Is The Air Force Trying To Make The A-10 Look Bad?
Air Force figures in the 2016 budget reveal that switching from the A-10 to the new F-35 will apparently bring a savings of $4.2 billion dollars. But what the Air Force didn’t make clear is that merely shifting maintenance personnel from the A-10 to the F-35 is counted as savings, despite the fact that no personnel are actually being cut.
“I don’t want to impugn the Air Force, but [the conclusion] is probably true, in that the personnel portion of the $4.2 billion dollars in savings is going to head over to the F-35,” Phillip Lohaus, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It is technically a savings, but the money is reallocated right away.”
Larry Korb, senior defense fellow at the Center for American Progress, also pointed out to reporters that the total amount saved doesn’t really count for much, since it’s dwarfed by the costs of the F-35 program itself. “[I]f you take a look at this year’s budget, they upped the number of F-35s,” Korb told The Washington Examiner.
Air Force leadership has come under fire in the past for presenting misleading data on the A-10, most notably in the form of statistics which malign the A-10 as killing an inordinate number of civilians in the course of its operations, as well as the selective calculations in the 2016 budget here which inflate the level of savings.
Others, like Republican Sen. John McCain, have urged the Air Force to conduct an investigation into the remarks made by Maj. Gen. James Post which seemed to imply that testifying about the positive capabilities of the A-10 to Congress is treason. (RELATED: Air Force Continues Smear Campaign Against A-10 Jets)
In reality, the A-10 is incredibly safe and useful enough to redeploy in Europe to ward off the threat of Russian encroachment. Just a few days ago, 12 A-10s arrived in Germany to work with NATO in conducting routine exercises. Elsewhere in the Middle East, the A-10 continues to play a large role in the fight against the Islamic State.
No other program has taken this much of a toll on the Pentagon’s budget as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The Department of Defense (DOD) has had to accommodate repeated delays and costs far exceeding the original budget. In total, the expected cost for 2,457 F-35s is $1.5 trillion dollars. The latest projection is that the new fighter jets will be ready to go this July.
Congress isn’t happy with the plan to permanently retire the A-10, but according to Lohaus, there are clear reasons why those in Congress might have an extra aversion to adopting new technology.
“The A-10 has been a success story when it comes to manufacturing,” Lohaus told TheDCNF. “And so naturally, many in Congress have an interest in keeping it going.”
Additionally, Lohaus argues that the Air Force does in fact understand the value of the A-10, but what’s important is to look to the future.
“The Air Force needs to project 10 to 20 years into the future and look at the potential threats the U.S. may face, like anti-jamming technologies or precision-guided munitions,” Lohaus said. “The A-10 simply isn’t adequately designed to deal with those threats. Given that fact, the Air Force has to make a really tough decision regarding future capabilities.”
Yet, some military leaders are uncertain as to whether promised stealth capabilities of the F-35 can really deliver. Several weeks ago, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Greenert stated publicly that stealth is totally overrated.
“It’s not just Greenert, it’s across the naval aviation community: They’re just not that into the F-35,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Teal Group, according to Navy Times.
According to Lohaus, Greenert is largely correct, in that stealth isn’t a panacea. “There are still risks,” Lohaus emphasized. “With the timeframe of the development of counter stealth technology in China and Russia, the F-35 may be vulnerable again in 10 years, though it can be upgraded.”
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