Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Foot is still down, but top brass push exit A-10 forward anyway

Despite the fact that many, including top military experts and members of the US Congress, have giant doubts about the ground support fight-ability of the US Air Force without the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II, the military top brass seems eager to push forward with its retirement.

The first two A-10 squadrons will be decommissioned in 2018, followed by another two in 2019, sources within the US Air Force have confirmed. This means the loss of 49 aircraft a year. Speeding up thereafter 2020 will see the disbandment of three squadrons (64 A-10s) and 2021 four squadrons (96 Thunderbolts).

A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II fires its 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon near Campia Turzii, Romania, on 1 April 2015. (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II fires its 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon near Campia Turzii, Romania, on 1 April 2015. (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)

Close-Air Support

Putting money aside for the new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II is the main reason why the US Air Force top generals push on with their decision, amid fears especially among US Army personnel as well as those concerned for their health and their unit’s survive chances. The F-35 will never be a close-air support (CAS) asset up to the task, they feel.

The gun was tested for the first time last year. (Image © US Air Force)
So far the F-35 has fired weapons only from high up in the air, but for effective close-air support it will need to get down to tree level (Image © US Air Force)

High-ranking concerns

Even some of the USAF high-ranking officers have expressed their concern, hoping that US Congress will give the armed service more money to keep the A-10s flying, as well as additional cash to keep enough manpower in place to service and pilot them.

An USAFE Spangdahlem A-10 Thunderbolt II against a perfect blue sky performing a fly-by of Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, during the 2001 NATO Tiger Meet. Digital scan. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Classic view of the A-10 above the battlefield (Image © Marcel Burger)

Jousting, F-35 vs A-10

There is, however, a slight glimmer of hope. The US Department of Defence has announced a CAS “jousting” for the F-35 versus the A-10 in 2018. Rather late, but probably due to the fact that the Pentagon needs more time to prep the far from ready-developed new stealthy multi-role fighter. Advocators for the A-10 – including former high-ranking Air Force officers – are now strongly suggesting the Air Force to not “boneyard” any A-10 until the CAS tests of the F-35 are done.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The value of the A-10 has been underlined big time, when it was key in re-enforcing Europe last year with Russia projecting its military power on NATO’s borders there. Seen here landing at Spangdahlem AB, Germany (Image © Dennis Spronk)