Why is the F-35 replacing the A-10?

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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disconnectedradical

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 05:15

As I understand, the F-35 would be a fine replacement for the F-16, F/A-18 classics, and AV-8. But it is also being advertised as an A-10 replacement. This is something that I don't quite understand, since I don't think the F-35 can perform CAS nearly as well as an A-10 would. This is no knock on the F-35, since an F-16 or F/A-18 also isn't nearly as good at CAS. I'd imagine that jets like F-16, F/A-18, and F-35 lack the loiter time of the A-10.
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XanderCrews

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 07:16

disconnectedradical wrote:As I understand, the F-35 would be a fine replacement for the F-16, F/A-18 classics, and AV-8. But it is also being advertised as an A-10 replacement. This is something that I don't quite understand, since I don't think the F-35 can perform CAS nearly as well as an A-10 would. This is no knock on the F-35, since an F-16 or F/A-18 also isn't nearly as good at CAS. I'd imagine that jets like F-16, F/A-18, and F-35 lack the loiter time of the A-10.


The short answer is, "We don't use A-10s like A-10s" I can give a longer more detailed answer here soon, but I need to sleep first.

Its a qood question, BTW
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lookieloo

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 08:08

To put it another way... in limited/denied scenarios, we use our A-10s more like F-16s and our F-16s more like A-10s than we used to. Ergo, we're replacing both with a single type. As for the COIN mission, the A-10 is actually overkill; there are cheaper ways to do the loitering thing. The Marines have the right idea with their Harvest HAWK program; that is to say, developing RO-RO systems that can give more economical transport/support aircraft PGM/TACAIR capability in the low-threat environment without the need for a single-purpose type.
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count_to_10

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 11:12

And let's not forget: the ground forces will be packing infantry scale attack drones by the time the A-10 is retired.
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popcorn

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 13:12

Because CAS is a capability, not a platform... and the CAS/anti-CAS game has evolved in response to changes in technology and doctrine.
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uclass

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 14:22

There is the cost aspect to this equation though. An AC-130J is great but they cost a 'bit' more than A-10s, as do F-35s. Attacking from higher altitudes also has time-related problems in a moving fight and whilst an F-35/F-18 is conducting CAS, there's something else that they could have been doing instead.

To emphasize the point another way. Do we still need AH-64s or could the AC-130 and F-35 be used instead?
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 16:22

uclass wrote:There is the cost aspect to this equation though. An AC-130J is great but they cost a 'bit' more than A-10s, as do F-35s. Attacking from higher altitudes also has time-related problems in a moving fight and whilst an F-35/F-18 is conducting CAS, there's something else that they could have been doing instead.

To emphasize the point another way. Do we still need AH-64s or could the AC-130 and F-35 be used instead?


Its not a matter of direct replacement. There was no direct replacement for battleships either. They were phased out in favor of other more capable ships. You make the point with the AC-130s and Apaches. Not to mention: AH-1, F-16, F-15E, F/A-18, AV-8B, B-1B, B-52 and MQ-9. Don't look now but the same arguments for battleships are the same for the A-10 "Guns N armor!" as for loiter time it varies, but the A-10 has nothing on the F-15E or AC-130. Helicopters do pretty darn good for all the "low slow" arguments, and A-10 have been insanely overkill for COIN. you don't need 30MM guns to kill foot soldiers, and they don't seem to get shot at by anything heavy in COIN conflicts either. an AT-6 Texan can out COIN an A-10 and do it for less, with a guy in the back to provide easier FAC-A if you want as well.

arguing the A-10s 30mm, ability to get down low-slow, put eyeballs on target, and loiter in a target area for an extended time are the main reasons for keeping the 'Hog. Of course, that's not the way CAS is done any more, not even by the A-10. All these whiz bang toys that bring the 'Hog up to C-model standard are designed to improve its connectivity, better network the aircraft into battlefield SA and C2 tools, carry much improved/modern targeting pods, and increase its ability to use smart and standoff munitions. In short, the C-model upgrades help give the A-10 a bunch of capabilities that other fighters have had for a long time, and bring it up to speed for the modern CAS battle.

There are a lot of people that argue that we can't afford whiz bang multi role toys like the JSF, I take the opposite approach: We can no longer afford to spend money on multiple types of specialized niche aircraft, no matter how capable they are fighting tanks in the Fulda gap.

No the F-35 will never have a gun like the A-10, but then again neither does any other platform, and A-10s only use their guns as a last resort. We can go on about the things an A-10 can do than an F-35 can,t but there are a myriad things the JSF can do that an A-10 can't either.
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uclass

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 16:45

Devils advocate here. When rail guns come out, they might want some battleships again and with 2 large guns, maybe the DDG-1000 is a battleship. Similarly guided rounds could bring a new leash of life to CAS aircraft like the A-10 and Su-25. Whilst you don't need 30mm round to kill infantry, when firing from several nm away to avoid ground fire, a 30mm HEI will kill with a miss, whereas an AT-6 with .50cal MGs won't. An AT-6 is also very vulnerable to HMG fire, not just because of the lack of armor and single engine but also because it has to get in closer.

I guess we'll see how it goes.
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 17:02

uclass wrote:Devils advocate here. When rail guns come out, they might want some battleships again and with 2 large guns, maybe the DDG-1000 is a battleship.



I will concede that with a Massive technical breakthrough we could build our first battleship since WWII. In the mean time, I will continue to point out that the battleships are long supplanted and then retired after some brief recalls here and there.

Similarly guided rounds could bring a new leash of life to CAS aircraft like the A-10 and Su-25. Whilst you don't need 30mm round to kill infantry, when firing from several nm away to avoid ground fire, a 30mm HEI will kill with a miss, whereas an AT-6 with .50cal MGs won't. An At-6 is also very vulnerable to HMG fire, not just because of the lack of armor and single engine but also because it has to get in closer.

I guess we'll see how it goes.


Don't confuse COIN with CAS. They are different animals. Do we provide CAS while doing COIN? yes. But is it the kind of CAS where we are dodging SAMs, jamming radars, etc in highly contested IADs environments? No. Hell no. So whenever someone uses OIF II and what followed along with Afganistan as to why we "need the A-10" I roll my eyes.

A-10 pilots don't like using the gun unless they have to. Its not a weapon of first resort by any stretch. Have we noticed A-10s getting upgrades so they can pitch smart bombs from a distance? Advocating the "but the gun can better!" isn't really helping the A-10 because no one is really interested in the gun anyway.

I once had a lively internet debate with someone determined to create a perfect scenario where only an A-10 could do the job, it was fun to watch because its he had to keep continually narrowing the scenario and moving the goal posts to make it work. which was kind of proving my point. Don't keep this aircraft around for the 00.01 percent of missions that "only it can do." Don't keep it around for its cannon. The A-10 was created for WWIII over europe, the attrition was expected to be intense. The Gun was to kill tanks, after you ran out of TV guided Mavericks, A lot has changed since then, including our aversion to casualties.

A lot of people don't understand the tactics the A-10 employs, modern CAS, or the JTAC doctrine. They think its still flying at tree top level, identifying its own targets and strafing with guns at will like a P-47 over France.
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archeman

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 18:28

Agree w/F414...

Try turning the question of "Should the F-35 replace the A-10?" around backwards:
"Should the A-10 replace the F-35?"
Assume for the purposes of discussion that the F-35 is already fielded and serves us in the CAS role now.
Also assume for the purposes of this discussion that the A-10 is a 'new' concept aircraft with the same systems and capabilities it currently has (don't confuse the discussion by projecting new systems and capabilities on the A-10 it doesn't actually have).

In that imaginary scenario, is it justifiable to continue A-10 development, acquisition and deployment and start retiring F-35s, or keep the F-35 in that CAS role? I think that buying A-10s would be a difficult position to try to justify, the F-35 is vastly more flexible.

It may be that we are actually pursuing the best path right now by slowly decreasing the A-10 numbers until all the niche roles they performed have been adequately replicated by other platforms.
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sprstdlyscottsmn

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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 19:13

with EOTS and DAS the F-35 will have unparralleled ability to put eyes on target. SDB would make a mess of an enemy foothold.
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 22:16

sprstdlyscottsmn wrote:with EOTS and DAS the F-35 will have unparralleled ability to put eyes on target. SDB would make a mess of an enemy foothold.

If they haven't moved by the time it gets there.

Maybe I am narrowing the scenario too much, but I'm just considering running fights where the enemy grabs you by the belt buckles. I'm not sure high altitude CAS could do that job quite as well.

I do appreciate that the F-35 works better in highly contested airspace. However, the modern doctrine seems to be to 'uncontest' that airspace before beginning a ground offensive, so maybe, again playing Devil's Advocate, the question is in what percentage of scenarios would you be providing CAS in unsanitized airspace? A CSAR mission is all that really springs to mind but that again poses the problem of running fights and close range.

Furthermore if we look at a theatre of the Caucasus Mountains (yep I went there), then you have a situation where steep mountains will continuously be blocking the view and trajectory of higher flying aircraft and ballistic style smart bombs like SDB.

If you also consider the scenario where a Russian force with maybe several hundred paratroopers and dozens of IFVs in a highly spread formation are coming to collect your downed pilot, then you have a situation where a few smart bombs from high altitude aircraft are not going to help the situation. And what's more still, you could get yourself into a situation where after descending to lower altitude, you find yourself using mountains to block AAA and SAM coverage and something like an A-10 can take the tight turns between mountains to make the repetitive passes.

I know that's a terrible scenario but I was just imagining a sort of, 'what if Syria went really bad' situation.
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 23:12

SDB's will be able to follow moving vehicles that travel while the bomb is in flight, and, with laser designators and data-links, should re-targetable at any time.
As far as your "scenario", uclass, a pack of F-35s will do better than A-10s.
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 23:15

If they haven't moved by the time it gets there.


??

The same could be said for A-10s (sorry that bird is not known for speed.)

Maybe I am narrowing the scenario too much, but I'm just considering running fights where the enemy grabs you by the belt buckles. I'm not sure high altitude CAS could do that job quite as well.


Then they get low. short of a heavy bomber they all have guns and are capable

I do appreciate that the F-35 works better in highly contested airspace. However, the modern doctrine seems to be to 'uncontest' that airspace before beginning a ground offensive,


Then why do you need an Armored aircraft??

so maybe, again playing Devil's Advocate, the question is in what percentage of scenarios would you be providing CAS in unsanitized airspace?


Almost all of them. The A-10 was designed in a time when a MANPAD was a very new technology, and the early ones weren't nearly the threat that they are now. Moreover the A-10 if it wants to kill airplanes, or suppress SAMs, isn't capable of carrying AMRAAMs, Can't carry HARMs, Has a fraction of the EW capability, and no AESA radar to fry or jam things. It has recently been equipped with targeting pods, and smart weapons, to increase its stand off ability there is a reason for this. A-10s, only get low and slow for gun runs as a last resort, The ROEs typically set a high minimum too, I think in Kosovo it was 15,000 ft. You needed permission to go below that.

So how many aircraft are you donating to sanitize the area before we send in the mighty A-10? Is the A-10 a second-line aircraft? honest question.

Its really hard to find a perfect middle ground of so dangerous it rates an armored flying cannon, while at the same not so dangerous that an A-10 can't do it. And the list of stuff an A-10 can't do really overwhelms what it can do. The change in tactics has only solidified that.

A CSAR mission is all that really springs to mind but that again poses the problem of running fights and close range.


Is the A-10 the only aircraft capable of close range support?

Furthermore if we look at a theatre of the Caucasus Mountains (yep I went there), then you have a situation where steep mountains will continuously be blocking the view and trajectory of higher flying aircraft and ballistic style smart bombs like SDB.


We have been doing CAS in mountains the last 12 years, with various aircraft of all classes and types.

If you also consider the scenario where a Russian force with maybe several hundred paratroopers and dozens of IFVs in a highly spread formation are coming to collect your downed pilot, then you have a situation where a few smart bombs from high altitude aircraft are not going to help the situation.


highly spread formation through the mountains?

Interestingly enough the last few pilot rescues have been by Marines and they used AV-8Bs. Other than short legs Harriers seem to be an excellent CAS platform.

And what's more still, you could get yourself into a situation where after descending to lower altitude, you find yourself using mountains to block AAA and SAM coverage and something like an A-10 can take the tight turns between mountains to make the repetitive passes.


It has to make the tight turns through the mountains because it doesn't have the ability to find, lock, and destroy threat systems. So in other words, we are creating a situation where the A-10 has to be defensively fighting for its own life while simultaneously dropping ordnance in close proximity to a friendly. This won't end well. The A-10 is going to spend all its time reacting, rather than dictating the fight

Worst case we are sending in rescuers for the rescuers.

I'm not trying to pick on you, its just that things have evolved. And its not even just that Teen fighters have become better at being A-10s, its that A-10s have been relegated to using teen series-like tactics for several reasons. There just isn't a whole lot that A-10s can do that other things can't, but the other things do other stuff really well too.
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Unread post28 Aug 2013, 23:28

uclass wrote:Maybe I am narrowing the scenario too much, but I'm just considering running fights where the enemy grabs you by the belt buckles. I'm not sure high altitude CAS could do that job quite as well.


Please explain how the A-10 is suppose to do any better in such a scenario?

If you also consider the scenario where a Russian force with maybe several hundred paratroopers and dozens of IFVs in a highly spread formation are coming to collect your downed pilot, then you have a situation where a few smart bombs from high altitude aircraft are not going to help the situation.


Again, how is the A-10 suppose to deal with that better than the F-35? Seems more like a B-1 with two dozen 2,000lb JDAM scenario.

And what's more still, you could get yourself into a situation where after descending to lower altitude, you find yourself using mountains to block AAA and SAM coverage and something like an A-10 can take the tight turns between mountains to make the repetitive passes.


Relying on the Russians to screw up their AAA and SAM placement in such a way as to allow for a situation where only terrain only stops being in the way when the A-10 is lined up to shoot at whatever the AD was setup to defend?

I know that's a terrible scenario but I was just imagining a sort of, 'what if Syria went really bad' situation.


If Syria went "really" bad, then some lucky Pantsir crew might get to paint A-10s on the sides of their launchers.
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