Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kicking And Screaming

h/t Remus

For years, the Air Farce, loathe to keep anything that didn't go Mach 2 in afterburner, and was ugly, in a permanent preference for high-speed low-drag wunderjets with per-airframe costs approaching numbers that would have bought the entire Air Farce a few decades back, have now had to re-adjust to adult supervision at DoD, and the ongoing realities that the F-35 Thunderjug is a monumental waste of time, money, and effort worthy of the DoD boondoggles last seen under whiz-kid idiot savant Robert McNamara (ptui!).

Having brought the world the Ford Edsel while heading up Henry's car company, he moved into the DoD, and gave us such miracles as the Ho Chi Minh Trail interdiction system, which saved South Vietnam from the horrors of communism, the abortionesque adoption of the original M-16, which only took two generations to unfuck, and pinnacle of his tenure as SecDef, the F-111 Dual-Role Catastrophe, which was so unworkable the Navy literally mutinied, and the air admirals told him to go fuck himself, and then shitcanned it, leaving the Air Farce to try and salvage the thing.

His spiritual heirs brought us the multi-service disasterpiece F-35 Thunderjug (now only about twenty years behind schedule, at multiple times the original cost, half the capability promised, with foreign commitments and orders disappearing like rabbis at a Klan rally, and still largely unable to fly any of its missions, with no idea when that will change) and the recockulous idea that an F-16 whizzing by with a severely limited gun system and travelling at 600MPH can do the same CAS job as the aircraft it was to replace could do going 200MPH, and built around an enormous gun, and bristling with hardpoints and low-level CAS capabilities built into it from the get-go.

I'm talking, of course, about the multiple-times-issued-termination-orders A-10, originally left behind by the Air Farce in Desert Storm, until Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf suggested ever so politely to his air commander the earnest suggestion that he either "get those m*****f*****s here this week, or start looking for jobs in aerospace after your sudden and early retirement", or words to that effect. It seems that after rehearsing for over a decade to use them in combined-arms battles against Soviet armored hordes, Norm thought somehow they might be useful against Iraqi brigades of Soviet armor. Whereupon, they miraculously appeared in theatre, in plenty of time to give Saddam's forces, from Soviet-made front-line tanks to Toyota pickups laden with booty from Kuwait City, the drubbing they had earned in 1991.

They not only worked as planned, they also tended to bring their pilots back, despite taking terrific amounts of AAA.

Then did the same thing in 2003, and for a decade-plus since in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So after announcing yet again (third time? fourth? I've lost count...) that they were going away for good, between reality kicking in, and hue and cry in Congress, they're not only back, they're now staying around well into the next decade.
Citing budgetary reasons, Air Force leaders had said they planned to begin retiring its fleet of A-10s as soon as this year. Some Air Force personnel maintained that other air assets such as the F-16 and emerging F-35 multi-role stealth fighter would be able to fill the mission gap and perform close air support missions once the A-10 retired. 
However, a chorus of concern from lawmakers and the A-10s exemplary performance in the ongoing air attacks against ISIS – has lead the Air Force to extend the planned service life of the aircraft well into the 2020s. Despite the claim that other air assets could pick up the close air support mission, advocates for the A-10 consistently state that the platform has an unmatched ability to protect ground troops and perform the close air support mission.
 Now, the Air Force has a begun a three-pronged strategy to replace or sustain the A-10 which involves looking at ways to upgrade and preserve the existing aircraft, assessing what platforms might be available on the market today or designing a new close-air-support airplane.

In the past I sparred with a person or two still serving, for suggesting that the decision to yet-again shitcan the ugly, slow, and entirely unglamorous, but thoroughly combat-lethal A-10 was short-sighted foolishness stemming from severe mental retardation, and/or a Class V (beyond the chin) cranio-rectal impaction. Probably both.

Nice of the Air Farce's fighter mafia to be dragged to the same conclusion, albeit kicking and screaming. I'm wondering how much the decision had to do with this personnel placement decision last December:

Whatever the reason, hordes of grunts in both services will be happy about the decision to keep the ugly Warthog flying low cover, and raining shitstorms of hurt onto the enemy with a sound like farting death from a dragon of hell.

I also suggested that if the wing wipers didn't want the ugly old sumbitch, the Key West agreement should be re-visited, and the airframes split equally between Army Aviation and Marine Corps Air, both of whom would fly the things for a paltry additional few decades, unless or until the Air Farce recalls that one of their central missions is Close Air Support of the Army's battle, something Marine Air officers are fed for breakfast from their first day in the Corps.

The only modification likely necessary to transition the A-10 to Marine service would be the addition of a bayonet mounting lug somewhere near the nose of the plane.

And probably a bottle opener, cup holder, and a Skoal-sized slot to hold a can of dip.

NASCAR sponsorship of individual aircraft would be entirely optional, but heartily encouraged.


Nocomachinist said...

Laughing my ass off at "Let me sing you the song of my people...."
I Love the A-10!

Anonymous said...

Ugly? My Daddy always said that beauty is as beauty does, by that standard the Warthog is one beautiful bird.

I just love the thought process that went into the design:

Hey, those guys built a big honkin' gun that'll kill anything ground-mobile that it's aimed at, up to and including the baddest Russian tanks out there. Let's build an airplane around it!

Mark D

RandyGC said...

Being a targeting officer that actually looked at results, my evaluation of the F-16 was that it was a wonderful airplane if you didn't have any fighters or bombers available.

Got me into a few "conversations" when I told McPeak's (spit) staff that the reason they got large ass area targets assigned is that was the only type they "might" be able to hit 50% if the time. JDAM and other PGMs are the only reason Electric Lawn Darts are even close to marginally useful in air to mud today.

Never actually worked A-10's, I was focused on deeper targets (C3CM and interdiction) rather than CAS, but even I can tell the difference between an F-350 and a corvette with jacked up tires.

I do have to say, despite it's origins, the F-111 was one of my go to birds (the other being the A-6) for deep/precision strikes in the late 80's early 90's. Fortunately, given what a maintenance queen it was, the F-15E was showing every promise of filling it's role as they came on line in the early 90's when I got out and seem to have fulfilled that promise.

Aesop said...

The F-111 was a decent deep strike bomber for USAF, to take over the Thud's former forte.
It was just too goddam big, fat, and heavy to try and sling off of carriers, which news the Navy tried, unsuccessfully to beat into McNamara's pea brain. So they simply revolted, and shitcanned the whole program.
We haven't had one deliberately joint combat bird that worked well for multiple services other than the F-4 Phantom, AFAIK.

But the news that the A-10 isn't going away any time soon must have somebody's panties at GC twisted into square knots.

Butch S. said...

With Fairchild out of the picture, I've often wondered if Northrop could update it's YA-9 design as a replacement for the A-10. From what I've read, the decision between them for the A-X contract was more about keeping a struggling defense contractor in the game rather than a clear advantage in capability of one aircraft over the other. I love the Warthog, but the newest one flying is 30 years old at this point, and I'd much rather see it replaced by another bird designed from the wheels up for the CAS mission.