The A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog: Air Force: "We don't want it" Army: We'll take it

Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
??? A chain gun is a gun that is run off a chain, connected to a motor. Or it’s a brand name of a particular chain gun. A gun that is not a chain gun is powered by energy from expanding gasses. I’m not saying, I’m asking – I don’t know anything about this. ???

That is correct. An electric motor drives the firing/feeding mechanism using a chain. Hence, chain gun.
Above is the original question and my reply. Please note that neither Melbourne nor I were referring to the A-10 in our posts. I’m well aware that the A-10 has a gatling gun multiple barrel weapon - the GAU-8.

The chain drive in the Apache and Bradley (and some C-130 gunships) moves a lot more than just the bolt; the feed system is more complex than the simple Wiki descriptions.

I’ve had 36+ years dealing with ammo and explosives including hundreds of hours with the A-10 DU armor piercing rounds and the later HEI. Nearly as many hours with the Bradley and Apache chaingun ammo to include malfunctions of the weapons on multiple occasions. The chain drive DOES NOT reduce the likelihood of jams. Failure modes include multiple rounds in barrel resulting in catastrophic failure of barrel and damage to the aircraft :eek:; tearing up the cartridges cases and scattering the propellant throughout the mechanism. Don’t believe the “double ram prevention” blurb in the Wiki entry for the Apache. Jamming has been a recurring problem with the Apache 30mm weapon.

I misunderstood I guess. Zonex etc also said a rotary barrel gun was a ‘completely different animal’. I thought you were responding to that and just snipping. I didn’t realize the part about discontinuous section of chain or continuous loop of chain was the point of contention. It’s continuous, of course.

I’m sorry I kinda started the chain gun feud, but guys…keep yer high falutin’, 21st century technological doodad airplane out of my Warthog thread.

In order to retire the A-10 in favor of Super Tucanos, you’ve got to convince the Air Force to buy the Super Tucanos in the first place.

Most simulators professionals use have mediocre graphics. I guess they figure there is no need to spend money on that. All the effort is put in to making the simulation behave as real as is possible.

The Air Force just released a draft request for proposals to start buying a light attack aircraft (with the Super Tucano as one option). The contract is tentatively expected to be awarded late next year.

While I support the idea of buying a light attack aircraft, the Air Force has been here before and resisted the idea:

While prospects look better for OA-X to work this time, there’s people with power in the Air Force who see this as a drain from other missions and capabilities.

The difference this time is that acquiring a light attack aircraft likely relieves the political pressure against retiring the A-10, allowing it to start being retired. This allows the Air Force to start shaving down the dozen-plus A-10 squadrons to a fewer number of light attack squadrons over the next decade, thereby freeing up pilots and maintainers for high-end airplanes.

That wasn’t the dynamic before 2014.

Interesting, in its own right and as an example of way of looking at military and technology changes historically.

And, as noted, OP was 3/24/14.

Apparently, in military doctrine, time is a flat circle.

1968 called and wants to offer us their SPADs and Super Tweets.

Wouldn’t the ideal CAS/COIN platform be:

  1. an unmanned drone that can fly fast to the hot zone but also hover or do pylon turns once there, and

  2. also heavily armored?
    The A-10’s main problem, IIRC, is that it has to do passes and gives the pilot little time to see what’s actually going on below.

Such a drone would put no pilot lives at risk and also have the slow/hover advantages of the AH-64 or loitering of the AC-130.

There are a bunch of engineering parameters that would define the ideal CAS/COIN platform, but many of them are in conflict with one another. Armor adds weight. Weight increases cost, fuel consumption (decreasing range and loiter time), and decreases speed, all three of which are detrimental to performing CAS missions. When it’s called for, you want an asset on station right now.

Just look at the example of the B1-B. Would have been laughable to use it for CAS when it was first introduced. But after it was equipped over the years with targeting pods and better precision-guided munitions, some ground units actually prefer it now for CAS over any other plane, including the A-10. The B1-B gets to where its needed fast, has enough endurance to spend a lot of time loitering overhead, and has a giant inventory of munitions. Sure, it’s expensive to operate (~$60k/hr) compared to a single drone, but it carries something like 50x the payload of a reaper.

And, it has enough navigational and other sensors to know where it is, where you are, and where the bad guys are (hopefully). This is not something that most CAS platforms can do and is really important if there isn’t something like a forward air controller who has done all of those calculations already. That ridge that you as the ground commander think is grid 6546734502 may not actually be 6546734502, but rather …35406. That matters.

Which leads me to the main objection to drones as ideal CAS platforms, that they don’t provide as good situational awareness as actually having a set of eyes and ears in a cockpit nearby. Though maybe not one in a cockpit doing 500+ kts, 100 feet AGL…

The U.S. military has plenty of ways to kill a particular grid reference. And to do it with low risk to any human pilots. The trick is to do it to the right grid, to do it timely (so that the bad guys are still there to get killed) and to do it without hurting the non-combatant locals (bad) or your own people (worse).

Timely is why many of the soldiers I’ve talked to and whose accounts I’ve read, far prefer things like indirect fire and Apaches or Kiowas, over the Air Force for fire support, because they could get them while the Taliban or other insurgents were still shooting at them. And they could be reasonably sure that they wouldn’t eat any stray ordnance. Not sure how ordnance-carrying drones would fit into that. Any discussion I’ve read, as a lowly civilian lay-person, indicates that the kill chain to use something like a Reaper is awfully long and slow for Joe to try and use for his troops in contact. Maybe with wider dispersion of ordnance-carrying drones through the Army, that’d be improved?

More cool A-10 swag:


A-10s are mentioned in this article about the Flying Tigers’ enduring popularity in China:

At last, a mask for everyone in this thread!

Or this:

I thought at first it meant A-10 nose art of the Warthog wearing a Covid face mask, which would have been entertaining too.