McSally's Quest for a Lethal Next-Gen A-10 Warthog

January 29, 2016 Topic: Security Region: United States Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: TechnologyA-10 WarthogU.S. Air ForceDefensePentagon

McSally's Quest for a Lethal Next-Gen A-10 Warthog

"There is no aircraft, either in the fleet or in development, that can replace the Warthog’s unique capabilities."

The new aircraft should have better terrain avoidance systems and improved displays in the cockpit. It should also be equipped with a better targeting pod, such as a Litening Gen IV or another such system with a video data-link. A helmet-mounted display capability similar or better than the Thales Genetex Scorpion that is currently mounted on the A-10 is also an item on the must-have list. In a perfect world, the Warthog 2.0 would have a 360-degree infrared sensor capability and a terrain following radar as well.

In terms of survivability, any next-generation CAS aircraft must have two engines and multiple redundant systems that can take a number of hits, the pilots pointed out. The aircraft must be able to withstand impacts from small arms such as 7.62-millimeter and 14.5-millimeter machine guns and even 23-millimeter cannon fire.

It should also be able survive a hit from a man-portable air-defense missile like the SA-18.

The Warthog 2.0 might even be equipped with advanced missile warning sensors and the latest digital radio frequency memory jammers to elude the larger and more capable surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-19. “We want to be able to defeat the latest, greatest, common SAMs we might encounter on the battlefield,” one of the pilots told me.

The A-10 pilots cautioned that many of the items on the wish list are placeholders. Some of the capabilities might not be compatible with an affordable and effective aircraft design—though the goal would be to field a plane with a unit price of less than $20 million and costing less than $15,000 per flight hour to operate.

This next-generation A-10 replacement described above, however, is an unofficial concept put together by some of the most experienced Warthog pilots and engineers. Even if the U.S. Air Force decided to go ahead with a new aircraft, bringing the Warthog 2.0 to life would likely result in a slew of unexpected problems. After all, such a project is almost certain to squander many millions of dollars and rack up countless hours in delays—not unlike the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programs.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Image: Flickr/U.S. Air Force.