Senator Kelly Ayotte pulled the fire alarm which warned the country that the Air Force was considering mothballing the A-10. Her decision to drop her bid to block the White House’s nomination of Deborah Lee James as US Air Force Secretary in no way signals the end of the emergency.
It in no way signals that the battle is over either. In fact, residents of Tucson, Arizona and more importantly, the troops that rely on the A-10, now have a clearly defined battle plan because multiple sources state the Pentagon is weighing the USAF proposal and have already expressed numerous concerns with A-10 divestment in FY15.
If the battle cannot be won by asking one simple question: If not the A-10 then what? It can be won by calling your senator and congressperson and asking them the simple question. If they stumble and say drones, or the F-35, or the F-16, tell them the facts.
• Nothing provides the Close Air Support like the A-10. Nothing now and nothing will be available for at least 10 more years that will provide the kind of CAS that the A-10 does.
• Drones can’t do the job. According to an article in the Defense Times, it costs more money to use drones (24-hour combat air patrol) than F-16s. “It costs more people to man a CAP (drone) than it does to man a full squadron. The data link is vulnerable. The machine is vulnerable. The command and control is vulnerable. So we have built into it the one thing you don’t want to build into any military approach, and that is vulnerability.”
• The F-35, according to sources, was not created for Close Air Support. Even if it were retasked, the F-35 will not be operational to conduct CAS missions against moving targets until 2022 or later. The F-35 program has not met a single milestone yet, which further adds doubt about the USAF’s plan.
All of which might lead to another question to ask your elected representatives: Are our sons and daughters on the ground supposed to wait for the USAF’s latest pet project to get up to speed?
It is because we do not live in a perfect world, and because we live in a world occupied by very flawed, very human beings, that the A-10’s planned demise is an issue. In a perfect world, the fighter boys of the Air Force’s Top Brass would set their own preferences aside and recognize that their fantasy of a future of only air wars is a fantasy. War is ugly, never ideal. While we all unrealistically fantasize of a world without war, we would never have been so idealistic as to think that they will only be fought from the sky.
If we lived in a world where public servants recognized that we live in a time of limited resources, meaning tax dollars, those public servants would put the needs of the taxpayers and the lives of the men and women, who fight for the freedom of those taxpayers, first.. and foremost… and they would choose the best and most economical option available.
But we don’t.
So now, it is incumbent on those soldiers and taxpayers to contact their elected representatives and ask the one simple question: If not the A-10, then what?
Ask them to form a bipartisan coalition to save the A-10… and the taxpayers’ money…. and the lives of our soldiers on the ground.