but the American military has (for good or bad) done the irrational.

  5. Why not make 300 odd new A-10 aircraft. ? I know they would cost a ton more to make but they would be better than anything else out there for clost ground stuff.

  6. The Tucano is getting a pretty good workout down in Columbia right now in the drug interdiction/COIN role. For a relatively cheap, off the shelf alternative to the A-10 or something along those lines, it sounds like a pretty good deal. The A-1, next to the A-10, was probably one of the best though. That plane could hang around, take a beating, and dish it right back for hours on end. As long as its ordnance held out.

  7. Forget the Air Farce. Let the people who actually care about mission choose the aircraft – the Army and Marine Corps. Then we might get appropriate tool for the job.