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Obama regime scraps A-10 Warthog to keep pumping billions into failed F-35

A-10 Warthog

One of the greatest success stories in American military aviation history is being scraped, so more billions can be spent on one of the greatest failures in American military aviation history.

The move could be motivated by a desire to keep pumping billions of tax dollars into major corporations that sponsor Barak Obama and leading members of congress.

Critics of the F-35 say it is so far behind and so far over-budget that Russia, China, and the UK have already leapfrogged over the US and will have cheaper planes that can do the exact same thing. The project is so far behind that a key original selling point is already obsolete. In 2013, the Pentagon admitted that Russia had already design a new low cost, highly mobile radar capable of detecting the F-35. US experts said that the radar can detect the F-35 in computer simulations. It’s stealth capabilities have already been dramatically reduced before it has even gone into service.

From ARS Technica…

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is unveiling the Pentagon’s proposed budget today—a budget that will dramatically scale back the size of the military. But in order to save the most sacred of cows in its ongoing modernization efforts, the Pentagon is proposing the elimination of what has arguably been the most effective combat aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory: the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Known for its survivability, the A-10 is capable of flying with half a wing, one tail fin, one elevator, and one engine torn off. It’s also cheaper to fly and can fly more frequent missions than the aircraft that the Air Force proposes to replace it with: the F-35. But because of its low glamor and low-tech nature, the A-10 is assigned largely to Air National Guard squadrons these days. So with the Department of Defense now planning to re-shuffle the roles of reserve and Guard units in a shrinking fighting force, the A-10s are an easy target for the budget knife. The Air Force announced in January that it would eliminate a third of the existing A-10s in its inventory—102 aircraft—with the remainder to go when the F-35 finally arrives for service. The new plan will retire the entire A-10 fleet.

The A-10 was originally built in the early 1970s, and it was designed to combat Soviet tank columns with its enormous seven-barrel 30-millimeter Gatling-gun cannon. Known for its pugnacious looks as the “Warthog,” the A-10 could also carry a variety of guided and unguided weapons, and it proved its usefulness against a wide range of enemies while flying close air support for troops in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force reported that the 60 A-10s that flew in Iraq had an 86 percent mission success rate.

Today, there are two arguments for cutting the A-10. The first argument from the Air Force is that in an era of shrinking budgets and pared-down ambitions, the military needs a more flexible, multi-role aircraft to do more jobs—not an airplane that’s perfect for a smaller number of them. But considering the troubles that the F-35 has faced and the fact that not a single squadron of any of the variants of the F-35 has yet to be fielded, the wisdom of the Pentagon’s aircraft calculus is open to debate.

The F-35 is being built in three variants—one for the Air Force, one for the Navy, and a “jump jet” version for the Marine Corps. It has had a litany of woes in testing. A high-tech helmet that replaces nearly all the aircraft’s instrumentation had problems with “jitter” on its display, which forced an investment in a backup plan that was eventually discarded. More recently, discoveries of cracks in a significant number of parts in the F-35s currently being tested led to the grounding of all the aircraft. A report by J. Michael Gilmore, the DOD’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation, stated that the F-35 is not ready for combat. The aircraft’s “overall suitability performance continues to be immature and relies heavily on contractor support and workarounds unacceptable for combat operations,” Gilmore wrote.

The second argument against the A-10 is that the close air support mission, once provided almost exclusively by manned aircraft like the Warthog, can now be served more effectively by drones like the MQ-9 Reaper and the Army’s MQ-1C Grey Eagle. Drones can stay on station for 14 hours or more with a full load of weapons—the Reaper can carry up to 3,000 pounds of missiles and laser-guided bombs. While the A-10 can carry more than four times that payload in addition to over a thousand rounds of 30-millimeter ammunition, it can only loiter overhead for about two hours before it needs to refuel.

From AlterNet… (March, 2013)

According to one of its supporters, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not “what our troops need,” is “too costly” and “poorly managed,” and its “present difficulties are too numerous to detail.”

The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels – civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure.

Up for re-election in 2014 and long a supporter of basing the F-35 in Vermont, Leahy put those thoughts in a letter to a constituent made public March 13. This is Leahy’s most recent public communication since December 2012, when he refused to meet with opponents of the F-35 and his web site listed a page of “public discussion” events mostly from the spring, including private briefings with public officials, without responding to any substantive issues.

The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was undertaken in 2001. Now, more than a decade overdue and more than 100% over budget, the plane is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its useful life, of which about $400 billion has already been spent.

100th F-35 Being Built, None Yet Operational

In January, the Lockheed Martin production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, reported it was well along “in the final phase of building the wings” of the 100th F-35 constructed by the Bethesda, Maryland, company. Of the first 99 F-35s, none are yet operational.

The F-35 isn’t even close to fully operational – it can fly only on sunny days. It can’t fly at night. And it can’t fly in clouds or near lightning. We know this because the Pentagon tells us so, in a report written for the Secretary of Defense by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, dated February 15, 2013.

Although some media hyped the report as a “leaked document,” Gilmore clearly expected the report would become public, since he included a description of its wide distribution within the government, concluding with the reminder: “By law, I must provide Congress with any test-related material it requests.”

By March 5, Gilmore’s report was on the internet and giving the Canadian government second thoughts about buying the plane at all. Of the ten other countries partnering in F-35 development, Italy has already reduced the number of plane it will eventually buy. Norway, Turkey, and others are also having second thoughts – as is even the United States. Leahy indicates in his letter that “the jet is too costly to proceed with purchases at today’s planned levels,” which are about 2,400 planes at a currently projected cost of $120 billion each, give or take $30 billion.