Help Save Close Air Support
“When you’re talking to an 18-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio, you know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”
-Anonymous A-10 Pilot
The Problem: the Air Force is cutting Close Air Support (CAS) and breaking faith with troops.
In the 2023 budget the Air Force revealed a 5-year plan to eliminate its A-10 CAS aircraft without an adequate replacement and to cut TACPs/ JTACs (Terminal Air Control Party Specialists/ Joint Terminal Attack Controllers/ Air Ground Integrators) by 50%. If successful, this plan would kill the CAS profession and cripple America’s CAS capability. Ground troops would be supported, if at all, by CAS amateurs in a small expensive fleet of fragile aircraft that are far less effective. In Low Intensity Conflict, that will cost lives. In Major Combat Operations, it risks losing battles. We need your help to stop the CAS cuts in the 2024 budget.
How You Can Help
1. Click 'Contact Congress', send a letter, and sign our petition
2. Refer your friends to this website
3. If your organization supports this cause, reach out through our Endorsements page.
The Air Force will present their plan to Congress this March at the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) hearings. We need your help to spread the word as rapidly as possible.
Who Should Care
1. Families who expect their Sons and Daughters to get the best air support when they fight for our country
2. Soldiers who put their lives at risk on the battlefield
3. Commanders who must accept additional risk to mission without effective CAS
4. Veterans that don't want to see past mistakes repeated
5. Constituents asking why we're spending $50Bn to replace A-10s with F-35s that are far less effective
6. CAS pilots and TACPs
Fortunately, our republic works pretty well here. We were successful in stopping similar cuts from 2014 - 2021. In 2022, the Air Force started to cut A-10s and TACPs. If you help us get the word out to Congress, they'll listen and act.
The AF is misleading Congress and the Army about A-10 survivability to justify cuts.
The A-10 has proven that it can survive and thrive in todays threat environment using a combination of force packaging, and smart tactics. There are 4 major threats to aircraft over a modern battlefield: Air (enemy fighters), radar guided Surface-Air Missiles (SAMs), Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), and Infrared Man-portable SAMS (MANPADs). The A-10 is hands-down the most survivable aircraft in the world in a dense AAA and MANPAD environment. That leaves Air and SAM threats. The Air Force spends a lot of taxpayer $$ to ensure the F-16, F-15EX, F-22 and F-35 can kill or negate Air and SAM threats. But these aircraft are not built to survive in the dense AAA or MANPAD environment found over the battlefield. That’s why you have an A-10. The A-10/ F-35 flyoff, Red-Flag, and Weapons School exercises all demonstrate the most effective way to perform CAS in today's threat environment is to use A-10s to support our Ground Forces while other assets keep the skies clear of Air-Air threats and SAMs. Its called Force Packaging and is basic Air Force Doctrine.
The A-10/ F-35 flyoff was such an embarrassment for the AF that they buried the report.
The Air Force designed the F-35 to replace the F-16 and F-15E but tried to convince Congress that it could also replace the A-10. Congress told them they had to prove the F-35 could do CAS as well as the A-10 in a flyoff before they would approve cuts. The A-10 outperformed the F-35 in two separate CAS flyoffs. The first was so bad, the Air Force ordered another where former A-10 pilots flew the F-35s, but the F-35s still lost. The Air Force buried the reports. It’s worth noting that these tests were designed to heavily favor the F-35. First, there were no actual Army units on the ground, or involved in any way…in a CAS test. Second, the nearest friendlies were stationary 4km from the target (hardly CAS). The lowest simulated weather was 10000’ (Wx in Europe and Asia averages far worse). There was a modern radar threat system the A-10s had to face with no additional support (not even close to doctrine). That said, the A-10s killed the threat and pressed on with the mission. The real solution, and F-35 pilots agree with this, is to force-package A-10s and F-35s whenever possible. "You need 5th Gen fighters on the leading edge to detect systems and provide a screen against advanced enemy fighters. I need Warthogs in depth with the magazine firepower to smite our enemies from the face of the earth" - Anonymous 5th Gen pilot
Keeping 281 A-10s instead of replacing them with F-35s would save $46B over 10 years.
The Air Force advertises that killing the A-10 would save 3Bn over 5yrs. That's asking us to ignore reality. Buying F-35s cost 10 times more than upgrading A-10s. F-35s also costs twice as much to operate. That's for a jet that has shown it’s not very good at CAS. The F-35 was so ineffective in Afghanistan that troops refused to use it. As of 2021, F-35s don’t even train for CAS. The F-35 CAS yarn the Air Force sold to Congress was always a joke to the CAS community. The Air Force attempts to replace A-10s with F-35s is fraudulent and wasteful. The cost to purchase and operate 281 F-35s cost $46Bn more than upgrading and operating 281 A-10s over a 10 year period. That doesn't include a recent request to spend $15Bn/ 12yrs to upgrade F-35s to Block 4.
Given the current and emerging threats to democracy, Congress should demand an Air Force budget that preserves proven capability and capacity while developing and evaluating new technology. The Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons during Desert Storm. It has 57 now and is planning on cutting far deeper to pay for fewer over-priced aircraft that are less effective at CAS. The Air Force proposal to cut 400 fighters (including all of the A-10s) over the next 5 years in order to develop a “several hundreds of millions of dollars per copy” next-generation air dominance (NGAD) fighter that won’t be ready “until the early 30s” is fiscal and strategic suicide that our troops will pay for in blood.
Why are TACPs and A-10s needed in future combat?
The Army expects intense close combat in future wars.
The Army must prepare for intense close combat in future wars according to Lt Gen Ted Martin, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. Historically, our adversaries know to close with our ground forces to negate the effects of our long-range fires. In near-peer fights where communications will be severely degraded, and our forces will be constantly maneuvering to survive, CAS amateurs will be a hinderance. High altitude aircraft dropping bombs on coordinates without eyes on the battle will be worthless or even dangerous. Only a highly trained, single mission focused team of CAS professionals that habitually train with the Army will be able to operate effectively in the dynamic defensive engagements that we will encounter in a large-scale combat operation.
Divesting A-10s will severely degrade air support for SOF.
AC-130s or Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) helo’s are ideally trained and equipped to provide air support in such a close fight. Their design characteristics provide the unique effect required in support of the close fights that SOF require. However, AC-130s are restricted to night ops, and require a very permissive threat/weather environment. Army SOF aviation faces similar challenges, and limited range. A-10s provide SOF the mutual support during day and night, bad weather, and in a wider threat spectrum. That integrated employment is only possible due to the habitual training relationships inherent in the A-10s single-mission training focus and unique A-10 capabilities.
JTACs, A-10s, Artillery and Attack Helos are a lethal and survivable team.
A properly trained Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT) can do serious damage to the most capable enemy and overwhelm their air defenses. The synergistic effects of JAAT requires intense and habitual training and a high level of execution. Adding Air Force SAM suppression, Air to Air fighters and friendly SAM batteries would further enhance an already highly lethal and survivable force. Integration of assets is what increases survivability and effectiveness. An ideal (and economical) Joint Force includes inexpensive CAS players and high-end fighters.
Air Force Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) cuts break faith with 5th Gen pilots
If we do get into a near peer fight, 5th Gen fighters and bombers going deep will have their work cut out for them. Some will be shot down. They'll need a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) to pick them up. Sometimes threats prevent pilot rescue, but many times, highly trained Air Force CSAR packages are able to outsmart the enemy and rescue downed pilots. There's only one aircraft that has the capability to find and protect downed pilots/ escort helicopters/ and integrate the right force package to handle the threat - that's the A-10. Future Air Force plan to cut A-10s and reduce HH-60 rescue helo's will cripple our CSAR capabilities. CSAR is hard, but to abandon downed American pilots that could have been rescued breaks faith, and means we'll see more POWs or far worse in future wars.
We must be ready to fight Russia on the ground.
Europe’s low weather and missile threats drive low altitude standoff tactics that a team of well-trained TACPs and A-10s were built for. Vulnerable aircraft like the F-16, F-15, and F-35 can’t operate below the weather and survive dense anti-aircraft artillery like the A-10 can. They will often be forced to do CAS from above the clouds through a soda-straw radar picture and without eyes on friendlies. Further, they can’t operate from short strips close to the fight due to their reliance on long pristine runways. That drives an extensive and vulnerable tanker requirement, and shorter time on station. A 50% cut in TACPs will mean no support below the Brigade Level. Coordination with ground forces will be abysmal. That means less close support of much lower quality. Our troops deserve better.
Deterring China isn't just for 5th gen.
The A-10 can island hop across austere fields in the Pacific that other fighters can’t because of its short field capabilities and high mounted engines that won’t ingest rocks. A-10s and TACPs would be invaluable to the Marine and Army troops charged with securing island bases. From those islands, the A-10 can launch unmatched numbers of standoff weapons to overwhelm air defenses. A properly manned TACP force can provide critical comm nodes forward. This not only increases the survivability of penetrating 5th Generation fighters and bombers, but it provides CAS expertise and island defense in a theater that will need it.
The A-10 has capabilities the Army needs that the AF can't replace.
The A-10 was purpose built for CAS. It's the only 4-wheel drive in an Air Force full of sports cars. Without the A-10, the USAF will lose the capability to: generate high sortie rates from austere airfields close to the battlefield; operate below low weather ceilings and visibility common to Europe and Asia; remain within close visual range of friendly forces; rapidly reattack the enemy with precise point and shoot/ fire and forget weapons; kill up to 16 armored vehicles in one sortie; survive attacks from dense battlefield air defenses; communicate effectively with ground forces and downed pilots on 5 different radios; operate in a communications jamming or satellite-denied environments with or without sensors; and maintain long loiter times to support friendlies throughout extended ground engagements.
CAS is ineffective without properly manned and trained TACPs.
A 50% cut in TACPs does not meet Army requirements. With a 50% cut in TACPs, the BCT support will drop from 31 Airmen to 16. Not only does that limit TACPs to Brigade Level, but it guts already undermanned ASOCs (critical CAS command and control nodes at Corps level of command). Much like the A-10 cuts, if you eliminate 50% of the TACPs now, you can’t just get them back tomorrow. It takes 2-3 years to get them fully trained. There will be no time to retrain those TACPs in the event of another conflict.
History of CAS and the A-10
To secure funding and missions when it became an independent service after WWII, the Air Force successfully lobbied congress to prevent the Army from arming its own fixed wing aircraft (Key West Agreement 1948/ Pace-Finletter MOU 1952/ Johnson-McConnel Agreement 1966). Instead of building capable air to ground platforms, the Air Force bought expensive air to air fighters and bombers. The result was so bad in Korea that the USAF had to resurrect WWII aircraft and learn how to do CAS again. In the early days of Vietnam, the USAF had to buy CAS planes from the Navy and fumbled through CAS doctrine. Fed up, the Army and Congress pressured the Air Force to build the A-10 or face losing the funds and mission to the Army. Not long after the A-10 was built, the Air Force started trying to kill it.
AF attempts to cut the A-10 pre-date the Global War on Terror and Desert Storm.
As soon as the Air Force stopped the Army from developing its own CAS aircraft, the Air Force began efforts to kill the A-10. During the cold war the Air Force claimed that it wasn’t survivable against Soviet threats. Then the A-10 flew against Iraq’s Soviet threat systems in Desert Storm. It was one of the most effective and survivable (given number of aircraft shot down vs number of ground attacks made) air to ground aircraft in the war. Ignoring this, Air Force tried to kill the A-10 during the post Desert Storm drawdown. Congress and the Army again denied the cut. Many Americans are alive today because of the A-10s performance in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Today, the Air Force is trying to kill the CAS mission by again claiming that the A-10 isn’t survivable or affordable.