“A-10 will always be better than F-35 in Close Air Support. In all the other missions the JSF wins” F-35 pilot says

…and (quite obviously) the F-22 will always be better in Air-to-Air combat. But, in all the other missions the F-35 wins.

It’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: this is, in simple words, what a U.S. F-35 pilot said in an interview he gave to the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren.

Interviewed at Luke Air Force Base, by Christian Sundsdal, Maj. John Wilson, an F-35 pilot with an F-16 background clearly explained something that is quite obvious to everyone: an A-10 Thunderbolt II will always be better in CAS than the F-35 because it was designed to perform that kind of mission. Similarly, an F-22 will always be better than the JSF in air-to-air combat, because it was designed for that role. However, the F-35 is better in all the other missions.

For sure, aircraft designed for a specific role are going to be more effective in that one than other multi-role platforms. The problem in this case is that the F-35 is going to replace these assets, even though many believe this is not cost-effective, and could even cost some human lives as far as CAS missions, with Troops in Contact is concerned.

Furthermore, according to Wilson, once all the limitations are removed and it can carry weapons, the F-35 will be as capable as the F-16 in the CAS role.

According to Wilson, the majority of CAS missions that have been flown in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, were flown by Predators, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s and F-18s.

“The A-10s make up a very small percentage [and the fact that] every JTAC or guy on the ground that has been saved, has been saved by an A-10, that’s just not true” Wilson says.

“If the guys on the ground are concerned about that…I’d say they shouldn’t be. They should only be concerned that the pilots of whatever aircraft it is, is properly trained and doing his job, dropping the right bomb, on the right target, at the right time.”

Wilson admits the aircraft is expensive, but he says that maintaining several different types in service is even more costly.

Here’s the interview.

Interview with F-35 Pilot from Krigeren.dk on Vimeo.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. The F-35 is overpriced and does not live up the hype on the abilities of the aircraft. anyone with common sense will keep the A-10 instead of junking it. The air force needs to have aircraft that will do the job instead of over selling it with billions spent on aircraft that do not meet the muster.
    If it is not broke, then don’t try to fix it. The government needs to spend taxpayers’ money much more wisely.

  2. If you are going to question someone elses age, background and accuse them of being an Arrogant snob, better be prepared for some to challenge your credibility. Not to mention, not everyone who has been shot at knows what the best Platform for CAS is. Many do not. Why would they? That’s not their job. Most boots on the ground are pretty much happy with any that goes boom and decimates an enemy successfully trying to slaughter them. Timing can be everything if A-10s are not in close by(Sorry those birds are not fast).

    By the way, the F-35 is not a swiss army knife or a “Jack of all” trades. You got that comment from these blind critics and media journalist who know NOTHING about making planes or fighting in combat. But what the do know is how to is bend facts and twist words to spin a standard complication into a big dramatic scandal because drama attracts readers not the truth. Readers love DRAMA which attracts sponsors who then fattens the bank accounts of the journalist. And you parrot these fools like its fact? They have more credibility problems then the government and the contractors. Nice to know you don’t think for yourself.

    The pilot is correct! The record for what platforms do CAS stands! No offense, but your understanding of aircraft costs lack much knowledge. Who cares if an A-10 costs under 15000 per operation hour. What do you get for that 15,000? Very little! That’s the pilot’s whole point. You still got to send in 35,000 per hour squadron of F-16s to obtain A2A dominance, and then you got to send in another squadron of F-16s to SAM hunt and kill major ground threats before sending in the mighty 15,000 per hour A-10. With the new upgrades, F-16s are now successfully doing far more CAS work than the mighty A-10 as well as SAM hunting. In case you didn’t know, A-10s can’t hunt SAMS and only fly in non-contested because they are highly vulnerable despite their armor and redundant systems. A-10s were made to handle AAA fire from a large Soviet invasion not take hits from modern lethal Russian SAMS and MANPADS. Most of the time, A-10s don’t use the gun. They pitch PGMS from higher elevations and rarely go tree top level these days except to strafe arabs on camels. Something attack choppers are better at with less Frat cases and do it far cheaper. So unless you are going to have a massive Soviet heavy armor invasion into the FULDA gap, what can the A-10s do in CAS that other platforms aren’t doing successfully now? You got all these fast movers handling CAS, what’s the point of paying extra costs of having an armored aircraft that can’t fly unless being babysitted by the same fastmovers now doing its job and can’t fight unless the area is non-contested?

  3. ——-> “Another point is the “danger close” factor. Due to its distance and speeds the danger close situation for a fast mover is more than twice that of the A10.”

    Tell me exactly how an A-10 is going to fair better? Have you seen the spread of the 30mm round? Unguided ordinaces is no joke when used in close proxy to friendlies. The A-10 has a well known high Frat record

    ——-> “The average distance that fights occur is oess than 300 meters in Syria and aAfghanistan, which means that in a lot of situations a long distance CAS cannot be given.”

    “Sounds like some well places PGMs would be wiser. Explain to me again how a low A-10 going to fair better strafing? Once again, the 30mm might be accurate buts its got quite the spread. There is a reason why pilots call is “Spray and Pray”

    ——> “The A10 can go in, “low and slow”. Do you think they will risk a plane that will cost between 175 mill and 200 mill US to take that risk?”

    1# No strike aircraft costs that much. Not even the F-35.
    2# The A-10 is actually one of the most vulnerable aircraft today which is why its discouraged from going low-lever and doesn’t fly in areas unless its been sanitized by F-16s.
    3# If the S2A threats are that great, no one is going in “low and slow” especially the A-10. Everyone will be pitching PGMs from higher elevations which most of your CAS is anyway. Not to mention, an A-10 is nothing compared to what attack choppers can do as far as hitting combatants in close proxy to friendlies.

    ——-> “If you look it up, the fact that the A10 does not do the majority of all CAS missions has nothing to do with it being the best for the CAS task.”

    Then why doesn’t the USAF not use the A-10 more? How come the Marines don’t have one fleet of A-10s? Obviously being the best has not been enough. The point of the pilots comments is what’s best for ground troops and what is more affordable. Maybe the F-16 is not better at CAS than an A-10. But is still effective enough at the game? Obviously yes! Can it fly in media and hot contested airspaces? YES it can! The A-10 cannot!

    ——> “Moreover, it is by far the cheapest solution.”

    With all that the A-10 can’t due which way overshadows what it can do and still needing to send in fast movers to babysit the A-10s, is it really an over all cheaper solution?

    ——> “Furthermore you dont seem to grasp the necessities of doing a good CAS role.”

    So you are more of an expert at CAS than the USAF now? Its their doctrin you are dis-agreeing with and saying its wrong despite the success record of how Marines and USAF conduct CAS without the A-10.

    —–> “That is that not when the problem occurs, but beforehand, a plane is available. The great advantage of the A10 is its “loiter time” meaning it can stay in theater before the problems occur.”

    No A-10 flies into an area without F-16 or F-15 protection! So your loiter time excuse is pointless because even in non-contested areas, SAMS and MANPADS can be hiding. So fastmovers are always on station with A-10s.

    —–> “It can stay more than 4 times longer and it flies slow enough to “leisurly” pick its targets.”

    No it can’t! A-10s are discourage from going low level these days which is why they got the “C” block upgrades and pitch PGMS from higher elevations. In Libya, A-10s were restricted to 15,000 elevations while F-15s and F-16s face no such limits.

    —–> “The reason why the likes of F35 are called “fast movers” is because they cannot stay long enough AND it is the reason why they use so much fuel.”

    The F-35A is supposed to have a pretty damn good combat radius. Almost as much as a combat loaded weighed down A-10. Even so, no A-10 stays on station without fast mover support.

    ——> “So, you dont send the A10, if used correctly it will already be there. The so called versatility of the f35 comes at a price, being more than 4 times that of the costs per hour of the A10 (or the Gripen for that matter)”

    And yet FAST MOVERS do most of the CAS work for the past 20 years. The Marines are also some of the best at CAS and have never once own an A-10 fleet in over 35 years. The USAF uses their F-16s like A-10s and their A-10s more like F-16s strike fighters now. So your ideas of the A-10 going tree top level are more far Myth based than reality.

  4. The quality of readily available shoulder-launched IR missiles seems to also be increasing. I regularly see “militiamen” in syria holding some pretty nice hardware, the kind of hardware that could put a slow flying A-10 in the dirt (probably after 2-3 hits.) The A-10 was/is a great aircraft but I’m for advancing the technology, even if the current battlespace doesn’t specifically dictate it. Yet.

  5. You are making an elementary misinterpretation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment does guarantee that the governemnt cannot arrest you for saying things it does not like (assuming you are not threatening anyone), that does NOT extend to your employer. You are NOT at liberty to what you please about your employer, while at or away from work, without expecting some sort of kickback that can end in termination. Go up to your boss, tell him he sucks and that you hate the company and ally eh company’s product, and that you hate your job. I guarantee you that the first amendment will not protect you there.

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