WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The RAND Corporation recently released a report prepared for the U.S. Army affirming U.S. Rep. McSally’s persistent arguments for retaining the A-10 aircraft. After analyzing Air Force plans and alternative options, the defense research organization in its report recommended fielding a viable Close Air Support replacement before eliminating the capability the A-10 provides, a key requirement for which Rep. McSally has fought.
“This report presents yet another finding that retiring the A-10 without a tested, proven replacement would endanger troops’ lives,” said Rep. McSally. “As I’ve persistently argued, the A-10’s one-of-a-kind munition payload, survivability, and ability to loiter over a battlefield make it uniquely suited for Close Air Support. We must have an A-10, F-35 fly-off before any A-10 can be retired. We also must develop requirements for what will eventually replace the Warthog, which needs to be operational before eliminating any A-10 aircraft.”
Last year’s NDAA, which was signed into law on December 23, 2016, included a provision authored by Rep. McSally to mandate an A-10, F-35 fly-off before any A-10 can be retired. The legislation details what capabilities a fly-off must test, including Close Air Support and Combat Search and Rescue, two missions currently performed by the A-10.
The RAND report follows an analysis from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in August 2016 highlighting the serious capability gaps that would occur under the Air Force’s proposals to prematurely retire the A-10 Warthog.
The full RAND report can be read here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1233.html
“…we recommend fielding a viable replacement CAS capability before eliminating the capability the A-10 provides to minimize risk to ground forces.” (pg. 22)
“The A-10 is inexpensive relative to the multirole fighters that are the most likely alternatives.” (pg. 16)
-- Comparison to F-35
“Aircraft operating at higher altitudes are less visible, which could affect the morale of both friendly and enemy troops. Visibility works the other way, as well: Higher operating altitudes suggest that the ability of F-35 pilots may be less able to develop a detailed picture of an ongoing ground battle than A-10 pilots have been, which can be a concern when friendly troops are operating in close proximity to the enemy may.” (pg. 17)
“However, the lower loiter time of the F-35A means that the aircraft will spend less time on station than the A-10 can. Also, the F-35A would normally carry less ordnance than the A-10 does. These points mean that the F-35A brings less firepower to the ground battle than the A-10 and that, once the aircraft is on station, it takes longer for ordnance to impact targets.” (pg. 17)
-- Unique, in-demand attributes
“During interviews we conducted, many ground commanders expressed a preference for the 30mm cannon over precision bombs because the cannon is highly accurate (80 percent of rounds within a 20-ft radius at 4,000-ft range), is better able to hit moving targets than even precision bombs, and produces less collateral damage than bombs.
Also, many missions involved a show of force, in which aircraft flew low and slow over the U.S. ground forces to deter adversary activity.” (pg. 20)
-- Action against ISIS
“Active only since November 2014 against the militant state, A-10s have performed 11 percent of U.S. Air Force ground-attack sorties. Only the more-numerous F-16s, which have been targeting ISIS months longer, have a higher percentage of total attacks.” (pg. 13)