Two Warthogs caught on their parking spots in front of a C-5A Galaxy at Westover ARB, Massachusetts.
Taken on Apr. 1, the photo was taken when as much as 16 A-10Cs (most probably 12 + four spares) from the 303rd Fighter Squadron “KC Hawgs”, 442nd Fighter Wing (AFRC), Whiteman AFB, Missouri, arrived at Westover ARB, homebase of the 439th Airlift Wing and its C-5 Galaxy airlifters, to perform an overnight stopover while enroute to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.
In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.
First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“. Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.
Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2″ and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.
Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35″ since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.
But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.
Even if the aircraft were assinged to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers”, 23rd Fighter Group, 23rd Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, some of them still wore the markings of the 81st Fighter Squadron “Panthers”, a recently inactivated unit formerly assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing from Spangdahlem airbase, Germany.
The A-10s make extensive use of their GAU-8 Avenger, a rotary cannon that is the airplane’s primary armament.
Although it is considered by far, the best Close Air Support platform in the U.S. inventory, the U.S. Air Force is considering phasing out the entire A-10 attack jets fleet because of the budged cuts faced in the last year and the need to pursue existing procurement projects, including the F-35 JSF.