The USAF’s top civilian, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, is unclear on how the USAF would pay for a new Close Air Support (CAS) platform. The A-10 replacement aircraft is dubbed the “A-X”.
The USAF can’t figure out what it wants in terms of a CAS platform nor how they are going to pay for it. The “good” news: the A-10 Thunderbolt may run out of life before anyone makes a decision. And then where does that leave you?
“So far I have read about this in the news. I have not actually seen a proposal on any of this that has come forward to me. So it sure is pre-decisional. It hasn’t been decided on,” she said. “Where would we get the money? Not at all clear to me.”
You’ve got to love the term “pre-decisional”. What it really means is “we can’t make a decision”.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and his predecessor Mark Welsh, have both been challenged on the replacement versus continuation dilemma for a new CAS aircraft.
A new CAS platform is likely to be costly–both in time and money. The additional consideration is how to pay for the USAF’s other priorities. The F-35, KC-46 tanker, and B-21 bomber are all not very cheap and currently behind timeline and over budget. To add another new ground up platform design to the mix would be a tough argument to make.
FighterSweep even made the argument on what to do way back in 2014 with the A-10. The USAF hasn’t made much progress since then.
However, the USAF did have a great concept for the A-10 replacement: a Coke Machine.
Sounds ferocious, right?
“You have a Coke machine overhead, you put in a quarter, and you get whatever kind of firepower you want when you want it. In a perfect world that’s close-air support of the future,” former Chief of Staff Mark Welsh told reporters during a June 15 breakfast meeting.
Current plans include using an existing aircraft to bridge the gap between the A-10 and whatever platform replaces it in the future. The Air Force has looked at the possibility of using the Beechcraft AT-6 or Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Both of these aircraft could be retrofitted to carry light CAS ordnance. With some effort, they can bridge a small gap for a yet to be designed CAS platform.
What is missing from the above scenario is the vicious GAU-8 gun that gives the A-10 its teeth.
But I guess the future of pretty much any USAF CAS option means there will likely be no more “brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrttttt” raining down on targets–unless you can get that for an extra 50 cents on your Coke machine.
You can read Valerie Insinna’s full article here.
Top Photo credit: US Air Force