There is no doubt that the A-10 Warthog is one of the coolest aircraft ever, no argument…it was designed to do one thing and one thing only: kill tanks. Against the mass exposed targets so thoughtfully provided by the Iraqi Army in 1991 and 2003, it proved eminently successful. So successful that the fast jet jocks who run the US Air Force that were scheming to do away with the A-10 were forced to back down and implement long overdue upgrade programmes. Unfortunately the production jigs for this flying tank had already been destroyed so what we have now is what we’ve got.
The thing about the A-10 that makes it so successful is not just its big gun but the fact that, in addition to dishing it out, it can take a ton of punishment as well everything about this aircraft is designed to bring the aircraft and its pilot back after a hard day converting armour to pillars of smoke. The same could not be said for the A-10’s proposed replacement, an F-16 with the 30mm GEPOD pod strapped to its belly. Not only does the F-16 totally lack the armour and built-in survivability features of the A-10, e.g. like two engines, experience with the gunless versions of the F-4 Phantom showed just how much you lose with a bolt-on gun and how little extra you might gain in ‘adaptability’. That then A-10 for all its utility in the complex environment is a diminishing resource is due to the undue influence of ego over fact within the senior echelons of the USAF. Similar mindset in the Navy maybe why the A-6 Intruder’s successful career was prematurely terminated after Gulf 1 in favour of multi-role-ism.
Similar ego-fed posturing seems to be behind the US hard-line attitude towards Iran and its nuclear programme. The sole redeeming feature of the current US rhetoric is that it appears to have more substance than the WMD arguments that led it into Iraq (and didn’t that work out well?). The nuclear genie is well out of the bottle and the US just needs to get over it, more so since it tacitly supported Israel’s nuclear weapons programme in the 60s and 70s; has opted to partner with Pakistan against the Taliban (also supported by Pakistan!), and take a ‘hope it turns out OK’ approach to xenophobic North Korea. The Sunday Herald reports that the US appears to be restocking its base in Diego Garcia with a range of earth penetrating bunker-buster munitions – of limited utility in Afghanistan except against cave complexes but ideal for disrupting work in underground research and storage facilities.
This is a worry on two counts. Firstly, you’d like to think that the most powerful nation in the world might be able to shift weapons around the planet without some journo plastering it across the media. Secondly. you’d also like to think that senior staff in the US Government might get over the unfortunate events of THIRTY YEARS AGO, get with the 21st Century, and realise that one of the reasons that the Islamic world burns effigies of The Great Satan every Tuesday is ego-driven idiocy like this. As Scott Atran says in his Edge article Pathways to and From Violent Extremism:
The Case for Science-Based Field Research
In sum, there are many millions of people who express sympathy with Al Qaeda or other forms of violent political expression that support terrorism. They are stimulated by a massive, media-driven global political awakening which, for the first time in human history, can “instantly” connect anyone, anywhere to a common cause — provided the message that drives that cause is simple enough not to require much cultural context to understand it: for example, the West is everywhere assaulting Muslims, and Jihad is the only the way to permanently resolve glaring problems caused by this global injustice.
If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, then the spritual of the road gangs is Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran…
I find it interesting that I’ve never met a soldier (myself included)who didn’t absolutely love the A-10. It’s almost like there’s something about the plane that resonates with those in the Army, even if they’ve never needed its services. I’ve seen soldiers get positively livid during discussions about the replacement of the A-10.