Thursday, April 24, 2014

A-10 Scrapping Justification Exposed

This is a Navy blog but I just can’t pass on the following Air Force item especially since it indirectly impacts Marine and Navy CAS.

DoD Buzz website quotes Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh as saying that scrapping the A-10 will save $4.2B over five years (1).  This apparently is the Air Force's justification for letting the A-10 go.  Of course, the real justification is preserving the Air Force’s buy of F-35’s.  Be that as it may …

Let’s check that cost savings number out, shall we?  Since the purpose behind letting the A-10 go is to preserve the F-35 purchase, let’s do the math and see how many additional F-35’s we can purchase (or save from cuts) for $4.2B.

At the moment, a reasonable cost for an F-35A is $150M.  I know there are some of you who believe that the F-35 will eventually cost $9.95 each once we reach super-serial production buoyed by an upswell of foreign buyers.  Well, a check of the actual budget requests shows a much higher cost.  Will the cost come down someday?  Perhaps, but we’ll deal in the here and now.

So,    $4.2B / $150M = 28

There you have it.  Scrapping 300 A-10’s will buy (or save from cuts) 28 F-35’s.

That’s probably worth repeating.  Scrapping 300 A-10’s will gain us 28 F-35’s.

Does that seem like a worthwhile trade?

And I thought the Navy was screwed up!  I’m going to have to write the Navy a letter of apology.



Note:  For you absolute diehard JSF fanboys, if you won’t accept real costs, go ahead and make up any number you want and run the arithmetic.  It doesn’t change the conclusion.



79 comments:

  1. CNO,

    Slam dunk!

    GAB

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  2. Scrapping them early.

    They are going to be scrapped anyway. They are coming to the end of their service lives.

    But yes, it seems like the F-35 is a sacred cow here.

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    Replies
    1. They just went through a refurbishment a year or two ago, new wings and avionics and everything. They have a lot of hobbes hours left, and even if they didn't we'd be better off with A-1 Skyraiders than friggin F-35s.

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    2. Are they coming to the end of their service life like the B-52 has?

      The end of service life is a purely arbitrary concept. We can rewing, refuselage, re-engine, re-anything, if we want to.

      Delete
    3. They have been refurbished. Just this year USAF was planning to retire them in 2028, I guess they used up 20 years of airframe life in the last couple of months....*sarcasm*.

      https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/a-highertech-hog-the-a10c-pe-program-03187/

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  3. What on earth has happened to our government/military/procurement that stupid crap like this happens? Despite sequestration our budget is massive. Goodness!

    We've gone in my lifetime from 15 carriers with A6's, F-14's, F/A -18's, an Army with its Big 5, and the Airforce with a great air superiority fighter , and low end stuff like the F-16 and the A-10. And defense spending isn't that far off the mark even adjusted for inflation.

    http://www.cfr.org/defense-budget/trends-us-military-spending/p28855

    There should be plenty of dollars to develop A/C and ships. Maybe not what everyone wants, but something cogent and lethal.

    yet we have the LCS (which, for all of its other sins, is at least kind of inexpensive) that can't fight, and the F-35 (which is a budget buster) which has all sorts of questions, and is being forced into roles for which it was never intended (air superiority).

    Is it politics? Military internal politics? The ultimate political form of the military industrial complex? How do we get so much less for so much money?

    *sigh*.

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  4. I like where Jim Whall is going on this. Just found a similar site with some inflation adjusted numbers for inflation. We are spending more now on defense than what we were spending during the Cold War and it seems our military is shrinking faster than ever. Something isn't quite right....Another decade like this and we will be able to afford one jet fighter and one DDG a year.....


    http://www.davemanuel.com/2010/06/14/us-military-spending-over-the-years/

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  5. They need to fire up A-10 production lines. What an amazing airplane.

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  6. Why scrap them, wouldn't an FMS transfer to Poland make more sense right now?

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  7. There is no production line. Fairchild went out of business decades ago. The last A-10, 829665, was delivered in '82. The A-10s went through Hog Up and the conversion to C models. They were good to 2028. The real reason is that the USAF bought the F-22, which consumed their budget, while performing no mission that the combat force are doing today.

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    Replies
    1. So we don't need to perform Offensive and Defensive Counter Air anymore? That's pretty short-sighted, IMHO. Especially since air superiority is the linchpin for all other air, sea and land operations.

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    2. When people say Americans don't know how to make things you can simply ignore them. No production lines? We can just make new ones.

      Delete
  8. "We are spending more now on defense than what we were spending during the Cold War and it seems our military is shrinking faster than ever. Something isn't quite right…"
    It isn't right. I've seen a lot of waste and just dumb things in my 25 years on active duty, but I have never seen anything like today's Air Force. So many programs and activities have become enormous self-licking ice cream cones. I drive past the Kielly Center for Homeland Defense just about every day. It is an enormous new structure with an equally out-sized parking lot that is largely empty. The incredibly bloated staff who are supposed to be manning it manage to come to work 3 or 4 days a week, but never for very long. They delegate everything down to the next level. Billions have been spent to prevent another 9/11, but nothing has fundamentally changed with our air defense arrangements; a lucky few have simply lined their pockets. In my own squadron, we've hired nearly 20 former F-15 pilots in the last couple of years. They "fly" genuine F-15 simulators in order to train radar operators watching their maneuvers. In other words, they produce a dot on a radar scope. It take four of them, at $85,000 plus per year, to replace what we used to do with a single enlisted technician on a P.C. But the retired F-15 guys have cool names like "Iceman" and "Maverick," so you know they're with the extra money!

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  9. The AF is employing a cynical, political tactic- take something extremely valuable to a certain client class, and threaten to cut it due to budget problems. It happens at the local level when fire departments sullenly report that they will have to cut firefighters and grandma's cat will never get pulled from the tree. They could cut a few overpaid administrators or delay purchasing a new engine for a year, but the taxpayers don't get fired up about that, so they hold their customers hostage, and the customers put the political heat on the check-writers. This is no different. The Air Force's broken, corrupt acquisitions system means that everything costs twice what it should and aims aims for capabilities far beyond their actual likely use, and when you threaten to put them on a diet they "sadly" report that they are just going to have to screw the Army and Marines. This means that the Army and Marine supporters freak out and write their Congresscritters, and the budget doesn't get cut. They have been threatening to kill the 'Hog since the LATE 80'S. Literally a quarter century of bullshit. The Air Force pulls this threat out every time they want more money. It needs to stop.

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  10. Now, not to ruin you parade, but how is an A-10 going to survive in an environment where the enemy has modern short range systems like The Pantsir S-1 , Tunguska , and Tor SAM systems.
    Imagine what would happen if the serbian air defense had similar systems in Kosovo in 1999 .

    Superior sensors and modern stand off munitions and systems like ROVER and blue force tracker are the new CAS.
    Here is an example :
    http://archive.today/g5AmJ

    Although Ellamy saw the use of the DMB as early as 26th March, shortly before NATO took charge of the no-fly-zone, Millimetric Brimstone was also employed, being fired for the first time in combat during an attack by two GR4s on 15 September during which 22 missiles – including a single salvo of 12 from one aircraft – were launched on pro-Gaddafi armour near Sebha, 400 miles south of Tripoli.

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    1. It doesn't need to survive in that environment, at least alone. The handful of uber expensive toys degrade the SAM and fighter threat for the first few days, and then the Hawgs can roam free. This dangerous obsession with systems that are each capable of everything means we spend far to much on far too few platforms. Swarms of lower tech weapons can sometimes be far more effective than a relative handfull of superweapons, especially if we discover on day one of the war that our small fleet of glittering wonders have some kind of fatal flaw that never knew about. I personally think we ought to take a few billion AWAY from F-35 and just straightup BUY 3 squadrons of Super Tucanos. No added whatsits for aircrew survivability, no extra digital bullshit to integrate into some network nobody uses anyway. Just buy them, stock, right off the shelf. They would work FINE, for the job we would need them to do. But no Colonel's career would benefit from simply writing a check, so it would never happen.

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    2. Op Allied Force showed the way forward for our enemies. The Serbs hid and only lit up to take the occasional potshot. The SAM threat was never fully degraded and the air environment was dangerous throughout the conflict.

      The Serbs had relatively old, Soviet equipment. Had they been equipped with more modern gear, our 4th Gen aircraft may've been pushed to standoff roles only.

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    3. B.Smitty, you've touched on a major problem that both the military and commenters suffer from: we've forgotten what war is. In a war, people die and planes get destroyed. We've been conducting police actions and limited actions against third rate opponents for so long that we've forgotten what real war is. If the mere theoretical possibility of one of our planes being shot down is enough to push us to "standoff roles only" then we're not very serious about the conflict.

      Along the way we've adopted a zero-loss mentality about war. Someone has a cruise missile so all of our ships are rendered useless. Someone has an AAW missile so all of our planes have to operate from a thousand miles away.

      The fact that an A-10 might be shot down doesn't render it obsolete. If we're not willing to face the possibility of losses then we should be looking very closely at our rationale for being there (wherever and whatever there is). Jumping into zero-loss police actions at the drop of a hat may not be the wisest policy. But, I digress...

      Had the Serbs had modern gear and [if we believed that the reward was worth the risk - this is the key point] then we would have engaged the threat in an integrated fashion using air and ground forces, isolation and destruction of command and control, ECM, anti-radar missiles, aerial bombardment, and so on. We would not send a Tucano or A-10 all by itself to engage in a one-on-one game of tag with an AAW system.

      We don't fight in isolation (one A-10 versus one AAW system) yet we persist in discussing these things in isolation to prove our points.

      Delete
    4. CNO,

      Not exactly. A plane that's shot down won't fly any more combat sorties. It ceases contributing to the war effort or any future war efforts. It ties up aircraft and assets to perform CSAR, which may result in further casualties and more CSAR.

      Attrition adds up quickly and can eat through squadrons in theater at an alarming rate, if left unmanaged. Just ask any remaining B-17 crews. We pulled A-10s from attacking Republican Guard forces in ODS because too many were getting shot up or shot down.

      So yes, even in a "real" war, we have to aggressively manage attrition rates.

      In OAF, the problem was that we DID engage them in an integrated fashion (minus ground troops) and we STILL couldn't attrite them sufficiently. We used our complete toolbox of SEAD/DEAD techniques, but they just hid, repositioned frequently, and only lit up for brief periods. Modern Russian SAM systems emphasize quick setup and mobility even more, and are significantly more lethal than what the Serbs had.

      That was the point of my comment. We can't assume that after a few days of SEAD/DEAD the air over an enemy will be safe for unsurvivable aircraft. (and by "safe" i mean "managable attrition")



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    5. B.Smitty, I'm fairly sure that you know I'm not advocating attrition warfare so I'll leave it at that. Of course we have to manage attrition rates!

      Let's do each other the courtesy of assuming that we both understand the concept of risk/reward. There's nothing wrong with the loss of a plane if it accomplishes a sufficiently worthy mission. Sure, that aircraft won't fly anymore missions but the target it destroyed won't be doing anymore of what it was doing, either. Risk/reward.

      We did NOT use the full toolbox in OAF. Our objectives were limited and constrained and our methods and tools were likewise limited and constrained. We had to scrub target lists through a coalition of 19 countries and avoidance of collateral damage was, arguably, our main objective.

      I have no idea what attrition we inflicted but the AAW systems used against us were totally ineffective. The coalition flew 38,004 sorties and lost 2 aircraft. If we consider that loss rate to be a problem then the rewards weren't worth even being there (and I have my doubts about that entire escapade).

      You even state that we did not use ground forces. In an integrated fight we would use ground forces to attack AAW systems, prepare "safe" routes for aerial attack (as was done in Desert Storm using Apaches), attack and achieve objectives so that not everything has to be done by aerial bombardment, and so on. In addition to not using ground forces, we didn't conduct area bombardment of attack routes to neutralize AAW (avoidance of collateral damage being out main objective). I could go on but good grief, we didn't even come close to using the full toolbox!

      By the way, what is an unsurvivable aircraft? Presumably, that implies there is a survivable aircraft? What would that be?

      Delete
    6. The Serbs' goal was to inflict casualties while preserving their combat capability. Arguably they achieved one of those two goals. Again, my point was that we can't expect a couple days of SEAD/DEAD to sanitize airspace for "unsurvivable" aircraft. The Serbs showed how to keep an IADS more-or-less intact.

      Using Apaches wouldn't have helped and would have been VERY vulnerable. We could see everything in the desert of Iraq. Finding safe routes was easy. It was not over the forests of Serbia/Bosnia.

      The only thing that would have helped is sending in ground forces to locate hidden SAM sites.

      The Serbs did not have a state-of-the-art IADS. Presumably, in a "real" war, our opponent would have one.

      A "survivable" aircraft is one with a manageable attrition rate given expected threats and operating parameters. e.g. A B-52 is fairly survivable when shooting CALCMs from 600nm away. It is not survivable when dropping JDAMs over an SA-20 battery.

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    7. B.Smitty, you contention was "Op Allied Force showed the way forward for our enemies. The Serbs hid and only lit up to take the occasional potshot." If the enemy's goal is to be totally ineffective then, yes, OAF showed the way forward. By definition, "occasional potshots" can't have any significant impact on air operations. Losing 2 aircraft out of 38,000 sorties proves the ineffectiveness of an AAW defense whose main goal is survival by hiding. Having the most modern AAW system in the world isn't going to change that. Only if the AAW system is willing to stand and perform its function can it have an impact on aerial operations.

      Now, if the defense's goal is to simply inflict an occasional loss on an adversary who can't tolerate any losses whatsoever then, yes, a potshot defense may be effective. On the other hand, that's not really war, is it?

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    8. The Serbs' goal was to inflict casualties while preserving their combat capability.

      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      The Serbs goal was to maintain control of their territory: they failed and were forced to withdraw from Kosovo.

      GAB

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    9. CNO, you don't think replacing Serb SA-3/6s with SA-20/17 batteries would change things? The Serbian SA-3 is an upgraded version of a Vietnam-era missile system.

      You don't think if the Serbs had more confidence in their IADS that they might've put up more of a fight? They wanted to preserve their force, prolong the conflict and hopefully eek out a political solution.

      Not war? It was an armed conflict between nations. I think this qualifies.

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    10. B.Smitty, your contention was that hiding and taking potshots was the future of AAW. I'll repeat... By definition, hiding and taking potshots can't have a significant impact on aerial operations unless the opponents only objective is to avoid any loss whatsoever. In an actual war, potshots are totally ineffective.

      War?? OAF was a grossly one-sided live fire exercise conducted for political PR purposes. It wasn't a war. If you think that was a war then you're proving my on-going contention that we've forgotten what war is.

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    11. B.Smitty, I think you may be raising another favorite subject of mine. You seem to be suggesting that while older AAW/SAM systems may have been ineffective, modern systems will radically change the equation. Despite the history of a 1% success rate in Viet Nam, a 1% success rate in Desert Storm, and 5%-20% (depends on what definition you use) success rate in the Falklands you believe that the current crop of systems will suddenly perform markedly better. Many people seem to have this belief in "today's" systems despite all historical evidence to the contrary. Oddly, it works on both sides of the equation. There are those who believe that no modern missile can be stopped. There are those who believe that no modern AAW system can be penetrated.

      Would you like to take a shot at justifying the assumed effectiveness of a modern AAW defense system, especially as it relates to naval conflict, ship design, and force structure? I'm serious about this. It would make a great post and would be even more interesting in that it would present a differing view than I've put forth. Any interest? My apologies if I've misrepresented your view.

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    12. CNO,

      People died. We dropped live ordinance with the intention of killing them and destroying their property. It was a lopsided war, but still a war.

      My contention was not that hiding and taking potshots was the future of AAW. Sorry if i wasn't clear.

      My contention was that OAF showed future asymmetric adversaries that, against our overwhelming airpower advantage, it is possible to stay alive, draw out the conflict, and reduce our ability to fight an air-only war.

      We can't guarantee a sanitized battlefield after the "first few days" of every conflict, as Jeff Greeson asserted.

      Do we need a fully sanitized battlefield to operate A-10s? No, but they are less survivable against SAMs than F-16s and definitely less survivable than F-35s.

      We have to account for this.

      As always, the METT-TC will drive the decision.

      Should we keep the A-10 fleet till 2028? I don't have a strong opinion. Would it be nice? Sure. But we have plenty of aircraft that can do what the A-10 does. It doesn't offer anything unique, other than the aforementioned mission and training focus of its aircrews. We can replicate this focus with multi-role aircraft, if we really want to.


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    13. The North Vietnamese never had anything close to a Soviet-level air defense. They had neither the quality, nor the quantity. They did make the most of what they had, though. We never really knocked out their air defense either.

      We have already established that the Iraqis were poorly led, poorly trained and poorly equipped. And in ODS, we brought a steamroller to squash a bug.

      The Falklands was hardly a representative conflict. It pitted two sides with meager capabilities at the end of long logistics chains.

      We haven't fought a competent AND modern AND numerous air defense since WWII.

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    14. B.Smitty, my favorite football team hasn't won a game in 20 years. Now, I can either list a bunch of reasons why and then conclude that next year they'll completely turn things around or I can simply accept the reality that they're just no good.

      We have multiple examples of AAW defensive systems performing poorly across multiple decades and multiple technologies. We can either rationalize the results away or we can accept the reality that defensive systems just don't perform as well as they claim.

      Yeah, you say, but this new system will be unbeatable. Well, every new system that's been fielded and tested in combat has failed. To believe that the next new system will be the one that succeeds is just ignoring all the evidence. A more logical view is to recognize that hitting a high speed, maneuvering target in a decoy and ECM environment is just plain a very difficult thing to do and no defensive system is very good. Perhaps someday a system will be fielded that changes the equation but until there's some evidence, a belief in the next system is just blind hope.

      As I said, I invite you to guest author a post on the subject! That's a sincere offer, if you're interested.

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    15. There are examples of IADS performing well. See the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

      Your football analogy is an interesting one.

      Problem is, we think we're Florida State, but we've only played played Division II schools.

      Does that mean we can still win a national championship? Maybe. But Auburn or Alabama or any of a number of peers might think differently.

      So do we plan and prepare to fight Division II opponents? Or do we plan and prepare to fight peers?

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    16. Going back to attrition.

      If the attrition rate per sortie is 1%, then the average life expectancy for an aircraft is 100 sorties. If an aircraft flies two per day, then its average life before being shot down is 50 days.

      If the attrition rate is 2%, then those numbers drop to 50 sorties or 25 days.

      3% is 33 sorties or just 16 days!

      If the aircraft is based close to the front and can fly 4 sorties per day, you can expect the average aircraft to last a bit more than a week at 3% attrition.

      So unmanaged attrition can quickly render a squadron combat-ineffective.


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  11. I've been disgusted for years at the way the Air Force has claimed the F-35 will replace the A-10. The F-35 is not armored, not as heavily armed and goes too fast for CAS. The Navy version of this false advertising is the LCO - it's not armored, not very heavily armed, and although there isn't really a ship version of "too fast", a lot has been sacrificed for it's high top-end speed. The only way the LCS analogy with the F-35 could be any better would be if the LCS cost twice as much as its current cost.

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    1. Jl. Those are common misconceptions about modern CAS. They simply aren't true anymore.

      And the F-35 really isn't all that fast, in fighter terms. It's certainly not in the F-22 or even F-15 class.

      Delete
    2. Nothing about what the A-10 was "designed-for" is true anymore. It was built to smash tanks streaming through the Fulda Gap, but when has it done anything near that? Its been most effective in interdiction, SAR, and COIN. Its true that it killed lots of Iraqi tanks in the two Iraq wars, but they spent most of their time shooting at small infantry units and acting as FACs. It turns out, they were EXCELLENT in those roles, and continue to be, and should continue to be. Tank smashing in a high-threat environment is simply no place for a manned vehicle- robots should be doing that dangerous work. Never send a man to do a robot's job. But a robot can't babysit an infantry unit under fire or act as an airborne controller, phasing in the Apaches and fast-movers. A robot can't command a SAR mission. You need a butt in a cockpit for that, and that is why we will always need the A-10.

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    3. Robots routinely "babysit" infantry under fire these days (Predator, Reaper). Comms enable remote command. The FAC mission can be done by any tactical aircraft given the right comms, sensors and training.

      F-16s killed a lot of tanks and infantry in both Iraq wars too.

      F-35s will have excellent comms and sensors along with greater legs and payload than the F-16. It will make a great (if expensive) FAC and CAS aircraft, though a two seater version would've be nice.

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    4. I agree that Predators and Reapers CAN help out, but I'd rather have a Super Tucano with 2 dudes over a camera linked to somebody in Vegas. The 35 CAN do that mission, but there won't be enough of them to go around.

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    5. The USAF still plans to buy 1,700 F-35As. If it can manage this in this budget climate, that should be plenty. Granted, a big "IF".

      Super Tucano isn't the answer, IMHO. Slow, limited range, limited payload, limited survivability. It doesn't give us anything Predator/Reaper can't do better.

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    6. Super Tucano isn't the answer, IMHO. Slow, limited range, limited payload, limited survivability. It doesn't give us anything Predator/Reaper can't do better.

      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      USSOCOM disagrees.

      You are focused on ordnance delivery, not ground support of troops: which is a far broader mission.
      UAVS are hugely useful, but have very real limitations. Consider:

      1. UAVs cannot perform the airborne FAC role.
      2. UAVs cannot direct artillery strikes against fluid targets.
      3. UAVs cannot control ground troops, to include vertical envelopments, or amphibious assaults.
      4. UAVs have a clear reconnaissance role, but are not efficient for enabling commander’s reconnaissance and letting the ground commander or his operations officer to survey the terrain during, or ahead of operations.

      All of the above will change as technology improves, but not in the immediate future.

      The 2-seat Super Tucano is a proven platform for fighting the sort of low intensity conflicts that represent 99% of the combat missions that we actually fight, not WWIII.

      In terms of acquisition and operating costs it is far more economical than any manned aircraft we have in our inventory.

      As to survivability, no manned aircraft are “going downtown” against a modern integrated air defense on day one – that is increasingly a role for cruise missiles and other assets. Even in full blown conventional war, there is a role for air support over friendly forces – much of the A-10 mission was to defeat Soviet armor penetrations of NATO lines (AKA flying over friendly territory). Mobile SPAAG and SAMS are lethal, but they are not remotely the same level of threat. Think about the reality of Korea and Taiwan scenarios – there is a role for light attack even in these nightmares.

      GAB

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    7. USSOCOM wants Super Tucanos to embed with and train foreign pilots. It's not meant as a generic CAS/FAC aircraft for our forces.

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    8. GAB: "... platform for fighting the sort of low intensity conflicts that represent 99% of the combat missions that we actually fight, not WWIII."

      Another great observation! Our military acquisition is totally focused on the extreme high-tech end of things. Every new system is a leap ahead technological wonder (they don't work but that's beside the point). That's how we wind up with Aegis combat systems (the Burke/Tico) dealing with a few pirates in a skiff. There is a need for very low end systems for the 99% missions.

      Commercial vessels could handle much of the non-combat amphibious or land support tasks. Very low end jets or prop planes could handle many of the routine tasks. Diesel subs could handle barrier/patrol missions. And so on ...

      GAB also made the point that the low end systems are orders of magnitude cheaper than any current systems. On a relative cost basis, many would border on free.

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    9. GAB,

      1. Ok. But we already have plenty of FAC(A) capable aircraft.
      2. I'm not sure about this. In any case, UAVs don't direct anything. they just provide the real time recon/surveillance that enables ground commanders to direct arty strikes.
      3. A-10s don't control ground troops either. Ground commanders control ground troops.
      4. Hmm, not sure i see the distinction here. Ground commanders often have both recon helicopters and UAVs at their direct disposal. And they can draw on theater recon assets like Global Hawk, JSTARs, Predator, and so on.

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    10. Smitty,

      You are wrong about the EM 314 - research Imminent Fury, USSOCOM wanted an off-the shelf combat ready COIN aircraft for U.S. missions. The USAF screwed up the LAS program, but the Super Tucano was (and still is) wanted for more than the FID mission.

      To your specific points:
      1. We do not have plenty of FAC(A) aircraft - arguably the last one was the OV-10. More importantly, there is no organized training program that marries a specially trained pilot and an aerial observer. The closes now is an attack helicopter, but there is still a gap.

      2. UAVs are poor substitutes for aerial forward observers – there is a huge difference between adjusting fire on a static target, and being able to effectively prioritize and control multiple fire missions, particularly when friendly troops are on the ground. A UAV pilot has limited situational awareness to do this mission. Even a well trained and experienced aircrew (pilot and AO) can be challenged – a TV screen does not do the mission justice.

      3. You completely missed the ability to put the commander, and or J/S/G-3 up in the air for C3 (replaces the AO) of ground troops, as well as the point of aircrew living and working habitually with the same ground forces so the troop commander actually trusts and can rely on advice from the aircrew!

      Also, I was addressing UAVs, not A-10s. And, I would chose a two-seat aircraft like an OV-10 or EMB-314 over an A-10 for the FAC role for specific reason that four eyes are better than two for the *mission*.

      A replacement A-10, with 2-seats (maybe optionally manned - 0/1/2 crew) would be ideal. And yes, you could probably make an F-15E/F-18 do the job, but at many, many times the cost per flight hour of a good observation aircraft, and a much lower sortie rate.

      4. All of the reconnaissance systems you mentioned have their roles, but they are not a substitute for “eyes-on.” Yes a helicopter can do this, but a helicopter has trade-offs (as does a fixed wing aircraft), a large H-47/53 has better things to do, and in the high-hot environments a light/medium helicopter is simply not capable. Once you step into the attack helicopter world, the procurement cost rival fixed wing COIN aircraft, and the O&M costs of an AH-64 is substantially greater.

      Again, I like drones, but they are still not a panacea – yet.

      GAB

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    11. FAC(A) experiences of F-16 Block 40s in OAF.

      http://www.510fs.org/aviano/bosnia-buzzards/item/84-viper-fac-a-effectiveness-of-the-f-16-block-40

      We have plenty of aircraft that can perform the mission, but as you and the article mentioned above, one of the biggest problems is training. We have organized programs, but they were insufficient as of OAF and not geared towards that conflict. We've been through a lot since then, so I'll have to research what has changed.

      Do we ever actually put J/S/G-3s in fixed-wing aircraft these days? Or are you suggesting we should have this capability but don't?



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    12. Do we ever actually put J/S/G-3s in fixed-wing aircraft these days? Or are you suggesting we should have this capability but don't?

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      I see this is a capability gap based on professional experience.

      The historical solution has been to put a FAC and an observer aloft that can sort through chaos on the spot, and empower them to make critical C2 decisions with air and artillery. The reality is that the battlefield is much more complex in every way. The bureaucratic response has been to centralize decision making, when the requirement is to push the decisions down to the lowest practical level. Outside of the USMC, air-ground coordination is not what it should be (and even the Marines could do better with two-guys in the air).

      Example: The USAF and Army had serious coordination issues getting steel on target in Fallujah, compared to the USMC. Same fight, same rules of engagement, totally different results – often with the same squadrons and artillery assets. The difference was mindset, training, and willingness to empower leaders to make decisions at the appropriate level..

      And as tough as Fallujah was, the enemy was relatively static and preferred to bunker themselves in heavily fortified buildings (sometimes under the floor boards!). The same fight against an aggressive, well led force like the Vietnamese army that is willing to seize the initiative would have led to utter chaos as units inevitably get comingled.

      The origins of the shortfall stems from the military bureaucratic tendency to hang onto force structure at all costs. Two-seat light attack aircraft are rock bottom in terms of aircraft procurement and O&M costs, but the deleting them enables the services to “pad” the mission set for high performance aircraft, making them easier to justify. Even the Army, who fought tooth and nail to keep some fixed-wing assets, has stayed out of the public debate to protect its attack helicopter fleet. There are many sacred cows here

      Worse, all of the services have a hierarchy, and the truth is that in the USAF, flyers, particularly the fighter mafia, get promoted faster. The system negatively influences officers to avoid the light attack/FAC(A)/FO missions. Literally, the grass is greener on the fighter side.

      GAB

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    13. I saw a paper recently that argued for training Army Apache and Kiowa aircrews in the FAC(A) mission, specifically for the reasons you mentioned.

      This makes more sense to be, since these aircraft are already organic or directly attached to units anyway. Plus fixed wing air may fly out of distant airfields, which would cause more disruptions for J/S/G-3s due to travel to and from, and so on. Or use the EH-60C, which is designed for airborne C2 already.

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    14. Helicopters are viable options, but like everything they are not the panacea for the light armed reconnaissance aircraft mission.

      Obviously helicopters can take off and land vertically – fixed wing aircraft cannot. But helicopters have serious limitation compared to fixed wing aircraft:

      - Limited altitude helicopters cannot fly above artillery (friendly and enemy), nor can they adjust to ground threats because they cannot fly above AAA and MANPADS. Practically this means that helicopters have to depart the battle space or severely restrict their flight path due friendly mortar fire. In fairness, pretty much all aircraft have to get out of the way of tube artillery fire.

      - A serious issue is the high hot requirement - there are places in Afghanistan where light and medium helicopters (to include MH-60s) are just not able to fly.

      - lower helicopter endurance

      - Much higher fuel usage (logistics burden)

      - Higher helicopter procurement and O&M costs. This last point cannot be overstated as O&M is typically over 70% of a weapon system life cycle cost.

      STOL fixed-wing reconnaissance and light attack aircraft are generally able to operate from improvised fields too.

      Here is a comparison of aircraft for the light armed reconnaissance role, note that fixed wing/helicopter ordinance load outs are comparable:

      Emb-134
      Procurement cost: $14 million
      O&M cost: $500 per flying hour
      Endurance: ~8hrs

      UH-60
      Procurement cost: $21million
      O&M cost: $2,000 per flying hour
      Endurance: ~4hrs

      You can see why aircraft like an OV-10 or EMB-134 are compelling systems for the light armed reconnaissance role.

      GAB

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    15. There are hidden costs with the Super Tucano.

      1. A totally new procurement, spares, support and training pipeline. This is one reason give by the USAF to retire the A-10. The back end costs are what drove the decision. The same issues apply with the Super Tucano.

      2. 8 hours is only for the single seat model, unarmed. Put a back seater in and weapons under the wings and it'll drop significantly.

      3. Being slow and relatively low endurance, it has to be based close. Standing up forward bases has significant costs in terms of people and material. The area around the base has to be sanitized by ground forces. Forces tied up guarding Super Tucanos aren't available for offensive missions.

      4. That cost is for a base Super Tucano. Add in Army/AF/Marine equipment and it'll go up.

      We could also look at the Beechcraft King Air line, which is already in use for a variety of missions, including surveillance. They boast an even longer endurance than the Super Tucano and has armed variants.

      Or the prototype Scorpion Jet.

      We currently use a combination of helos, UAVs and fixed-wing aircraft to do this mission. A fixed wing recc/C2/light attack aircraft would add a different slice of capabilities and limitations. Is it worth the costs? I'm still on the fence.

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    16. The Army already has/had the EMARSS system in development.

      http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/wsh2013/98.pdf

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    17. The key point is the H-60, is not able to perform ~60% of missions in certain areas of Afghanistan because like most helicopters, it dramatically losses lift efficiency at altitude, and operations above 10,000 feet, against high mountain winds, and particularly in high hot environments are problematic. The implications have been clearly documented for the past decade. Helicopters are also vulnerable to MANPADS and AAA because they cannot get above threat.

      My comparison of the EMB-314 and UH-60 is illustrative, but the approximations are correct, and the bottom line is that helicopters cost significantly more to procure and operate than fixed wing aircraft, and they have lower operational readiness rates, as well as higher mishap rates.

      A two-seat light attack/reconnaissance aircraft like the EMB-314, even if it is outfitted with extremely expensive systems, is still going to have a total cost of ownership roughly one-third that of a UH-60, because 72% of the cost of ownership is in O&M. There are trade-offs of course, but a durable cheap fixed-wing aircraft is the best solution for the mission.

      And EMARSS is an intel platform vice a tactical aircraft.

      GAB

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  12. The debate over the A-10 is focused on the wrong issue: the reason that the A-10 is great at supporting ground troops has little to do with the plane, and is mostly about mission, training, and organization.

    Aerial support of ground troops is *not* about how much ordinance dropped, BDAs, or other superfluous arguments. Aerial support of ground troops is measured by how well the aircraft supported the ground forces maneuver.

    Aerial support of ground troops requires aircrews that: 1) intimately understand the ground forces operational plan, 2) understand the broader friendly situation, and 3) understand the enemy situation.

    Multi-mission aircraft can certainly contribute to the fight, but the reality is that USAF pilots flying multi-mission will never have the familiarity with the troops they support (points 1-3 above), or training to execute the mission the way A-10 drivers can.

    The monthly flight hours for training have been cut from 30-hours per month to 10-hours per month, where do you think a USAF fighter squadron CO is going to prioritize for training? How do you think that stakes up to an A-10 which is focused almost exclusively on supporting ground forces? I can tell you that leading up to Desert Storm, most fighter jocks were focused on killing enemy fighters, and suppressing air defenses. Ground support was recognized as important, but it is was not even a top three mission until after the enemy air-to-air threat evaporated and air defenses were neutralized.

    GAB

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    1. I agree GAB. The thing that makes A-10 units great at CAS isn't the aircraft. It's the training, organization and focus.

      There's no reason why we couldn't stand up CAS/BAI specific units of F-35s or F-16s. Will we? Probably not. But we certainly could. Just keep A-10 units together when they transition wholesale to the F-35 and keep them flying the same mission set.

      Of course regular fighter units have shown they can perform CAS too, though perhaps not as proficiently.



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    2. GAB has made great points about the CAS issue. As with ASW, training and focus are more important than platform. Couldn't agree more.

      That said, the platform does matter. Once the training, mission, and focus have been accounted for there will be a platform(s) that are better suited for the role and those that are less suited.

      Any rifle can shoot a person and a great sniper can make use of any rifle. However, there are a few rifles that are particularly well suited to the sniper mission and will enhance the ability of the sniper. So, too, does the choice of aircraft relate to the CAS mission.

      The A-10 is a magnificent weapons delivery platform for the up close and personal arena with it's firepower, payload, armor, redundant systems, etc. Whether that makes it a desireable platform for the overall role as GAB has described it, I don't know.

      If you give a CAS expert a choice of platforms to execute the mission from, I suspect that the JSF would not be anywhere near the top of the list. What's the "best" platform? I don't know.

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    3. CNO,

      I bet if you give A-10 pilots a chance to fly and train in a production F-35A, most would choose it over the Hog. The cockpit avionics, HMD and integrated sensors alone are worth it.

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    4. B.Smitty, I bet they'd opt for a titanium armored cockpit tub and a plane that's been shown to be able to fly with one wing and no tail !

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    5. We'll have to agree to disagree. ;)

      There's a documented case of an F-15 flying and landing with one wing too. Modern flight controls can do amazing things.

      The titanium tub doesn't do anything for you if your aircraft is cut in half by a SAM. Just protects against low caliber AAA, which optics and sensors let you fly above anyway.

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    6. http://www.flixxy.com/airplane-flying-with-one-wing-image10.jpg

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    7. B.Smitty, I flat out don't believe that photo. It looks fake. For instance, the control surface is opposite of what I would assume would be needed to compensate for the loss of lift from a missing wing. What's the supposed story behind it?

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    8. The incident is real , only that exact picture above is not. In the 80ties a israeli F-15 landed with one wing after a mid-air collision .

      http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/M359poNjvVA/hqdefault.jpg

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    9. P.S. And that F-15 B did not have fly-by-wire as i recall.

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    10. Ok, so the first photo is fake.

      I found a writeup on the supposed incident. There was a supposed interview with the pilot. I say supposed because the "interview", like the first photo, is clearly fake. For example, the pilot claims he touched down on the runway and then called for a barrier landing. It doesn't work that way. Any required emergency gear would be put in place well in advance of an attempted landing. The pilot claimed he did not look at the wing until he landed. Really? No attempt at a visual damage assessment? He claimed fuel was streaming from the wing. How's that occur if the wing is gone? The writeup is clearly fake.

      I also saw a filmed interview with the pilot which sounded more convincing although the accompanying film was clearly faked in multiple scenes.

      I have severe doubts about the validity of the entire incident given the clearly faked photo, film, and writeup. Only the filmed interview comes across as possibly authentic. The whole thing sounds more like a PR stunt.

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    11. There was an interview on the History Channel.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LveSc8Lp0ZE

      See around 4:00.

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    12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Negev_mid-air_collision

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    13. RE: A-10 pilots would choose the F-35
      That is probably correct. However, most of them are going to wind up sitting in Nevada and flying a drone, because their will be FAR fewer cockpits to put butts in once the Hogs are gone, a large percentage of the Falcons are retired, and a relative handful of F-35s take their place.

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. All comments will be civil and respectful or will be removed.

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    2. And, FTR, the reason the IAF Eagle made it back to base is that the body itself creates a substantial amount of lift. Also, that aircraft landed and an extremely high airspeed in order to keep from stalling. I have serious doubts that a 35 could do the same. While it also has a lot of body lift, its design is not as stable as an Eagle, and there ain't no way anybody is going to be able to write software to compensate for that kind of damage. Also remember that F-22s and F-35s rely heavily on stealth to survive the SAM threat. Once they take even superficial damage to their fragile skins, you can kiss that capability goodbye. Even a slight gash to the body would increase its RCS dramatically.

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    3. Both the F-35 and F-15 are unstable designs. The F-35 has a MUCH more modern flight control system, which should give it the edge in bizarre flight control situations like losing a wing, but YMMV.

      Who cares about stealth at that point. The A-10 has the RCS of a barn to begin with. It will have a lot more incoming than an F-35 and can't get out of the threat zone anywhere close to as fast.

      Survivability goes to the F-35.

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  14. A new short range SAM that i had forgot to mention above was the Morpheus.
    Its development has been very secretive , basically its designed to protect the bigger SAM systems like S-400 and S-350E from PGMs, so its designed to act like CIWS systems do on ships.
    Its exact range is unknown , but its gonna be between 10-15 km.
    Imagine dozends of this covering an area where A-10s might operate..
    PS. I read the whole discussion above, interesting opinions. But as more advanced SAM systems emerge i think the A-10 is getting less survivable.


    topwar.ru/6111-rossiya-poluchit-moschnyy-vozdushnyy-schit-s-novym-zrk-morfey.html

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    1. Storm, the A-10 naysayers describe the many new SAM systems and point out that the A-10 can't survive in the face of those threats. You know what? They're probably right. Asking an A-10 to fly back and forth through the heart of those systems is just going to lose us A-10's. Do you know what the naysayers forget? They forget what the A-10's mission is and they forget where those SAM systems are located.

      The A-10's mission is anti-armor against generally mobile forces. The A-10 is designed to stop armored attacks (and provide CAS and perform various other missions) and support our own attacks.

      The kind of long range SAM systems the naysayers fear are not particularly mobile. They're generally fixed systems deployed aroung cities, bases, and high value targets. Attacking those types of targets is not what an A-10's mission is. Even the shorter range SAM systems are not particularly mobile. An enemy armored attack, on the move, has relatively little SAM support and no fixed SAM support. An A-10, performing its intended role faces whatever mobile SAMs that can be fired on the move from vehicles and, of course, hand held SAMs. The A-10 is ideally designed to survive such a threat environment. That said, no aircraft is invulnerable.

      Does this give you a better perspective on the issue of A-10 survivability?

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    2. CNO- You are spot on in your analysis, but I have to bring up again that while the A-10 was DESIGNED to attack large armor formations, its actually shined and become so valuable doing very different work. The COIN, Interdiction, FAC, and SAR missions have really been where the Hog earned its keep. This whole conversation (which has been awesome, BTW, and I think well thought out and argued) keeps focusing on attacking a large armored force with good SAM cover. That's been the CAS idea for 40 years now. When have we ever actually had to fight that kind of war? We keep pouring money on a hypothetical war that we never fight while we use mismatched equipment (at least initially, until we pour money in to catch up) on the wars we DO fight. We went to Iraq in 1990 with a force basically designed for armored warfare in Europe. We were a little more mobile and flexible in 2001, but not much. Instead, we dumped money into uparmor kits for HMMWVs and MRAPS. At least the Stryker was well along at that time (and weren't there doomsayers about the Stryker's survivability?) At this point, who are we really ever going to fight a massive armored war with, who also has sophisticated SAMs? China, North Korea, and Russia are the only ones I think are a realistic threat. The Norks have no legs, so their SAM network should die pretty quick, and a throwdown with Russia or China isn't a realistic problem in the short term. There is really no reason to used manned aircraft against heavily protected tanks- that job will ultimately go to robots. Since the threat isn't imminent, we have plenty of time to develop those systems. There will ALWAYS be a need for manned, tough aircraft, IN SUFFICIENT NUMBERS, to do the jobs the Hogs are doing right now. Depending on the F-35 to do that mission in the short and long run is just a bad investment.

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    3. Jeff,

      The missions where the Hog earns its keep are dependent on the threat. We had to pull A-10s from interdicting Republican Guard forces back in ODS, twenty three years ago, due to losses. And the Republican Guard weren't exactly world-beaters back then.

      Is it a useful low-to-moderate threat COIN, FAC, SAR, strike aircraft? Definitely. But as the threat grows, its value diminishes.

      I agree sufficient numbers of aircraft is extremely important.

      If the USAF ends up with 1,700 F-35s, we should be fine there. If it ends up with 700 due to the budgetary death spiral, we may be in trouble.

      Though, if we continue to have to perform significant numbers of low threat CAS/COIN/Killer Scout/FAC/SAR missions, the case for a low-end, inexpensive to operate counterpart to the costly F-35 will be stronger.

      Just MHO.

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    4. B. Smitty-

      That is, I think, the crux of our disagreement, as it were. I don't think the AF has a snowball's chance in Hell of getting anything close to 1,700 F-35s. We'll be lucky to get more than 1,000, absent some huge crisis or another Cold War. And, that 1,000 would be a peak- its going to be at least a decade before we see that many. The AF can't even buy tankers and helicopters because of their hideously broken acquisition system. No way they get 1,700 F-35's. 1,000 or so isn't going to be enough to cover the myriad missions they would be tasked with. I'd be delighted to discover I was wrong, but past performance is always the best prediction of future results.

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  15. Well, back in 1982 when the last A-10 rolled out from the factory, the most formidable systems it had to face at that time were the ZSU-23-4 Shilka, Wheeled and tracked Strela-10 launchers and Osa-AKM .
    So i use this systems as refference thread when the A-10 was designed.

    My argument above was that newer mobile short range systems have signifficantly evolved.
    So if they use the A-10 in its original role TODAY with all the upgrades made to it , to stop an armored advance by an enemy who has modern short range systems the A-10 will suffer signifficant loses.
    And Tunguska-M, Tor-M , Pantsir S-1 and Buk-M1/2 are very mobile, the Morpheus is said to be able to change possitions in 5min, but packs a big rack full off missiles ( imagine Iron Dome on the move) .

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  16. P.S. Every short range sam system has to stop for firing missiles, just like a tank has to stop to take an accurate shot.
    The point is that they move with the same speed as the armored forces and provide an umbrella for tanks and IFVs.
    A Shilka and a Strela-10 is one things the latest version of Tunguska is another.

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    1. Tanks don't have to stop to fire accurately.

      Otherwise I agree with your analysis, Storm.

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  17. https://medium.com/war-is-boring/a26385113bf0
    Submitted without comment

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  18. offtopic: If a tank wants to take an accurate shot at longer range , lets say 800-1000 meters and beyond it has to stop for a short while be it 30 seconds or more. Now new gadets range finders , ballistic calculators , stabilzed guns help, but if you want to make that accurate shot, the tank stops for a short while.

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  19. P.S I used old soviet systems as refference threats.
    Well, lets look at the current chineese inventory.
    They have some Tor missile systems , maybe they built something better on that basis.
    The with the chinese is you do not know what is operational and what is propaganda, they manage to hide very well there development of SAM systems.
    But if they can copy planes like the Su-33 then i suppose they have good short range SAMs.

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