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February 28, 2015

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It's an excellent question! Nobody but the US fields the A-10, which is pretty weird -- it's an older aircraft, and not terribly expensive, so you'd expect an export market to have grown up.

All I can think is that it's falling in a sour spot -- it's not a "prestige" high-end dogfighter, but OTOH it's not much good for fighting guerrillas or whatnot. It's a plane you want if you're fighting a conventional ground war. That's a limited market, and maybe the Su-25 already has it sewn up? But I don't really know.

(You know who would know? Robert Farley.)

The Ivoirian incident remains mysterious. The best guess is that it was either showboating or boundary-testing by Gbagbo. He's in the International Criminal Court now for unrelated matters, but AFAIK he's never given a clear explanation.


Doug M.

oh wow.

A topic I can speak about here, not just inquire and learn.

Its pretty simple: its a niche aircraft, its not in production (and has not been for over 30 years!), it has a cheaper competitor (Su-25) even if it were and most nation states have picked attack helicopters instead of fixed wing for troop support.

The A-10 is a ground attack craft. Its a beaut when it comes to that role. However, if a Su-27 decides it wants to eat an A-10, it will and there's not much a Hog driver can do about it other than pray there's a CAP running near by and bob and weave until it shows up. If I am in charge of procurements at XYZ air force and need to get new aircraft, I am NOT going to pick the A-10. It does one thing and one thing really well (kill things on the ground, esp tanks), but my limited number of planes I can afford will have to do more than that. They need to fight other aircraft as well or UVW air force is going to shoot down all my A-10s.

The USAF is huge. It has nearly 5,900 aircraft! However, if you count only combat aircraft and neglect the drones for now: we have a total of 2162. The Royal Air Force has a total of 670/231 (total/combat). The French have 658/225. The ratio of 3:1 seems to be pretty stable scanning the other air forces. We can 'afford' to dedicate some platforms to specialized niches other nations cannot because we will have enough other planes to continue to fight even with losses. Seriously, our F-15 fleet alone is the same size as the combined combat aircraft of the Royal Air Force and Armee de L'Air. Our F-22 fleet is nearly the same size as the entirety of the RAF! That's why we can afford (in terms of platforms) to Close Air Support (CAS) and strategic bomber aircraft when almost all others have had to pick multirole fighters instead.

The only source of A-10s is the used USAF inventory. Its been that way since 1984. Back in 1984, who could you have sold the Hog to? Europe was very focused on their own aircraft or buying the cheap multirole F-16. The other possible client would have been the South Korean Air Force. I doubt there was much interest in trying to sell /just/ to the Koreans.

The Su-25 was built to be the Warthog-ski. The Soviets realized it was a useful niche to have filled and given the scale of their massive air force, they could 'afford' to dedicate platforms the same way the USAF could. You can get a Su-25 for $11M now. The last price quote for an A-10 was in 1994 for $11.8M...which if I am adjusting properly is $18.6M now. Even if the A-10 was in production, the Su-25 is cheaper (and less capable but that's another story).

Finally, most nations have opted to get attack helicopters instead of fixed wing CAS birds. Keep in mind, the range, speed and payload of an Apache (~300 mi, 165 mph & ~4000 lbs) is fine for most problems nation states will have. The Hog can do (~300 mi, 340 mph & ~16,000 lbs) and that fits best a nation facing having to cover all of a hostile, say, Afghanistan.

The A-10 is good, but its good for a specific task and only that task. Most air forces today cannot afford a single use tool: they go with the good enoughs which can be used for multiple things...and are still in production.

Sorry for the overly long winded reply.

No, that was awesome! Good to know. Thanks!


Doug M.

Pretty much what Will said! There are some organizational issues, too (Warthog is a stand in for USAF's commitment to jointness) which make the debate meaner than it otherwise should be. But part of the answer is that the A-10 is not absolutely ideal for the kind of missions that it's being sent on; something along the lines of a Super Tucano or Textron Scorpion is better as a new platform, but there's no chance the USAF will ever buy one of those in any serious numbers, and so the A-10 debate is a proxy argument for other issues.

Ooh, the Super Tucano. Not only is it very good at its interesting job, but it has the coolest name ever.


Doug M.

For perspective:

The combined NATO nations' air forces (minus USAF) have less combat aircraft than the USAF.

The RAF and Armee de L'air have approximately the same number of combat aircraft as the US Navy.

The those same NATO nations have the same number of combat aircraft as the Russian Air Force. Its questionable as to whether or not the Russians have that many usable aircraft or not: the strategic bombers, frex, have only one which has modernized and reports only as much as 4 are flyable.

The Chinese PLAAF has as many 'modern' aircraft (4th generation or later) as the French, British and German air forces put together. However it has as many ancient birds as well.

In contrast, the Indian Air Force is about half the size of the Chinese PLAAF. The Japanese 'Air Self Defense Force' is about the same size.


Interesting question and discussion. I swore I wrote a response to this on March 1 or Feb 28 but I don't see it. Which is a pity as I brought up some of the same points that Will did in addition to noting that:

1. The British and French air forces already operated platforms that performed the close air support role from before the A-10 was produced (The Harrier GR.1 and GR.3, the Tornado and the Gazelle helicopter). These platforms were not that old by the time the A-10 came along so there would have been little incentive to purchase A-10s.

2. Outside of the British and French air forces the other NATO air forces which might have been able to have use for a close air support platform had other alternatives in use already (the Tornado for the West Germany and Italy)

3. The non-expeditionary militaries of the West had little need to buy A-10s since the U.S. already stationed A-10s in those countries and would under basically all realistic scenarios where such aircraft would be needed by those nations, actually employ them in support of those nations (so I'm a defensive war against any East bloc power)

4. Unlike the USSR the USA has no history of selling inferior export-versions of its military hardware to clients outside its most trusted group of friends. Hence there would have been little interest in selling the A-10 to third world armies lest the technology end up being re-sold to the USSR and/or China. Also there would be little interest in selling this kind of technology to countries that were not SOLIDLY in the western bloc just in case the US had to end up fighting those same armies one day (imagine if they had sold F-15s to Iraq....). The inferior export varieties of Soviet hardware also made them even cheaper than the versions used by the Soviet military and that combined with the willingness of the Soviets to sell these versions to pretty much any Third World country that could pay one way or another meant that the Su-25 was the preferred or sometimes only choice available to non-western militaries.

On point 4, JH:

I do believe there were some downgrades to the Saudi F-15s at the request of Israel.

I hope you realize that you are standing in front of an Army OV-1D surveillance/reconnaissance a/c long since retired. At least you got the salute right

I was in the Army at the time. You should hold your cursor over the picture, sir. Don't make assumptions.

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/strike/2015/03/06/no-decision-on-a10-follow-new-aircraft/24514011/

Boeing or their potential customers must be listening to the blog:

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-proposes-international-a-10-warthog-sales-412606/

There are interested partners...

Hmm....which partners would be interested in acquiring fixed up A-10s? Can't think of any European countries which might purchase it. Nor Canada or Australia.

Japan maybe? The South Koreans as discussed before? The Israelis?

Hmm....as a CAS aircraft, it could be useful in situations where there isn't much danger of enemy aircraft that could take the A-10 out....so maybe Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and maybe Iraq?

Ukraine. ;)

Lol. Given Ukraine's parlous finances, that should be one of the last countries they sell such good equipment to, but then they can afford to part with them at this stage for little or nothing.....

Actually, they'd be pretty useless. Not because they couldn't take out the Russian tanks and whatnot, but rather suddenly the DNR & LNR would have a 'competent' air force with Su-27s appear overnight.

However, the House just approved $200M in military aid, so if you took the 1994 price, they'd only get something around 20. When you could parts and everything else, it'd drop to 8 to 10. Not really useful.

And, yes, I was joking. hence, the winkie.

OTOH, a Flying Cossak squadron might work. There are no American pilots in Ukraine!!! ;)

I don't think the DNR and LNR would need Su-27s to take out the A-10s as they have taken out Ukrainian Su-25s in the past I believe. They do already have quite a few surface to air defences.

And yes, I do realize you were joking. A flying cossack squadron would make for some very interesting stories though. ;)

With regards to which partners could actually buy them and have use for them, Iraq and South Korea come most to mind really. South Korea would hopefully have no need to use them, but Iraq could probably use them in the current war against Islamic State in northwestern Iraq.

We probably ought to call it the Baba Yaga Squadron though given the age of the A-10s.

The USAF just crushed hopes of foreign sales of the A-10:

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/usaf-rules-out-international-a-10-sales-414975/

Looks like the US Air Force is slowly being forced to look at an A-10 replacement: the A-X.

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/a-10-replacement-usaf-strategy-calls-for-39future-cas-415639/

Last post on this:

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/air-force/2016/01/28/lawmaker-calls-obama-fund--10-develop-replacement/79480584/

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