Monday, April 4, 2016

Sounds like some Air Force generals need to be fired

Strategy Page reports on the concerted effort by the Air Force to get rid of the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground support aircraft.

[The] hostile attitude by air force leadership to the A-10 is nothing new. It got so bad in 2015 that the general commanding the ACC (Air Combat Command) was fired (because of Congressional pressure) for giving a speech in which he declared that any air force personnel speaking out publicly in favor of the A-10 were guilty of treason. While ACC is in charge of most combat aircraft (fighters, bombers, recon and ground attack) ACC leadership has long believed that the A-10 has outlived its usefulness and that its ground support job could be done just as well by fighters like the F-16 and F-35. Experience in combat has shown that this is not true, but apparently to senior people in the air force backing the truth, at least when it comes to the A-10, is treasonous.

While the air force leadership officially denounced the “supporting the A-10 is treason” remarks it was recently revealed that while those apologies were being made those same air force generals were trying to sabotage the A-10 by quietly cutting major maintenance programs 40 percent. This meant that a growing number of A-10s would not be available for service because of “maintenance issues.” It is believed that such excuses would not include the fact that the maintenance problems were self-inflicted by the air force leadership and it would instead be implied that the age of the A-10s was a factor.

The air force has been trying to retire its A-10 aircraft since the 1990s and this time (since late 2014) they tried issuing studies and analyses showing that the A-10 was too specialized and too old to justify the cost of keeping it in service. This generated more opposition, and more effective opposition, than the air forces expected. This was helped by the fact that some of the “studies” were more spin than impartial analysis. All this created unwanted publicity about something the air force denies exists but is nevertheless very real; the air force has never really wanted to devote much resources to CAS (Close Air Support) for ground forces. Officially this is not true but in reality it is and the ground forces (army and marines) and historians provided plenty of evidence.

There's more at the link.

Hmmm . . . From the US Air Force Blue Book on Values:

Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do. These are the Air Force Core Values. Study them . . . understand them . . . follow them . . . and encourage others to do the same.

Methinks some Air Force generals need to re-read those values, particularly the first one . . . those generals, that is, who aren't too far gone in lack of values, and who need to be fired pour encourager les autres (as Voltaire would put it).



tweell said...

The Perfumed Princes of the Pentagon are politicians first and bureaucrats second, a few can handle logistics. Strategic and tactical issues are handled by staff. Leadership? Integrity? Not on their watch!

Paul Campbell said...

I say put those generals with the infantry close in with the enemy and see if they really hate the A-10s! I don't understand why they don't want anything that isn't mach 1 or 2 capable and cost hundreds of millions each. It makes no sense. It is hard to imagine a time when a few A-10s would not be handy.

My old unit (Arkansas ANG, based in Fort Smith, 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Flying Razorbacks) used to fly A-10s and flew them in the Middle East. Now they fly drones after the USAF took the A-10 from them. Oh the pain!

My time with the 188th I did maintenance on the F-100 and F-101. That was in the 1970's.

Jonathan H said...

The Air Force got the Army's tactical aircraft under the 1959 Key West agreement in return for a promise to prove CAS to the Army; if they don't want the job, why not let the Army have the planes back?

Chris Nelson said...

Maybe the generals are serving the defence contractors instead of their country? The air fleet isn't the only shame, the darn missile forces need revamping too.

Roy said...

I have always considered it to have been a mistake to make the Air Force a separate service back in 1947. This is one of the reasons.

Anonymous said...

Ground support - A-6, A-4, A-10, Super Tacano, etc.

Mach <> Ground Support

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

The Air Farce hates the A-10, and at the same time won't let the Army have fixed wing combat assets. Hell, give 'em to the Marines, rather than trashing them. Seems an on-going upgrade program like the B-52's had could keep the CAS mission viable as long. BUFF crews are flying aircraft their daddy's flew in 'Nam, for crying out loud. Nobody's talking about killing the 52's!

Will said...

CAS can be hazardous and doesn't generate air-air kills to any real extent. NOT Glamorous enough for them!

Yeah, they should be folded back into the Army.

Anonymous said...

Chris Nelson nails it. If you're a pentagon general, that means that post-service life, and a possibly VERY lucrative second career with a defense contractor is in your near future... now, say you spend the last few years of your career promoting the maintenance and upgrade of a proven, and relatively inexpensive older platform. Say your civvy liaison at defensecon industries is trying to decide which former general to give the corner office and the expense account with the accompanying black tie dinners position to... will the guy who has been promoting his shiny new, multi-multi-million dollar buck rogers gadget, or the gentleman who has been supporting his troops by supporting old reliable, which consumes parts, but doesn't generate near the revenue- get the job. What is your favorite program going to be? (My view is that if there's even the appearance that you're making that decision based on a quid pro quo expectation, you ought to be rousted out with no pension. It's despicable)

Dirk said...

Not saying I agree with all of his points, but Michael Z Williamson (SF author) had an interesting post about the A-10 in October last year.

Anonymous said...

The rational is that the USAF needs the ground and support crews for the F-22 and F-35. It would seem to me that retraining the crews from F-16 and F-15's would be the normal migration pathway, those are the aircraft that will be replaced, not the A-10.

111th Fighter squadron lost their A-10's as well.


PapaMAS said...

Yep, the generals are political jerks - that's how they got to be generals. Yep, the Air Force "owns" almost all fixed wing aircraft - that's so the politicians and bureaucrats have an easy way to understand budget requests in the ongoing Puzzle Palace turf wars. And, Yep, The Air Force is doing a dis-service (see what I did there?) to the other branches by persistently trying to kill off the best CAS plane ever. But to claim the Air Force needs to go away because of it is just plain ignorant. Try having the guy on the ground screaming for CAS to run an organization responsible for global air attack, air defense, strategic bombing, recon, air mobility, space assets, etc. CAS is just one small part of the job.

harp1034 said...

As Jonathan H. said if the Air Force won't do the job then give the A-10s to the Army. It would take an act of Congress to do it.

hightecrebel said...

The issues with the Air Force extend far beyond the 'leadership' related to the A-10. ACC especially wants nothing but the latest gen fighter, as evidenced by the lack of support for not just the A-10, but the active opposition to and elimination of the MC-12W from the ACC inventory. If it doesn't do air-to-air, they don't care. It's not just the birds they ignore or try to eliminate, it's the people too. If they could have nothing but fighters and fighter pilots, they'd be perfectly happy leaving everything else to contractors.

Anonymous said...

Yada, Yada, Yada.

How many times are we going to dredge up this tired issue? Ask yourself;
1. Do I have any understanding of the involved issues?
2. Would I change my opinion even if the facts didnt support my position?

I suspect the answer to both is; No.

Its a great story so folks cant let it go. The big bad generals and the ugly duckling. Its a Story.

I wont go into the details, or Facts (OMG, facts!) I've done it many times before but nobody really wants to hear them because, well, it might ruin the Story.

I specialized in CAS for 28 years. Limited resources, the Army owns it. Yes, hard to believe but they own the assets, the AF operates them. The A10 is not a survivable platform, great fun, great Story, but for other-than picking on poor defensless tribesmen its dead.

Get over it.

Anonymous said...

I have some serious doubts about the "Anonymous" who posted at 17:03 on 05-Apr-2016 as a working CAS. It sounds too much like several progressive pol's who claim "some have said" without attributing even one "some".

> The A10 is not a survivable platform, great fun, great Story, but for other-than picking on poor defensless tribesmen its dead.

Excuse me? You have to be either kidding or totally clueless. The A10 is still THE most suitable delivery vehicle we have for CAS against armored vehicles. It also would be the most suitable vehicle for precision delivery of that time-tested non-precision munition: napalm, which needs to become a mainstay in our efforts to deny ISIS the ability to move columns of troops and vehicles.

I agree with those who suggested giving the A10s to the Marines. They've traditionally flown the best "down and dirty" CAS in history.

Anonymous said...

Any opponent that has any quantity of functional armored vehicles also has functional s-300 or s-400 missile systems. Those systems will blot an A-10 out of the sky at 50 to 100 miles.

Michael Williams point is that nothing but stealth will survive in a contested battlefield, and that on a non contested battlefield any old thing can drop close air support. A-10, C-130, B-52, some hybrid P-8 not yet developed, whatever. This is why the OV-10 Bronco has come back.

The A-10 was designed to fight tanks, not as a counter-insurgency aircraft. It's an expensive counter-insurgency aircraft, and a useless one against modern armor defended by modern missiles, that is why the Air Force wants to quit wasting resources on it. And I speak as a pilot who wanted nothing more out of my entire life than to fly the warthog and shoot that gun. But it's time is past.


Jeremiah Weed said...

A couple of points, if I may:

WRT the source document, Maj Gen Post was the Vice Commander of ACC, not the Commander. That's a 4-star billet.

Jonathan H: The Key West Agreement was signed in 1948 and expanded upon by the Pace-Finletter MOU of 1952. Paragraph 2 of the latter deals with "close combat support." Those two documents would seem to refute harp1034's claim that it would take an act of Congress. It would just seem to take having adults in the room.

To the first Anonymous's list of great CAS aircraft, I would add the A-1E Skyraider.

To the commenter above who says an A-10 will get killed 50-100 miles out, I would suggest a remedial class on combat employment of one's aircraft.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah, I had never heard of combat employment of aircraft. My bad. Let me go look that up. . . . . . Ok, got it now. Thanks for the heads up.

So, I combat employ my Warthogs having previously made a Wild Weasel sweep with my F-35's. They use terrain masking to get within Maverick range of the armor. Hm, no, don't need Warthogs to get within 20 miles of the armor, I have drones and Vipers for that. So, I get within 4000 yards of the armor (maximum gun range) with my Warthogs, and I start making gun passes.

The bad guys (not limited to Russia and China, by the way. Algeria, Azerbaijan and Armenia also deploy mature S-300 systems, just to list the "A's"). Where was I. . .

Oh yes, the bad guys wait until they hear from the armored units that they are being shot up, then they fire 12, independently targeted, active radar homing, networked, look down/shoot down, Mach 9 missles from concealed launchers that weren't targeted by your Wild Weasels because they look like tractor trailer rigs (only they can go offroad), and they weren't emitting, and they were 70 MILES from the armor. The missles arrive overhead in less than 2 minutes, start scanning a 100 square mile target box, find the warthogs, and hit them with a 300 lb blast fragmentation warheads with 17,000 fragments per missle. Your Warthogs made maybe 3 passes, taking out possibly 6 pieces of armor if they never missed (they missed, trust me, but lets be optimistic). Oh, and now I've lost those Warthogs and their drivers (the Hog is armored for hits from the front, sides, rear, and underneath, but their canopy won't do much good against an overhead blast from that warhead). And, no, flying low and dodging between hills doesn't work against a missle with its own terminal guidance diving down from 70,000 feet or so.

Meanwhile, my Vipers launched JDAM's from 15 miles out, Mavericks from 20 miles out, or JSOW's from 70 miles away, and will not be in the target box when the S-300's arrive.

Looks like you're either back to using overpriced, single mission aircraft to shoot at armed goatherders, or throwing away all your Warthogs on their first anti-armor engagement.

This is why the Air Force doesn't want the Hog. This is why OV-10's may be making a comeback. If you're going to fly COIN aircraft, use some cheap and versitile ones, with an observer, a utility bay for emergency supply drop or clandestine Operator insertion, or litter carrying.

The Hog is too much for one mission, and not enough for the other ones. It is an arthritic one trick pony who's trick has become impossible. And no one will miss it more than I. I LOVE me some Warthogs, but you dont get a pass on the math just because your plane is beloved.


Michael Adams said...

It's funny how things work out. There wee some old frame barracks buildings left over in Austin, from WWII. The University of Texas converted them into married student housing, very logical, since there were so many service men and some women, returning from the War, coming to town to continue their educations. Forty years later, when young married couple who brought home from the hospital to live in those converted barracks, were starting their own young families in those same frame barracks, some of the big wigs at the University wanted to sell the land to condo developers. So, for two or three years, they had their maintenance guys paint the exterior walls without scraping off the old paint. Of course, it flaked in a few months, and the maintenance guys claims that paint just won't stick to that old wood. (This was at the time that my wife and I were rehabbing our first old house, scraping and then painting.) This utter nonsense was part of the barrage of misinformation and disinformation shoveled out to justify tearing down the ugly but very serviceable old barracks/apartments, say8ing that there would be increased financial aid to those married families who's be forced to rent on the economy. (Surprise:There was none.) So, deferring or neglecting maintenance is a time honored bureaucratic trick to get rid of an unglamorous asset, to feather the bureaucratic nest, or to throw some dough in the direction of a favored contractor, or maybe both. One can never be sure.

0007 said...

Was that before or after those same S-300s shot down your Vipers and '35's at 70 miles there, anon? Of course here you are making a real reach on the 35 being operational by then as well... And the JDAM is also vulnerable to many of the newer sov-block missiles.

Anonymous said...

Not "anon". Been signing as FormerFlyer to every post and comment since before Y2K.

F35 was an optimistic example for Jerimiah, since he seemed to think that "combat employment" would save his Warthogs. Since we apparently threw away all the Wobbly Goblins, and the 20 B2's will be busy, I granted him a best case stealth strike for SAM suppression. At least the F35's might have taken out any S-300's they actually flew over, giving him a couple passes with the Hogs and a chance of survival for the Vipers.

If, in fact, you don't have stealth SAM suppression your F16's are toast, too. Then nothing survives that isn't stealth. Which has been Michael Williamson's point all along. And the Airforce's.

The future is probably stealth and drones for modern enemies, and any old bomb truck and cheap COIN bird for shooting Wogs.

With the proliferation of accurate missiles, and cheap drones,I suspect the last fighter pilots are probably being born right now. There just won't be room for high-G manned aircraft in a future contested environment. And you don't need high G airplanes to shoot machine guns or drop smart bombs on Goat herders.