I see the Air Force is once again proposing to do away with their A-10s.
Ground troops seem to really like having A-10s available for close air support. I would think an A-10 would be less vulnerable to ground fire than a chopper & I believe the A-10 can also operate from a rougher, shorter airstrip than most jets. It also seems easier to maintain than a chopper or VTOL aircraft.
So, if the Army really thinks that A-10s are vital to their mission, could they fly their own?
Yes. Which use to scare the USAF as they would lose a mission and part of their empire. In fact when the USAF brought up this idea in the past, the Army would just say, we’ll take the A-10s and the USAF would back off. However with the big military budget cuts, the USAF just might say OK this time.
Marines have the Harriers and soon their version of the F-35 for that mission.
I thought there was at one point, if not a regulation, then at least a gentleman’s agreement, that after the Air Force was created as a separate service, the Army would not operate any fixed-wing aircraft (except miscellaneous non-combat stuff) and the Air Force would not operate any helicopters. Did I imagine that?
The Key West Agreements delineated the Army/Air Force roles, and the Army retains fixed-wing planes for only medevac and tactical reconnaissance. Close air support is firmly in the province of the Air Force, not the Army. There’s also the Pace-Finletter memo, which restricts the Army fixed-wing planes even further, and gives the Army unlimited use of helicopters.
The Marine Corps could theoretically use A-10s, but considering that the A-10s aren’t carrier-rated, it’s unlikely that they would even want to do so.
To what extent are the Key West Agreements and the Pace-Finletter memo considered to be real military discipline law and to what extent are they unenforceable “understandings”? If they are enforceable, how high would you have to go in order to find someone with legal authority to override them and give A-10’s to the Army? I assume the POTUS, as Commander-in-Chief, could do it. Would Congress have to pass a law repealing the Key West Agreements or Pace-Finletter or would an order from the President be enough? Would an Army General be allowed, in theory, to use the professional discretion inherent in his position to allocate part of his budget for A-10 operations?
The main thing holding back the Army is the very considerable expense of operating the aircraft. The Army is subject to the same budget cuts, and finding the money to take over the A-10 mission really isn’t in the cards. The Army would have to establish a whole new force structure (bases, personnel, training, etc) that would surely make it more expensive for the Army to take the aircraft than for the Air Force to keep them.
The Army is already proposing to divest itself of all of its scout helicopters; it just doesn’t make sense that they would find billions to take the A-10s.
This came up in 1990 when the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 with the A-16, a variant of the F-16 that ultimately never went into production. From here:
So in answer to the OP, yes the Army could operate their own A-10s, Congress in fact initially ordered the Air Force to hand them over before reaching a compromise ordering the Air Force to retain two wings of A-10s. Notably Desert Shield was underway when this decision was reached.
I imagine the Secretary of Defense would be the first person with the authority to straighten it out.
But… since it would involve so much funding for transfers, new personnel, etc… Congress would almost certainly be involved, and probably the President. It would be a huge political dust-up, and personally I don’t see it happening unless the USAF totally neglects and/or abrogates its responsibility for close air support to the Army, and it’s an issue in a war at some point.
I had heard that the Army was “prohibited” from operating armed fixed-wing aircraft. Probably a vague mangling of the sources others have cited.
But on the subject of the Air Force and helicopters, a recruitment brochure the Army was passing out circa 1986 said that all Army fixed-wing pilots were sent to the Air Force to get their flight training, and in return all Air Force helicopter pilots were trained by the Army.
Which sounds like a rare bit of sensibly not duplicating facilities somebody else already has.
It will be a sad day if the USAF does away with the A-10. Imagine the difference it would make if Kim Jong Un ever decided to strike South Korea. An F-35 carrying two GBU-12s just cannot do the same CAS/anti-armour job as an A-10 loaded with 2 GBU-12s, 6 Mavericks and three cluster bombs, not to mention the 30mm cannon.
The upthread mentioned Key West Agreement is sort of flexible if you’ve got 3 or more stars on your shoulders and have the Chief of Staff’s or Secretary’s phone number on speed dial. Originally, the Army wasn’t to have ANY armed aircraft whatsoever and they were sort of happy with it until some enthusiastic LT or Capt attached an air-cooled Browning .30 and some rocket tubes to the skids of an H-13 at Ft Rucker.
It seems to me the USAF hates the A-10 until they’re just about to get rid of it and TPTB say “Okay, you don’t have to keep the A-10s. We’ll just transfer the planes AND the funding to the Army.” Then the AF loves the A-10.
I think the USAF likes the idea of multirole fighter-bombers a lot more than they like the idea of dedicated CAS planes, especially in light of the reduced funding that they’re getting. Plus, pilots want to fly what’s sexy, and A-10s are definitely not sexy.
So it makes some sense from the perspective of a USAF general to go for the F-35 for both CAP and CAS, even if it’s not as good as say… the F-22 at CAP, and the A-10 at CAS, because you can standardize the fleet, perform the roles adequately, and possibly retain good pilots who wouldn’t be satisfied flying the A-10.
They also have the Navy example to go by; they shit-canned the A-6 Intruders and F-14 Tomcats some years ago in favor of the do-it-all F/A-18 Hornets, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt their capabilities much. So the USAF thinks they can do the same thing, I’m sure.
Nowhere near as survivable. Ever since getting one of them shot down during Desert Storm, the various AC-130s are primarily restricted to nighttime operations only. Some sites mention they can be used if there’s an overcast layer they can operate above. The following master’s thesis discussing various USAF option for urban CAS, including the AC-130, may be of interest. From it:
While they have some armor, they aren’t the ‘flying tanks’ with respect to AAA that A-10s are. Moreover, their engagement profile involves them flying low, slow, and in an predictable orbit over the target. Fine if the target can’t shoot back with anything beyond a belt-fed machine gun, but a very bad idea if the target has SAM capability or large AAA.
Edit, also, according to the thesis, there’s only 21 Spectres in the USAF. They just can’t be everywhere you’d like to have one. And I’m not sure how effective the Spectre’s armament would be against the heavy armor formations the A-10 was designed to eliminate.