With budget cuts being actual cuts for the military, DoD leadership has proposed to cut the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a.k.a. the “Warthog,” from the US arsenal. They claim that cutting the plane will save $3.9B a year and I’m not arguing that. What I am saying is that this is still a mistake.
The A-10 is a ground attack aircraft like no other. Designed explicitly to engage tanks (specifically Soviet tanks) in the 1970’s, this ship is the go-to asset for fast, accurate close-air support. It flew roughly a third of all combat sortees in Iraq and Afghanistan. During Desert Storm A-10’s were responsible for over 4000 enemy combat vehicles destroyed. In short, it is a very effective weapon system still relied upon by battlefield commanders today.
Adding to its allure: it’s cheap. It costs less than $10M a copy and can be maintained at a cost in the thousands per cycle as opposed to millions for other aircraft. By comparison, the aircraft touted as the replacement by the Pentagon is the F-35 Joint astrike Fighter. The F-35 costs $169M each and even the Pentagon concedes that it can’t match the A-10’s capabilities.
Part of the problem, here, is the same thing that has always hugged the Air Force: this plane is a relative slow mover in a high-speed-loving force and the nature of its mission is to take direction from grunts on the ground. But the fact of the matter is that the Warthog brings more to the mission than any other fixed-wing aircraft, is incredibly efficient at the task, and is far more cost-efficient than any other asset available. That’s the definition of a program you dona’t cancel