F-35 better at close air support than originally thought?

Everyone knows I’ve been pretty critical — and quite skeptical — about the F-35. And I’ve also been a big supporter of keeping the A-10, given its superb close air support function.

But a comment on a thread I’ve been following helped molify some of my concerns. (Key word “some.”)

Dark Peasant:

For A-10 jockeys out there who haven’t been able to grasp the concept that things change, here are some comments from the F-35 ‘Myth Busting” sites:


Ground support; Pierre says you need to be able to turn slowly, have a large gun and be on station for 4-6 hours. First up; if you can see through your aircraft, using 360 degree thermal (IR) imagery, as well as receive realtime footage of the fight from UAVs, friendly air and ground assets, why do you need to have the pilot flying slowly over the dangerous target area, gawking through through his canopy?

And as for the gun; when the A-10’s GAU-8 fires; 80% of it’s rounds will land within a 12m diameter circle. That assumes that you’re not trying to hit a moving target and are firing from 1.2km away. With a SDB II (GBU-53), an F-35 or other fighter with the right sensors, can hit within 1m of a target from up to 72km away and will will destroy or disable vehicles within a 10m radius. It’s kill radius will naturally differ based on environment, but you could easily expect soldiers to be incapacitated or killed at twice that.

Furthermore, on the topic of CAS; one issue that soldiers face when ordering air support is that when they order it, they need to retire or take cover. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have learned to recognise this, and in response, will go into hiding / take cover, only to strike again later. By being able to have CAS available at least 3 times faster (even more so considering how the F-35 is going to saturate future airspace), you can cut down or eliminate the problem. If you need endurance or overwatch, get a UCAV and have it supply CAS for a couple of days at a time.

A lot of you guys are smarter than me. What are your thoughts?

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and entrepreneur who spent nine years running a weekly newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.


12 thoughts on “F-35 better at close air support than originally thought?

  1. I’m a big fan of the A-10 and nothing in the current or projected inventory comes close to it!


  2. Stan – on the road, but will post when I get back to a real keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger, brother. Looking forward to hearing your wisdom!


      • Stan –
        Looks to me as though ‘Dark Peasant’ might have a dog in the fight – and what’s up with the snark: “For A-10 jockeys out there who haven’t been able to grasp the concept that things change…”?
        I’m not opposed to swapping arguments – or even insults – with someone, but snark just gets my motor moving a little bit.
        Personally, I think the Army Air Corps quit being an effective fighting unit about the same time they quit being the Army Air Corps. They did a fine job of carpet bombing densely populated areas of Europe, but nothing else comes to mind since then.
        As far as that “…things change” crap, how about the A-1? It was an old beat up prop job that all the hot-shot jet jockeys (USAF) used to laugh at. Of course, it could loiter over the battlefield for hours, carry a boat load of ordnance, and blow the smack out of the bad guys sitting a few yards in front of your position. Just for grins, there were also documented instances of them going head-to-head with Migs and shooting them down.
        Things change? Not really. The procurement folks are always going to bought off by the Govt contractors, the military are always going to be stuck with the latest gee-whiz crap, and the taxpayers are stuck footing the bill.
        Whoever came up with the “Joint” part of this project pretty well made it bullet proof against cancellation. You’ve got all the services slated to get it, production facilities all over the country, (so lots of senators and congress critters will keep voting regardless of the merits), and lots of lobbyists raking in the big bucks to keep it going.
        I think “Joint” projects go along with “Comprehensive” legislation. You just keep throwing more and more stuff in there and everyone making money on the result is happy.
        The Army’s rotary wing aircraft seems to set a good example. They have a good variety of platforms, each designed for very specific missions. It makes sense to (1) identify the mission, then (2) design the platform. The design, testing, and deployment is much more direct and simple, and KISS is still a valid operating principle.
        Trying to force multiple missions on one platform is a sure recipe for disaster. B-1 Bomber anyone? Billions and billions spent, and obsolete before it was released.

        /time to stop.


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