Tag Archives: Fairchild Republic

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)

Photo Essay: USAF Warthogs reinforce Romania

In an attempt to boost Europe’s defenses in an attempt to scare of Russia, the US Air Force now sent a so-called Theater Security Package of 12 Republic Fairchild A-10 thunderbolt II attack jets to Romania on 30 March 2015. The A-10s arrived from Germany, where they were previously deployed.

Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
RELATED FEATURE: A-10 Theater Security Package arrives at Spangdahlem

The dozen Warthogs – as the nickname for the planes go – landed at Câmpia Turzii, where six USAF F-16C Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Airbase last month had been training with the Romanian Air Force’s 71st Air Base’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s as well, the Lancers of A, B (ground attack) and C (interceptor) versions that call Campia Turzii home. The A-10s will be their guests for three months and are from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan AFB, and immediately came in action a day later by “taking out” a car that served as training target on the ground.

Many of the joint training missions flown have been labeled Dacian Thunder 2015. According to Romanian Air Force sources they will involve 11 of the 12 American A-10s, but only four of the officially 36 Romanian MiG-21s, plus six license-built IAR-330 Puma helicopters in both SOCAT (assault) and medevac configuration.

The Romanian Air Force is currently upgrading its capabilities, with a dozen American-made F-16 aircraft on their way. The first Romanian pilots already flew the F-16 solo (read here).

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Breaking left at Campia Turzii (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)

A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is parked off the runway of Turzii, Romania, on 1 April 2015 (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is parked off the runway of 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)
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 dummy vehicle serving as a target for the A-10s rotary canon (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
A dummy vehicle serving as a target for the A-10s rotary canon (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
After the strafing run (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
After the strafing run (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
Caught on camera flying over Campia Turzii, Romania (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
Caught on camera flying over Campia Turzii, Romania (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
A row of USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Campia Turzii, Romania, on 1 April 2015. The Theater Security Packages like this one have been named Operation Atlantic Resolve. (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)
A row of USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Campia Turzii, Romania, on 1 April 2015. The Theater Security Packages like this one have been named Operation Atlantic Resolve. (Image © Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / US Air Force)

Opinion: Future USAF Close-Air Support – no longer the A-team

The close-air support that the US Air Force provides to ground troops will in the near future no longer be executed by the A-team, but by the F-team. Despite sending A-10C attack aircraft to Iraq, Syria and Europe, the Pentagon top brass seems eager to keep moving forward with retiring the plane best equipped for the task. According to a fresh report by The Washington Post CAS will be done by standard fighter jets instead.

For many air forces having so-called multi-role fighters doing everything is business as usual, since they don’t have the luxury of having specialized planes for specialized tasks. A larger military like the US Air Force should be able to protect and support its men and women in combat in a more profound way.

Stealthy fighter jets and high-flying drones won’t do all the tricks needed. Built around a big gun and with wings that can hold almost anything the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II is the best plane on the battlefield when it comes down to close-air support. As long as the threat from enemy air-superiority fighters is handled with care by planes well suited for that role – like the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lighting IIs.

Moving A-10 pilots to McDonnell Douglas/Boeing-designed F-15E Strike Eagles and the smaller General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon – the current plan of the American top generals – is like moving SUV drivers into Mini Coopers. Sure, the Minis look sexier and are fun on the road, but they don’t provide your family with the same robustness and storage space you need in rough terrain.

A knife edge pass by a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. Sometimes, life is simple. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The big wings make the F-15E clearly visible once its starts moving around (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The F-15E was designed to strike and is a derivative of the F-15C meant as air-superiority fighter. Due to its large wings the Strike Eagle can be spotted easily from miles away once it starts moving around.

The smaller F-16 is commonly used in the close-air support role by many air forces, but the plane with the nickname Viper is much more vulnerable to small arms fire. A Viper jock cannot have one of its engine castings been blown to pieces by low-tech hostiles on the ground – it only has one engine, while the A-10 pilot can still fly and land the plane even if it sustained considerable damage. War operations like the one above former Yugoslavia in 1990s have shown this.

And then there is the issue of pilot safety. The F-15s and F-16s might be able to fly faster, but in hilly or mountainous terrain speed is not always a solution. Moreover, Strike Eagles and Fighting Falcons don’t have an armoured cockpit like the A-10s have – something that is quite useful when being fired upon from below by cheap Kalashnikov rifles.

Whobbling a bit in windy conditions this RNLAF F-16AM comes in to land at Schleswig Airbase, Germany, during the NATO Tiger Meet 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The USAF might learn a trick or two from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, which has been using F-16s in the close-air support role since the 1980s, including during war ops in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. (Image © Marcel Burger)

Going forward with retiring the A-10 and letting close-air support being provided by standard fighter jets alone, will both reduce safety and security for the fighter jocks and the men and women on the ground the US Air Force has vowed to protect and serve. Even the top generals must admit that, having sent A-10s quickly to the Iraqi battlefield to fight ISIS and to Europe as a necessary safety back-up with Russia rising. Without the A-10 or a credible successor the American air weapon will move itself from being an A-team to a B-team when it comes to CAS – no matter what new tactics are cooked up.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Final approach at Spangdahlem of one of a dozen A-10s the USAF sent to Europe in light of Russia rising
(Image © Dennis Spronk)

Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
When it comes to CAS, this A-10 is way ahead of the F-16s chasing it. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

More details on European USAF operations

The US Air Force has released more details on coming deployment of military aircraft to Europe. The deployments come on top of the current deployment of A-10 tank killers to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. Air National Guard (ANG) F-15s and F-16s will also head to Europe, along with U.S. Air Force Reserve Command A-10s.

The arrival of F-15s was announced earlier, but details now also reveal what these Eagles are up to while in Europe. The F-15s participate in exercise Thracian Eagle this spring at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria, plus Exercise Saber Strike and Baltic operations this summer in the Baltic States and Poland. Rumours about ANG F-15s taking part in Dutch exercise Frisian Flag 2015 at Leeuwarden airbase, are – for now – just that; rumours.

This spring, F-16s will fly to Ämari Air Base in Estonia and Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. Reserve A-10s are expected to go to Bulgaria. Furthermore, detachments of C-130s and F-16s will keep rotating through Powidz Air Base in Poland.

The movements are part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The US also says it takes part in exercise Eager Lion in Morocco this spring,  Anatolian Eagle in Turkey in June, plus Arctic Challenge in Norway.

In a move related to the increased USAF presence in Europe, the US Army has said it will station two dozen more UH-60 Black Hawk helos in Germany.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A US Air Force F-15 refuels from a tanker. (Image © Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler / USAF)

That big gun in the front is what the A-10 is all about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
One of the A-10s currently deployed in Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

A-10 tank busters arrive in Germany

US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts arrived at Spandahlem Airbase in Germany on 13 February 2015. The twelve tank killers are part of the first US Theater Security Package (TSP) to be deployed to Europe. The USAF’s announcement of this TSP came as a surprise on 10 February 2015.

The A-10s involved belong to the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The aircraft flew to Spangdahlem via Langley AFB in Virginia and Lajes in the Azores (great footage here) in the Atlantic Ocean. Support came from a 305th Air Mobility Wing KC-10 Extender, while upon arrival a pair of Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets were playing around in the airspace near Spangdahlem as well.

Emergency
The arrival didn’t go smoothly – two made an emergency divert to Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. According to eye-witnesses one landed hard with a fair amount of smoke and ending next to the runway on a taxiway. His buddy landed shortly afterwards and taxied to the eastern part of the busy international airport. No big damage done, but a minor smudge for the PR guys and girls it is.

The Thunderbolts will stay in Europe for up to six months. The USAF has said this is the first of more Theater Security Packages. Although by far nothing compared to the huge annual exercise Reforger during the Cold War, the sudden order to send a squadron of a dozen “Warthogs” to strengthen the defences in Europe is seen as a clear sign to Vladimir Putin.

In Washington’s eyes the Russian president has destabilized Europe by first taking the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and then increasingly supporting separation of Eastern Ukraine from the rest of that country with weapons and troops.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A side one view of an A-10 marked '12AF', arriving at Spangdahlem. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A side on view of an A-10 marked ’12AF’, arriving at Spangdahlem. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
That big gun in the front is what the A-10 is all about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
That big gun in the front is what the A-10 is all about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Fuel along the way for the A-10 reinforcements to Spangdahlem came from this McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, seen landing here at 13 February 2015 at the Germany airbase (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Fuel along the way for the A-10 reinforcements came from this McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, seen here just before landing at Spangdahlem. The aircraft is from the 305th Air Mobility Wing out of Joint Base McGuire, New Jersey (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Concenrating on landing. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Concentrating on landing. (Image © Dennis Spronk)