Combat Air Support

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So the USAF has been talking for many years about replacing the A-10 Warthog in the CAS, or Close Air Support role. They haven’t done it yet, for good reason- the A-10 is a killer, and nothing but. The problem with the A-10 is that the airframes are old and there is always more demand for the remaining aircraft than the Air Force can supply.

I was never lucky enough to get an A-10 “on-station,” for some weird reason we had B-1’s a lot, sometimes F-18’s and the occasional F-15E. And of course we had AH-64s as well, along with the odd drone or two. So in my past life I have had some contact with the guys and gals in the air who dropped the random odd bomb or fired the occasional Hellfire missile.

I like the CAS mission, the Air Force hates it. Why? It’s not cool, it’s not glamorous Tom-Cruise-on-a-motorcycle “pushing the edge of the envelope” crap. The job involves endlessly circling around in the air over ground troops who seem to be traveling at the speed of an ant with the prospect of absolutely nothing happening for weeks on end.

However, when the bored pilot in the air gets the call to head earthward, there are lives at stake- including the pilot’s. It’s a gut-wrenching, tough, precision job that has to be done absolutely right.

That’s why I was quite interested when I read on a random news article this week that the DOD is considering a new aircraft for the CAS mission, and I discovered that a really cool little bird already exists, the AT-6 Wolverine.

By all means, click on the link, Textron’s website does a much better job of describing the tough little aircraft than I can, and there are all kinds of pictures.

Here’s my take-away from looking this mean little machine over. No, it can’t dogfight, and you would be a fool to get into one with the AT-6. However, it would be great as a dedicated CAS bird, which is what it was designed for. It would do a far better job than the DOD’s stupid wet dream, the way overpriced and overrated F-35.

The AT-6 has all the stuff that grunts in contact want. It can mount .50 cal machine guns, shoot Hellfire missiles, drop 500 lb bombs and deliver all the right devastation in all the right areas. It has a turboprop engine (tops for reliability and survivability), great maneuverability and excellent loiter-time.

This thing is the field commander’s CAS dream. I wish there would have been one or two of these flying around overhead at some points in my past, and if I was still doing the job now I would definitely have a warm-and-fuzzy when one of them would check in with my forward air controller (known as a JTAC).

The DOD needs to pull their heads out of their posterior, forget about the stupid F-35 in the CAS role, and buy a zillion of these cool little birds for the price of one (!) lousy F-35.

But hey, the cool guys with sunglasses and leather jackets love the F-35, so no AT-6 for the grunts.

What a shame.

4 thoughts on “Combat Air Support

  1. I can’t comment much on performance but the AT-6 looks fantastic.

    Looks a little like the old school planes I made models of as a kid.

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  2. Give the people doing the job a sensible option? Pfft. No money or glory in that.
    We’re hooked into the F-35 crapshoot over here as well. Shame we just couldn’t have gotten some Raptors.

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  3. The F-22 is a superb air superiority bird. Have them fly “top cover” for birds like the A-10 or AT-6. Makes more sense than spending billions and billions on an airplane that supposedly does everything. And oh yes, aircraft doing CAS are vulnerable to ground fire- imagine losing an F-35 to machine gun fire. Sooner or later, it will probably happen. What a lopsided trade. An aircraft worth 500 million dollars for a two dollar belt of ammo.

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