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.”)
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.