The Air Force, considering “divesting” entire mission sets, has stated eliminating the A-10s would save approximately $3.5 billion over five years. The argument goes that other platforms can pick up the slack caused by the loss of the A-10. General (ret) Moseley also compared the cuts to the previous elimination of the P-51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre, both of which developed strong cultural attachments due to the wars in which they excelled. It’s unclear whether the savings would be used to defray the cost of the estimated $6.8B required for the CRH.
I’m not even going to get into the implications this would have for CAS. Heinie Aderholt has got to be rolling over in his grave.
It’s clear the retired CSAF is making a push for cuts in other areas before deciding not to fund CRH, which is admirable in its own regard. But for a guy who would spend any dollar saved on CSAR, he doesn’t seem to know much about what it takes to make CSAR happen in a contested environment. Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the mistaken belief that CSAR is nothing more than punching off the deck from strip alert, killing a bunch of bad boys running around with small arms and maybe RPGs, ducking in, and grabbing the Isolated Personnel (IP). Hell, the helicopters might not even be necessary, if you look at Iraq. You might be able to bail out of your wounded bird, walk to the nearest FOB, and enjoy a frosty Rip-It long before Jolly Green even shows up on station.
If you believe this, you’re not necessarily wrong. You’re just thinking the next war will look just like the last. In fact, you’d be in such estimable company as former Secretary Gates, who thought the idea of sending an unarmed helo 250 miles behind enemy lines was just plain silly. I think sending an unarmed helo on CSAR mission is bunkus, too…which is why the HH-60G is armed with twin mini-guns or M2s.
But I digress.
Contested ops mean exactly that, and contested CSAR is no different. It’s not about dodging bullets and RPGs as much as it is about killing Integrated Air Defenses so a telephone-pole sized SAM doesn’t turn the rescue bird into a fine mist of blood and alloy. It’s about shooting down fighters scrambling to stop the package from making it to the IP. It’s about an integrated package of air-refueled rescue platforms, RESCORT, RESCAP, and C2 orchestrating a beautiful dance of death and life-saving mayhem amidst the chaos. This might sound like a preamble to a seer-like view of how CSAR might go down in the future, but as it turns out, all I’m doing is talking about lessons learned 50 years ago in the jungles of Vietnam.
Which leads me back to the A-10 and its role in RESCORT. It’s pretty simple, really – the A-10’s community is it when it comes to contested ops. Sure, AWT and SWT have filled the RESCORT role admirably in Iraq and Afghanistan. But once again, the distances are limited, the threats are capably mitigated, and air superiority is a foregone conclusion. So, if CSAR is such a priority, why would we “divest” the one platform willing to take our rescue platforms into the fray, kill what moves, and escort them home?
(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDS)