While quietly providing Close Air Support to the Iranians in the ugly battle against ISIL, the A-10 is being snubbed here at home. It is all part of the USAF’s ongoing Operation Destroy CAS.
The USAF is attempting to once again bail out on the Warthog, while the Warthog bails out the world.
If that may seem to be hyperbolic statement, sadly it isn’t.
According to a DefenseNews article, US Air Force FY17 Budget: Expect Consistency As CR Looms, the USAF is sticking to its plan to mothball the A-10. Although the A-10 is deployed to more locations for combat and theatre protection than any other fighter, and ISIL is waging a ground war, the USAF has even gone so far as to omit the airframe as a topic of discussion at Air Force Association’s annual Air & Space Conference this week.
The A-10 is answering the priorities of two Combatant Commanders and doing so more than any other fighter in the USAF. CENTCOM has requested even more A-10s and is going to station them at two separate locations within his area of responsibility (AOR). No other fighter is being tasked in this way. Further, CENTCOM explicitly trusts the aircraft and Attack pilot community to fulfill many roles not the least of which is the Overall Mission Commander position for high visibility tasks across the entire AOR. This role places the A-10 in charge of the entire air power structure (fixed and rotary wing) during these important strike missions.
Thanks to The Project On Government Oversight, the world now knows to what lengths Lockheed Martin resorted to in order to keep at least a few of the F-35 aircraft flight-worthy during recent testing, it is still unclear as to what lengths the USAF will go to sell the A-10 as unworthy. Because it is as much a matter of saving face, as it is a desire to end CAS, the USAF will likely go to whatever lengths it takes.
General Mark Welsh, according to DefenseNews, “did not specifically acknowledge that the A-10 retirement remains in the budget, but his words hint to his thinking: “Go back to our starting on a strategic-planning process — the story is consistent,” he said. “It has to be. You can’t keep changing the right answer. If the analysis still applies, if the priorities are still the same from the combatant commanders, and the operational analysis supports the priorities, then the answers probably won’t change.”
The only problem with that logic is that they haven’t arrived at the right answer because their priorities do not reflect the reality of war. We will certainly fight a different war well into the future, and maybe well into the future the F-35 will be able to make it off the ground, but the world will not sit idly by waiting to fight a war the USAF wants to fight.
Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute told DefenseNews that Operation Destroy CAS will fail, however the USAF has “to put it in the ’17 budget request, because they need to have it in the ’18 request, and they can’t be seen as flip-floppers. They have to be consistent in asking for it again so when they come back in ’18 perhaps something will have changed, either in the politics, budget or the reality of the capability argument.”
It is because of that sort of political maneuvering that the USAF continues to incur criticism. In an article on DoDbuzz.com about the USAF decision to snub the A-10 at this week’s conference, popular USAF critic USAF, Col. Tony Carr (ret), said the omission of the A-10 was probably part of an effort to avoid the topic. Carr, a Distinguished Flying Cross winner and publisher of the military website, John Q. Public, said “My guess is that the decision was made to avoid talking about it because it’s considered a contentious subject and leaders don’t want to make statements that can later be turned against favored narratives one way or another.” Carr concluded, “But when you consider the role the A-10 has been playing against ISIS and in Europe, it’s really a huge disservice to a great many airmen that it’s not going to be prominently discussed.”