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Why Not the B-1 Instead of the A-10?


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Alright, I know I'm about to offend some very respectable people here, and I'm sure there's much more to it than someone in my position could possibly know, but this has been bugging me for a while. As seen in articles like this one: http://www.airforcem...-the-Table.aspx, the AF considered divesting either the B-1 or the A-10. My question to all the Strategic-Level gurus is:

If they could save just as much money by cutting the fleet of B-1s, then why would they ever consider cutting the A-10?

Here's the reasoning from my perspective, (an Apache pilot who has worked with F-15Es, Vipers, A-10s, and B-1s on real missions in Afghanistan):

The B-1 is an awesome aircraft, it really is, capable of long flights, long station time, and a huge payload. However, it is very expensive and extremely mission-limited. Fitting the bill for a "Single-Role Aircraft" as the AF bean-counters like to say (although I know that term is basically meaningless). It is a long-range strategic bomber designed to put bombs deep in the heart of Soviet Russia, and although it technically can perform some semblance of "CAS", helping to fill gaps in coverage, it is certainly no true CAS aircraft by any measure. In fact, even in it's primary role as long-range bomber, nearly any other bomber, fighter, or attack jet in the fleet can perform that role, granted not quite as fast and maybe with a couple more tanker-hits.

On the other hand, the A-10 is literally the only attack jet in the entire AF, although Strike Eagles and F-16s can cover down on CAS as needed, they are not true dedicated CAS platforms (for the sake of expediency I will not be mentioning anything about the F-35). This mission is the bread and butter of the AF once Air Supremacy has been established, which is typically in the early portion of a war. The A-10 has proven invaluable in this regard time and time again. Together with true multi-role fighters like the highly cost-effective and general-purpose F-16, the AF becomes a very valuable branch to everyone.

One final argument, the A-10 has a huge community consisting of many highly cost-effective guard units, and around 1000 pilots (I assume based on a fleet of around 400 A-10s). The B-1 is a very expensive aircraft to operate, and has a community of only around 400 pilots (I'm assuming based on a 2 man crew and 66 aircraft). Wouldn't it be far easier to ask 400 bomber pilots if they want to fly fighters than it would to displace 1000 happy A-10 pilots and a host of very proud and patriotic guard units?

Again, I am just asking, I don't think I know everything. It just seems odd. My advice to the community of A-10 supporters would be to suggest divesting the B-1 fleet entirely and stick to that strategy as it may be the only good one that the AF would execute. Maybe put a handful in "type 1000" storage or some other form of preservation in case Russia becomes the primary focus and we actually have the budget and need for them. Also, keep in mind that one of the other ideas that the AF had was cutting 350 F-16s! Literally, (and I don't think anyone would argue otherwise) the absolute worst idea I have ever heard of throughout the entire sequestration, from a financial and strategic perspective: http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140318/NEWS/303180067/B-1B-F-16s-could-next-Congress-blocks-Air-Force-plan-retire-10, a decision that would literally be the exact opposite of the reasoning the AF has used to cut the A-10. I think cutting the B-1 would be the lowest collateral-damage decision the AF could make at this time.

Anyway, please don't send me hate-mail, I'm not actively trying to get rid of the B-1 in my spare time. Just wondering, that's all.

Edited by xcraftllc
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Because the B-1 isn't single-role the way you describe it. The ability to perform stand-off weapons, conventional munitions, dynamic targeting, naval mining, low altitude strikes, and yes, CAS, outweigh what the A-10 will be able to do on days 1-10 of a war with a near-peer

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I suppose the only real solution here is to get our economic S*** together as a nation. Pawnman, I think you said it best on the sequester thread:

We still have to make these cuts up somewhere, unless congress suddenly realizes how stupid sequestration is and stops it.

It just sucks that indiscriminate slashing across the board seems to be the only option the politicians put on the table. Nevertheless, you see things like this going on (to save fellow users the time, basically the Army told congress they can save a ton of money by not funding the tank programs that they don't need, but Congress said too bad you're buying them so cut funds from other departments!): http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/09/army-to-congress-thanks-but-no-tanks/

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The Bone may not be the best as CAS but it's certainly better than the A-10 at strategic bombing and all those other things pawnman listed.

When the military-industrial complex determines what equipment we need then we're tying our own hands both economically and militarily.

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Neither is the A-10.

I think it's worth pointing out that aside from CSAR and FAC(A), the B-1 is capable of all those missions plus a number of others. More importantly, while the A-10 is not truly a "single-mission" airframe, it is essentially a single-environment airframe - it has virtually no utility in any kind of contested airspace, and no capability in the strategic or deep-strike tactical bombing game.

We also need to keep in mind that while the A-10 is a superb platform for the majority of missions in Afghanistan, that war is winding down and we can't assume that the next will be like it.

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The Bone may not be the best as CAS but it's certainly better than the A-10 at strategic bombing and all those other things pawnman listed.

When the military-industrial complex determines what equipment we need then we're tying our own hands both economically and militarily.

Other than stand-off weapons, I can't agree the B-1 is better than the A-10 at those other missions pawnman mentioned... Missions which the B-52 and B-2 are at least as equally capable at as the B-1. We can hang out all day on BO.net and argue about who can do what better. BL: the A-10 is not single-role, and eliminating the airframe effectively compromises the Air Force's CAS and CSAR expertise and legitimacy. Other airframes can accomplish those missions/roles, but the expertise lies in the A-10 community.

The Air Force's approach to mothballing the A-10 looks a lot more like a personal beef than logical reasoning. Using the same logic, we should also be shrink wrapping light grays and Raptors.

"I have gun camera video of dark grays and Vipers doing a great job at OCA and DCA" (Air Force leadership, 2014, mimicking similar quote made about CAS in OEF).

I think it's worth pointing out that aside from CSAR and FAC(A), the B-1 is capable of all those missions plus a number of others. More importantly, while the A-10 is not truly a "single-mission" airframe, it is essentially a single-environment airframe - it has virtually no utility in any kind of contested airspace, and no capability in the strategic or deep-strike tactical bombing game.

We also need to keep in mind that while the A-10 is a superb platform for the majority of missions in Afghanistan, that war is winding down and we can't assume that the next will be like it.

Can't operate in a contested environment? Gulf War 1, Bosnia/Kosovo, OIF... All contested. We train for and are effective in contested environments. Saying we can't operate in a contested environment is like saying Vipers and Bones can only do CAS against static targets in Afghanistan.

I'd love to see anyone else do CAS in a dynamic armor war and how those results would change this whole CAS/A-10 debate. OEF is the only reason other airframes have become legitimate CAS platforms, not the other way around, like mentioned in your post.

Edited by Pancake
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I know it's tough to get through all 2000+ posts, but there was some great discussion on this exact topic in the during the last few months of 2013. I used to share the opinion that the bone was low hanging fruit if a plane needed to be cut. I don't anymore.

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the A-10...has virtually no utility in any kind of contested airspace

I think there is a lot of legitimacy in this statement WRT the IADS of future possible environments. At the very least it's something to take a good hard look at

We train for and are effective in contested environments.

OEF is the only reason other airframes have become legitimate CAS platforms, not the other way around, like mentioned in your post.

WRT training/effectiveness in a contested environment...there's a very good SIPR discussion to be had and good points on both sides of the aisle for the survivability in different types of said environment

I would argue that OEF had zero to do with the AC130 being a legitimate CAS platform; it's legitimacy was proven well before that. I think that other platforms have been secondary CAS assets, but would tend to agree that OEF has made CAS a more necessary skill set within certain communities where it was not so much in the past

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I would argue that OEF had zero to do with the AC130 being a legitimate CAS platform; it's legitimacy was proven well before that.

Agreed.

The most effective argument for mothballing the A-10, IMO, would be "Our strategic threat assessment and a war-weary political environment do not foresee the US participating in any major, protracted ground wars in the next decade. Considering the fiscal environment and capabilities of other platforms, at this time we are willing to accept a CAS and CSAR capability gap and recommend retiring the A-10. Additionally, we request funds to explore a dedicated CAS replacement" (or something along those lines).

Up front, honest, and most importantly, an argument that's marketable to Congress and Big Green. The Air Force's biggest hurdle in retiring the Hog has been getting anyone to buy their pitch. People understand that we're approaching significant fiscal austerity. The way the Air Force is going about it projects that they're poo-pooing CAS, which upsets a lot of powerful folks and makes the fight personal.

Isn't there anyone with a marketing degree or MBA up at HAF?!

Edited by Pancake
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Other than stand-off weapons, I can't agree the B-1 is better than the A-10 at those other missions pawnman mentioned... Can't operate in a contested environment? Gulf War 1, Bosnia/Kosovo, OIF... All contested. We train for and are effective in contested environments. Saying we can't operate in a contested environment is like saying Vipers and Bones can only do CAS against static targets in Afghanistan.

I'd love to see anyone else do CAS in a dynamic armor war and how those results would change this whole CAS/A-10 debate. OEF is the only reason other airframes have become legitimate CAS platforms, not the other way around, like mentioned in your post.

In the maritime environment - which is a very significant one both in the CENTCOM AOR and as we "pivot" towards the Pacific - I'll take the B-1. Sure, the 30mm is a formidable weapon against a handful of FAC/FIAC, but against a large number (like we need to be prepared to face), I'd rather have several dozen GBU-54s. Naval mining is another signficant and neglected mission, for which the B-1 is probably our most capable asset.

As for operations in a contested environment, I'd be curious as to the particulars of the missions in those conflicts, though I'm sure they can't be discussed in the necessary detail here. But the fact is that in the face of wide proliferation of advanced modern IADS, the A-10 doesn't have the ability to use altitude and airspeed to avoid S/A threats. Regarding A/A threats, the A-10 can't effectively engage or outrun them, nor can it keep up with a strike package composed of escort assets that can.

I think your point about CAS in an armor war is valid, but I maintain that a B-1 is more capable in that fight than an A-10 is on a strike which might be opposed by a sophisticated IADS network.

And I didn't mean to imply that Afghanistan has legitimized the A-10, I only cited it as the example because it's the fight we're currently in. But those other platforms you allude to have also been providing effective CAS since long before OEF.

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JASSM.

This and the arguments about operating in the Pacific. Unless something has changed, the B-1 carries twice as many JASSM as the BUFF and 30% more than the B-2. Although it wouldn't take long to fix, its also the first platform to field the JASSM-ER.

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Agreed.

The most effective argument for mothballing the A-10, IMO, would be "Our strategic threat assessment and a war-weary political environment do not foresee the US participating in any major, protracted ground wars in the next decade. Considering the fiscal environment and capabilities of other platforms, at this time we are willing to accept a CAS and CSAR capability gap and recommend retiring the A-10. Additionally, we request funds to explore a dedicated CAS replacement" (or something along those lines).

Up front, honest, and most importantly, an argument that's marketable to Congress and Big Green. The Air Force's biggest hurdle in retiring the Hog has been getting anyone to buy their pitch. People understand that we're approaching significant fiscal austerity. The way the Air Force is going about it projects that they're poo-pooing CAS, which upsets a lot of powerful folks and makes the fight personal.

Isn't there anyone with a marketing degree or MBA up at HAF?!

Your CSAR argument is kinda moot though. CSAR is far more limited by he fact you are still using old worn out G model Hawks than what's running the RESCOURT package.

The problem is the Air Force is trying to divest a heavily guard integrated Airplane. Same problem is happening in the Army with Apache. Nobody cares we are retiring the Kiowa what matters is we are taking away guard jobs moving Apache and there for voters are mad. I think that's why you didn't see anywhere near the screaming on the hill when the Navy retired Intruder or Tomcat or the AF retired the F-111. There wasn't a large angry population of Guard guys and all the other jobs attached that vote for their respective districts.

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We're arguing about the wrong things, guys. The 2015 HASC-approved military budget will be about $600B in 2015. To show how insanely huge that is, the total yearly operating costs for the A-10, B-1, U-2, and KC-10 put together come to less than $6B. That's less than 1% of the pot for some pretty damn effective platforms.

Meanwhile, military retirement costs us $52B per year. That's more than the entire KC-46 acquisition, repeating every year. Canceling legacy platforms save us pennies in comparison, but it's the only thing that seems to generate attention and debate.

http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/afcap-data-for-2008-2012.xlsx

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Why don't we keep both and close the bases without runways? Just my $.02.

Costs money to close bases…lots of money.

This and the arguments about operating in the Pacific. Unless something has changed, the B-1 carries twice as many JASSM as the BUFF and 30% more than the B-2. Although it wouldn't take long to fix, its also the first platform to field the JASSM-ER.

…And the first bomber to be put back to bed in exchange for the next gen bomber. Enjoy that kick in the nuts….congress doesn't give 2 shits about JASSM…they wouldn't even know what it was. What they do give 2 shits about is ALCM…and i'll give you to two guesses as to how many the boner can carry...

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Exactly! You will crack the code when you stop thinking mil strategy and start thinking politics.

And you think the forceful fighting in congress over keeping he A-10 around has anything to with combat effectiveness, OR/sortie rates, CEP, or any other metric we would use?

This is about votes and jobs. Congress doesn't care what the airplane does. If we could force them to chose between a hypocritical A-10 vs Light Grey Eagles retirement the first question wouldn't be "how many planes can do the Eagles job." It would be how many bases and jobs will close if we divest the 15 mission to Multirole Vipers and the Raptor.

Edited by Lawman
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Your CSAR argument is kinda moot though. CSAR is far more limited by he fact you are still using old worn out G model Hawks than what's running the RESCOURT package.

Yeah not so much. If you think all Sandy 1 provides is Rescort you're wrong. As much as I'd like to see a new CSAR helo, I sure as shit don't want to execute in a contested environment without Sandys.

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We're arguing about the wrong things, guys. The 2015 HASC-approved military budget will be about $600B in 2015. To show how insanely huge that is, the total yearly operating costs for the A-10, B-1, U-2, and KC-10 put together come to less than $6B. That's less than 1% of the pot for some pretty damn effective platforms.

Meanwhile, military retirement costs us $52B per year. That's more than the entire KC-46 acquisition, repeating every year. Canceling legacy platforms save us pennies in comparison, but it's the only thing that seems to generate attention and debate.

http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/afcap-data-for-2008-2012.xlsx

The Moose is loose... and right on point. The DoD is now like GM was, a company that used to build cars for profit but devolved into a benefits management entity. Our retirement, healthcare, pay and benefits are the long term problem. Legacy systems need to be replaced but compared to those benefits (which are hard earned and deserved but not long term sustainable to extend to NEW entrants to the military) they are peanuts, just like tax cuts for the rich compared to the 800 lb gorillas of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

Like it or not, at some point the DoD is going to have to modernize its compensation, benefits and HR policies. All topics not related to the original point of this thread so a course correction from this rant...

The B-1 or the A-10 is not a good choice as the two do completely different missions (primarily). Why isn't the choice between the B-52 or the B-1? Both legacy bombers, both with similar capabilities, but one with more life, more survivable.

Retire the Buff, start retiring the oldest 135's, Hercs and bases with no runways...

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^^BRAC is dead in the water...USAF is asking this year for authorization to conduct a BRAC in FY17, IIRC. That has been denied in the HASC markup as well.

Compensation won't get touched until the current study is concluded and then maybe not. Time will tell.

Posted from the NEW Baseops.net App!

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Yeah not so much. If you think all Sandy 1 provides is Rescort you're wrong. As much as I'd like to see a new CSAR helo, I sure as shit don't want to execute in a contested environment without Sandys.

Again, you can teach other planes to fly as Sandy. Build a syllabus to train to and do it. The only reason for the commitment to the Hawg doing it is it's the only aircraft that has been doing it.

You can't teach/make a Hawk to fly higher and hotter or further, or stick any more mission equipment on it without making it even more of a pig. Even the whole Mike model buy your getting into is a half way measure.

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Again, you can teach other planes to fly as Sandy. Build a syllabus to train to and do it. The only reason for the commitment to the Hawg doing it is it's the only aircraft that has been doing it.

You can't teach/make a Hawk to fly higher and hotter or further, or stick any more mission equipment on it without making it even more of a pig. Even the whole Mike model buy your getting into is a half way measure.

There are some things the Hawg can do as rescort that others can't, there are work arounds but they require more weight on the helo. You're spot on with the mike model being a half measure. Unfortunately, the technology and money isn't there for the next gen without letting the Army take the lead (FVL, or whatever it's called these days).

That said, there are situations where the Hawgs are a liability to the mission and vice versa where the helos are a liability. If the Air Force wants to get serious about contested CSAR it's time to look at the whole thing and find a better solution than slow ass aircraft flying low with a shit load of guns to survive.

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