RAND Report Affirms U.S. Rep. McSally Position on A-10
Think Tank Recommends, “fielding a viable replacement CAS capability before eliminating the capability the A-10 provides…”
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: https://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.2 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)