With the Air Force seemingly determined to change its plans for close air support every fiscal quarter, it was just a matter of time before it hit upon a really bad idea. So here it is: the service wants to buy propeller-driven planes for supporting ground forces in permissive environments, and then embark on a plan to develop a less capable successor to the famous A-10 Thunderbolt (affectionately known as the Warthog) for more threatening conditions. The “logic” to buying a less capable plane is that it would also be less expensive to operate. The problem with that argument is that the Air Force would first have to pay for designing, competing, developing, testing and producing the plane — by which time any savings would have evaporated, along with the tactical conditions that might have made it survivable. It’s a mystery why the Air Force thinks it can fit two more new starts into a congressionally-capped budget that already contains a new bomber, fighter, tanker, trainer, radar plane and rescue helicopter, but one thing’s certain: this is no way to do close air support. I have written a commentary for The National Interest here.
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