Here are the aircraft that could replace the A-10 Warthog in the CAS mission

The U.S. Air Force has launched a study to find the A-10 Thunderbolt II replacement.

Given the U.S. Air Force plan to retire its A-10 fleet in 2022, the service has recently announced that has launched a study aimed to find a Hog replacement in the close air support (CAS) role.

Finding a replacement for the Warthog will be indeed a difficult task: in fact even if the CAS mission has been handled by several other tactical aircraft (such the F-16) in the recent years, the A-10 ability to loiter over the battlefield remains unrivaled.

But since the USAF is looking for an aircraft able to perform counterterrorism operations rather than one able to destroy tanks and armoured vehicles, as explained by Flight Global, several platforms might be up for the role.

Super Tucano

One aircraft that could fulfill the mission is the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Recently delivered to the reborn Afghan Air Force and already in service with other ten air arms around the world, this propeller-driven aeroplane is a valuable close air support platform thanks to the chance to outfit its airframe with a wide variety of bombs and machine guns.

Another turboprop plane that could be chosen to replace the A-10 is the Beechcraft AT-6.

This aircraft is a derivative of the USAF T-6 Texan II trainer tailored for the CAS role: in fact, like the Super Tucano, the AT-6 can carry a wide variety of weapons under its wings.

Moreover both the aircraft can be armed with the Raytheon AGM-176 Griffin missile. Designed around a small warhead, this weapon is a precision low-collateral damage missile that makes the A-29 and the AT-6 very effective also in irregular warfare scenarios.

The Textron AirLand Scorpion could perform the CAS mission too. The Scorpion as A-10 replacement would offer high-end capabilities: in fact this plane is not only a tactical strike aircraft for irregular warfare, border and maritime patrol but also an ISR (intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance) platform able to perform air defense operations.

Scorpion Jet

However, although these aircraft are highly maneuverable weapon systems capable of delivering precision guided munitions in a low intensity conflict, none of them could survive in a less permissive environment, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements Lt Gen James Holmes explained on Mar. 8, 2016.

Holmes said that the T-X advanced trainer program contenders will not be suitable since they will not be ready until 2024.

Holmes also explained that using the F-35 in the A-10 role would be too expensive.

Nevertheless replacing the A-10 with the JSF seems being the answer to the problem for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who, on Feb. 2 announced: “The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters on a squadron-by-squadron basis, so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today conflicts.”

Eventually, given the F-35 vulnerability over the battlefield in the CAS role in addition to its high operating costs, the best solution could be to postpone again the retirement of the A-10 fleet and beginning the process of developing a dedicated CAS platform to replace the Hog.

An opinion shared also by the former A-10 squadron commander and current U.S. Congresswoman Martha McSally who told to NationalInterest.com: “The U.S. Air Force needs a next-generation A-10 before attempting to mothball any further A-10s. The specific mission set for CAS/FAC-A/CSAR requires a specific aircraft, not one that is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.”

F-35 CAS

Image credit: Airman 1st Class Chris Massey / U.S. Air Force and Textron AirLand

18 Comments

  1. The AT-6 seems like a good choice, considering that virtually any Air Force pilot is basically already typed. If shit really hit the fan, they could be manned in a pinch. I think its a great platform.

  2. “the A-10 ability to loiter over the battlefield remains unrivaled.”

    B-1B and AC-130 crews might have something to say about that.

    • They would, if they could skim at treetop level and take out individual or groups of bad guys literally across the road from the good guys while shrugging off ground fire. B1 and AC stand off support have their places, and they know it and they do it very well. A-10 is much more personal.

      • Except they’ve been doing it for more than a decade. Hell, the most recent action in Iraq and Syria, commanders chose the B-1B as the platform of choice because of their payload and endurance. A-10s weren’t even used.

    • Sure, but such missions are vastly more expensive and unnecessary for fighting lunatics in Toyota pickups. We need to have far more affordable and suitable alternatives for close air support.

      • “We need to have far more affordable and suitable alternatives for close air support.” We already have it… it’s called the F-16. How come all of you A-10 fanboys don’t really seem to know much about this topic?

  3. Why, oh why is the Air Force so set on spending huge amounts of money on a Warthog replacement rather than using common sense? Even if the newest CAS aircraft is vulnerable in a “less permissive environment”, don’t use them against advanced Migs or Sukhoi aircraft. They are ground attack planes and do not need to challenge advanced fighters. That is what the F22, F35 and newer model F15’s and F16’s are for. Stop wasting taxpayer money and build or buy a cheap (as compared to the F35), solid airframe that can be mass produced if needed. The aforementioned Scorpion is a solid choice for a lot less money. Use it!!!

    • Less permissive environment is not just a scenario with dangerous air threats, it also has advanced AA defenses and high chances of receiving heavy ground fire. None of the proposed replacements can be close to match the performance of the Warthog, which was designed specifically to provide CAS in a less permissive environment which was the Fulda Gap.

      • I sat on the border just south of the gap and there was only 2 things that allowed me to not feel like anything more than a bump in the road for a massive Soviet tank attack and That was the A-10 and the new (at the time) ah-64 apache. I have been on that border and seen a buttload of T64 and T72s rolling on the 100meter road. The A-10 should be either updated or A-11’d. The F-35 is proof that the military has been overrun with generals answering to the military industrial complex. With cost overruns, delays and technical problems the F-35’s ridiculous cost just can’t fill the role of any CAS missions. It’s just to dam expensive to use in any situation other than one where it’s not going to be in any conflict danger. JMHO

    • Exactly. America keeps spending money like it has an endless supply. Close a bunch of bases or withdraw forces from entire countries too. We should not be supporting European countries with American taxpayer dollars and weapons!

  4. F-35 burns well in the CAS role (no pun intended) – any new CAS aircraft needs low speed, loiter endurance, armor and a big gun or equivalent firepower

    what is possible? a ucav carrier and command aircraft (UCCA) – safely away from harm – a FAC standing by to relay target and other data
    the ucavs could carry small autoguns and precision guided munitions
    or new airframes with new engines of evolved A-10 design? the “cross of death” could live again in a new incarnation

    • The A-10 can actually be brought down really easy. It’s just that the A-10 has not had to go up against a truly capable force. The future is not slow and low. It is slow and fast, but high.

    • People PLEASE quit repeating this shit about a CAS asset having a mandatory need for low speed, low altitude, big-gunned, brawler.

      The GWOT has shown that is in no way true. A large percentage of the CAS i witnessed came from aircraft I never even saw. Very often a strategic bomber. There is absolutely no need to risk the A-10 in an environment where it won’t be survivable without massive ECM and SEAD/DEAD support. No need to risk the CSAR assets trying to pull an A-10 pilot out of Syria because somebody thought that the minute capability increase is enough to justify risking the aircraft and pilot when other aircraft can do same job and be invulnerable doing it.

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