US Air Force actually does everything to retire the A-10. One part of this is deliberate underutilization, forcing the F-15 and F-16 to do the work that the A-10 is far more suited for. As a result, USAF’s fast jet inventory has gotten worn out. As a result, A-10 pilots are not doing the job they are trained for, and fast jets pilots are doing the jobs they are insufficiently trained for. USAF is also eating itself alive, replacing the F-15 / YF-16 high-low mix with first the F-15 / F-16C high-medium mix and then the F-22 / F-35 ultra-high / high mix. Result of this is that USAF has to rely on very old machines, pilots that do not get anywhere close enough flying hours as they should, and a suboptimal force mix for either current or potential conflicts. Even in high-intensity conflicts, very high risk missions that may actually require stealth aircraft would be a minority; much would be taken up by the close air support, which again would require the A-10. And for COIN, even the A-10 is often an overkill – Embrear Tucano would be enough.
F-35s at Hill AFB in Utah
(USAF Photo, Paul Holcomb)
Today’s Air Force fleet structure is in the midst of an identity crisis, full of contradictions and built upon a multi-role fighter foundation. Despite this, the Air Force Future Operating Concept document categorizes its current force structure as a high-low mixture. It defines this mix as, “the intent to acquire a limited number of high-cost/high-capability platforms supplemented with many lower-cost/lower-capability platforms…to operate against adversaries that pose advanced threats to joint/multinational force efforts in any domain. To conduct follow-on sustained operations, or a sustained irregular warfare effort in a permissive or semi-permissive environment, AF forces primarily will use lower-cost/lower-capability assets.”
Today the F-16 comprises 50% of the USAF fighter/attack aircraft inventory (1,017 of 2,018 aircraft). At either extreme, the high-end of 187 F-22s is balanced almost equally with the 284…
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