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Warthog Contratemps

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Over at WPR, I have some thoughts on the USAF’s latest effort to get rid of the pesky A-10 Warthog:

For whatever reason, the A-10 has become a people’s favorite. It graces the cover of such popular texts as Charles Gross’ “American Military Aviation.” In the 1980s, it served as the inspiration for toys such as the Cobra Rattler and the Transformer Powerglide. Hollywood has also featured its anti-robot capabilities prominently, in “Transformers” and “Terminator: Salvation.”

But the Air Force comes by its contempt for the A-10 honestly, and not just for aesthetic reasons. The Air Force conceives of itself as a strategic institution dedicated to shaping the entirety of a campaign, rather than as an organization that plinks away at enemy tanks in support of ground troops. Not only does the A-10 stand outside of that self-image, it draws resources away from the Air Force’s preferred strategic mission. By contrast, the F-35 allows the Air Force to redistribute resources from what it considers the antiquated mission of close air support to the much more important, from the USAF’s point of view, strategic mission. What’s more, for the Air Force, a successful strategic campaign makes the A-10’s contribution largely irrelevant.

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