The current Air Force plan of record is to replace both planes with the F-35A fighter, a stealthy “fifth-generation” tactical aircraft that is much more survivable than anything the Air Force has today for supporting ground troops.  The service expects to declare the F-35A operational later this year, and has recently confirmed to Congress its requirement for 1,763 of the multi-role jets.  However, behind the scenes, something very odd is happening with Air Force plans for future close air support.

On June 21, Lara Seligman of Aviation Week & Space Technology reported that Air Force planners want to buy two new aircraft for performing close air support — neither of which is in its already oversubscribed modernization plan.  One, designated the OA-X (“O” for observation, “A” for attack, “X” for experimental), would look more like a P-51 Mustang left over from World War Two than a modern tactical aircraft.  The other, designated A-X2, is a replacement of the A-10 that supposedly would be more affordable to operate.

This is a truly foolish plan.  The propeller-driven OA-X would be configured mainly for “permissive” environments, meaning places where enemies have no air forces and no air defenses.

The other plane, a jet, would be cheaper to operate than the A-10 — which the Air Force says costs $20,000 per hour to operate. Which is why it’s a safe bet the A-X2 will never be built; some bright new idea will eclipse it long before anybody begins bending metal.

Read More: National Interest

Featured Image – A U.S. Air Force A10 Thunderbolt flies over a field at Fort Bragg. Exercise Crescent Reach test and evaluates the ability of Joint Base Charleston, S.C., to launch a large aircraft formation in addition to transporting, processing and deploying passengers and cargo. During the exercise, U.S. Air Force assets worked with U.S. Army assets from Fort Bragg in order to respond to a simulated crisis abroad. Crescent Reach 16 was conducted in coordination with a Joint Operational Access Demonstration, a culminating event for the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Week 2016 – DVIDS