Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Flying Bullshit Machine, More Like It

I came close to weeping as I read about the devotion of an Air Force general to finding the perfect close air support (CAS) plane for the Army. Honestly, I felt a tear forming.

This is touchingly sincere inter-service devotion:

The Air Force’s next-generation close-air-support platform should be able to provide instant firepower on demand, the service’s top officer told reporters June 15.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh compared the desired capability to the convenience and flexibility of a soda machine. “Imagine the … flying Coke machine and just having a Coke machine overhead, and you put your quarter in and you get whatever kind of firepower you want when you want it,” he said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. “In the perfect world, that’s close-air support of the future.”

For years, the Air Force has been trying to kill the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the service’s close-air-support workhorse. Officials have cited budget constraints and the need to save money to invest in other platforms as reasons to get rid of it.

So what would the perfect future CAS plane provide that the A-10 doesn't provide now?

Durability? Loiter time? A 30mm chain gun lethal to personnel and the heaviest armor? Precision missiles or bombs? Because those are all things the A-10 can unleash on enemies.

Perhaps the A-10 can't slap a wrist and deploy tear gas agents? No laser? Does the A-10 perhaps lack the awesome power of a photon torpedo?

What is most puzzling to me is the Air Force argument that they lack enough money to pay for the F-35 and the A-10, but if Congress will just let the Air Force kill the A-10, the Air Force will field the F-35 and develop a wondrous new CAS plane that will do everything the A-10 does now plus perhaps the photon torpedo thing.

As I wrote before, the future wonder CAS plane has but one mission that has nothing to do with official claims:

But really, think of this Air Force plan for replacing the A-10 with another dedicated ground support plane as an interim solution.

The plan will exist in the awkward period between their plan to retire the A-10 and the actual retirement of the A-10 (with the razing to the ground and salting of the earth stuff that will follow).

Once the A-10 is retired and safely in the rear view mirror, the Air Force will quietly shelve the plan for a replacement for the A-10 and get on with their plans that don't seem to involve helping ground forces defeat the enemies in front of them.

That's the only real requirement of the plan.

So the Air Force can describe plans for a magical A-100 Unicorn (ten times as good as the A-10!) if it let's them phase out the A-10 and kill it for good by scrapping them rather than putting them in storage in the desert before someone notices.

A flying Coke machine, general? You disappoint me. Promise a freaking flying Coca-Cola Freestyle machine!

And as long as it's bullshit territory to get what you desperately want, tell the Army you really do love them, while you're at it.

This is so depressing to see. During the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, the Air Force did such an outstanding job of providing close air support that ground troops lost their fear of the Air Force dropping rounds on them as was all too common in past wars.

The Air Force was outstanding.

And now the Air Force just wants to field the F-35 and everything else be damned.

Well what do you know? I did shed a tear, after all.

UPDATE: The Air Force farcically claims that the budget is forcing them to get rid of the A-10:

[Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David] Goldfein told lawmakers that he could not give “a better of example of what sequester did to the United States Air Force than the A-10 discussion, because it was sequester in fact that brought us the A-10 retirement.”

But advocates of the gunship and the close air support mission for which it was designed say the leaders are using the spending issue as a convenient excuse and nothing more.

Pierre Sprey, a defense analyst who assisted in the design of the A-10, didn’t mince words when asked for his reaction to the comments. “Pure crap,” he told

He said the Air Force has disliked the plane — also known as the Warthog — “ever since we forced it into the Air Force inventory in 1974.”

Journalist and author Robert Coram also pointed out that Air Force leaders were planning to discard the A-10 more than a dozen years ago.

Again, if it's a money issue. Why is there too little to keep an existing plane that does the job but enough to build a wonder plane replacement?

Don't expect the A-100 Unicorn any time soon. Or ever.