NATO Commander Glad to Have A-10s Back In Europe

Airpower summary for Sept. 18, 2007Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said Wednesday that the addition of A-10 Thunderbolts to his forces in Europe provided added deterrent as NATO and the U.S. European Command face new threats from Russia.

“It is clear that the capabilities these aircraft bring is needed” in the current environment, Breedlove, the supreme allied  commander of NATO, said of the A-10s at a hearing of  the House Armed Services Committee.

In response to questions from Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Breedlove singled out the anti-armor role of the A-10, dubbed the Warthog by ground troops, in close air support missions.

The Air Force has been pressing to retire the A-10s in favor of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but McSally and others have backed a bill to keep the A-10 in the inventory indefinitely.

Despite the Air Force moves to mothball the aircraft, A-10s were deployed to the Middle East last November to join the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and 12 A-10s from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were deployed earlier this month from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.

On their six-month deployment, the A-10s were expected to participate in exercises as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is NATO’s response to the crisis in Ukraine brought on by Russia’s backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Nearly two years ago, the U.S. withdrew all A-10s from Europe and McSally noted the irony of sending them back. “You can’t make this stuff up,” said McSally, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a retired colonel who noted that she once commanded the A-10s that were sent to Spangdahlem.

At the HASC hearing, Christine Wormuth, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said that “the A-10 is a great platform” but also pointed out the budget constraints that have impacted the Pentagon. “We’ve had to make some tough choices,” Wormuth said.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Vitor

    LOL @ this BS. As if Russia were capable of going to war against dozens of european nations without going bankrupt. And it is not up to the USA to be play world police, specially given how in debt it is.

    • TheCanuck

      Someone has to do it. If you study history and in particular Germany in the 1930s you can see the folly of not enforcing your policy. Without someone doing this there is potential for another mass conflict.

    • LPF

      Awh are you sad , that it we aren about to let Russia bully us like Ukriane? Come and have a go if you think your hard enough!

      Unlike the Arabs we won’t go easy on you, I suggest you look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_of_Death, you won’t be up against poorly equipped Ukrainans, you will be up against NATO’s best!

    • bbabbitt

      Actually, even bankrupt countries can support a million man army. Look at North Korea. They can’t feed the civilians, but the Army gets fed regularly. In fact, Russia couldn’t financially support WWII. Many of their people starved to support “Mother Russia.” Never underestimate the ruthless power of a communist dictatorship.

  • Lance

    Shows the disconnect between active brass and fighting men in Europe and the Middle East and the Obama appointed Bureaucrats who want anything new not what works hope the next president fire every Obama era General/Admiral.

    Shows the A-10 is still needed badly.

    • Warfighter

      Yeah, but the discussion of retiring the A-10, transcends administrations, amd spans decades. It has more to do with the Air Firce’s acceptance of CAS as a misison than anything else.

      • Col. Jim

        Roger that ,Warfighter. You put it all in a nutshell.

        Warthog former Director of Operational Support for the then new fleet, A-10 SPO.
        Colonel Jim, USAF-Ret

        • CHOPS

          Col,do you think it would be better to give half the A10s to the Army, and half to the Marines, then transfer the maintenance people to each service and let the AF concentrate on the F35?

  • Rat

    But, but, but…….. It isn’t LO, can’t track ballistic missiles, and cant fight off a Flanker.

    • TheCanuck

      However, they still do what is needed and if they give the troops on the ground confidence bring them along for the fun!

    • d. kellogg

      As I understand it, the F-35 can’t do any of that either:
      -isn’t LO to a majority of modern aircraft equipped with passive IR systems, not with the engine plume of a 44,000pounds thrust capable turbine.

      -can’t track ballistic missiles. Problems with the suggested to be now outdated original passive system on the F-35 saying it isn’t currently as capable as what can be bought as a current upgrade (latest podded FLIRs) and installed on most current inservice aircraft. And does that sapphire lens still get residue from missile exhaust efflux from the weapons exiting the bays? Shoulda mounted it dorsal, not ventral.

      -can’t fight a Flanker. Interesting how an aircraft designed to, originally, replace the F-16 turns out to be nowhere yet near as maneuverable. And what’s with those defective AMRAAM motors? Seems the only credible air-air system it’ll have is AIM-9X-2s

      • NathanS

        You’re right that most modern planes have IRST, although the F-35 is currently the only plane with full-sphere IRST. Using a pod, you have to be lucky enough to be pointing at the F-35 in order to find it.

        Testing of the AN/AAQ-37 to track ballistic missiles was undertaken back in 2011, and was shown to be able to track ballistic missiles at ranges up to 800 miles. It’s my understanding that the DAS still has blind-spots close in (tens of meters), but at range the sensor overlap eliminates these. If anything it’s oversensitive and currently its biggest criticism is having a high false-positive rate; almost certainly due to immature software. Similar things have occurred on other platforms (e.g. false-positives when helicopters have flown over wildfires).

        Performance for a combat loaded F-35 with a combat loaded F-16 are actually quite similar. Some test pilots (e.g. USAF Lt Col Lee Kloos, who has > 2000 hours experience in the F-16) have stated the F-35 has very similar acceleration and better handling under load.

    • Zspoiler

      Who said that it fight of a Flanker.That`s what the Sidewinders and flares are for,and what the Avenger Cannon would do to any aircraft that flew within gun range. Remember who had one the first gun kills during the Viet Nam. It was an Navy A-1 Sky Raider shooting down a Mig-17.

    • Brian

      It does not need to be it flies and slow does nap of the earth flying stealth is overrated it has awesome loiter time can carries a cartload of weapons it has a cannon that actually can fire. The F35 will never be able to even come close to doing its job we need a dedicated attack plane to do the job of the A 10 not the F 35

  • Lightingguy

    Russian SAM systems would chew this aircraft up.

    • doctordave777

      That’s what the F-35’s are supposed to destroy. The A-10’s come in afterwards to mop up the armor.

    • Nadnerbus

      And if a general sent the A-10s in before SEAD had been competed, he’d be court martialed.

      Dismounted infantry is vulnerable to tanks, so infantry must be obsolete, right?

      It’s combined arms, not best arms.

      • Warfighter

        Well said.

      • steve

        I know, right. People post here like the A-10 would be sent into hostile airspace by itself.

    • ltcjwb

      Actually, Russian forward-area SAM and AAA systems is exactly the environment in which the A-10 was designed to operate. Against the Russian Army. In Central Europe. Yes, Russian SAM systems have improved since the 80’s, but there are arguments that the A-10 could be upgraded as well. But the A-10 would not operate alone.

      • blight_

        Still not sure how well the A-10 will turn out against modern MANPADS, let alone heavier missiles launched from a vehicle or a prepared position. From http://2951clss-gulfwar.com/a10_combat_losses.htm

        Hit by Infra Red SAM (SA-9) 62 nm North West of Kuwait city. 23rd TASS/602nd TACW (NF).
        AAA ground fire 60 miles north west of Kuwait city while attacking Republican Guard targets. Thought to have been engaged by SA-13 ‘Gopher’ SAM.
        Hit by ground fire approx 60 miles North West of Kuwait city while attacking Republican Guard targets. Thought to have been engaged by SA-13 ‘Gopher’ SAM.
        Hit by SA-13 SAM. Capt Rich Biley made a successful wheels-up, hard stick landing in Manual Reversion at King Khalid Military City (KKMC)
        Hit by either ‘optical AAA’ ground fire or SAM 20, unconfirmed which it was, NM SW of Kuwait City, Kuwait

        Unsure if A-10 upgrades will somehow make it more resistant to surface to air missiles impacts. Perhaps countermeasure packages will make it more difficult to score hits?

        • Godzilla

          There are countermeasures to MANPADS like IRCM. Besides flares there are other kinds of active defense systems.

          But I think the most needed upgrade for the A-10 would be an helmet-mounted sight.

      • Atomic Walrus

        The first Gulf War showed that A-10s could withstand AAA and get back home. Unfortunately, after they got back, they were typically out of service for months pending major repair work. Whether the plane is shot down or inoperable due to need for major repairs, it’s still out of action. Gulf War 1 also showed that operating at low level posed a much higher AAA risk than expected, which led to the shift to higher level operations.

    • Sandy

      SAMS can’t track them at thatt low level…..

      • Stratege

        What a joke.

  • CHOPS

    At least someone in the upper echelon will admit that the A10 is still a very valuable weapons platform and should stay in service. Wonder how long till this General gets fired for not agreeing with the pentagon.

  • Nadnerbus

    So in the last few days, an article about Russian aggression in Ukraine and Bear flights creeping up on territorial airspace, an article about how SDB can defeat Russian armor, and now an article about how the Tank Buster has been deployed back to Europe. Over on Salamander’s site, there is a video of US APCs or LAVs flying the flag while driving through a town in Estonia on the Russian border.

    Is the Pentagon trying to tell us something, or is this all just noise that happens to be lining up right now?

  • Be US too

    Ukraine and ISIS are diversions for the real attack by communists (former Soviet and Chinese) on American soil via infiltrating our financial and government institutions. Ever wonder how Putin got so filthy rich? Stolen American money. I believe they are about to throw the switch and take over America without firing a single shot. Oh yes, they are pack rats, so yes, they will want to keep the A-10’s flying, but under their control.

  • bbabbitt

    OKAY, now put them to good use in the Ukraine.

  • Big-Dean

    Gen. Philip Breedlove just committed TREASON according to the air farce.

  • msch

    I was a mechanic on A-10s and they can take a great deal of damage and still bring a pilot home. In one such event, about two thirds of a wing was lost and the pilot brought the aircraft home. They should never have been removed from service, at least when they did. The A-10 is easy to maintain and does not break as much as F-16s, and F-15s, which I also worked on.

  • berkbw

    The only thing which could account for the stupid decision to end the A-10 has to be big money and elected pockets. It;s a FINE weapon, it’s strong, fast, MUCH better than helicopters and almost as good in landings.. FOOLS!

  • jossie lawless

    so will these tough budgetary decisions mean we will scrap an aircraft we actually use so we can purchase more state of the art hanger queens?

  • RJC

    THE A 10 IS A FLYING TANK. IF YOU WANT TO PROTECT OUR TROOPS BETTER, BUILD A BETTER FLYING TANK , NOT A SLOWED DOWN HYPER SONIC INTERCEPTOR. YOU WANT TO SUPPORT THE MEN ON THE GROUND , NOT JUST VISIT THEM AS YOU DASH OVER LOOKING FOR THEM. THE A 10 FLIES IN HARMS WAY, WHATEVER FOLLOWS IT MUST BE TOUGH AS THE JOB IT HAS.

  • JFK

    A10 costs the least of any USAF aircraft per flight hour (includes fuel and maintenance costs). Availability is equal to the F15 anf F16. Scrapping the A10 is projected to save $3.5B over 5 YEARS. The cost of the problem-ridden B1B is $1.4B per YEAR. (or $7.0B over 5 YEARS) not including a$1.8B EW upgrade. Its availability is 3/4 that of the A10. Why doesn’t the USAF cut at least half of the remaining B1B force and keep the A10 flying? Ref: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/28/chuck-hage…

  • TBAN

    Give the A-10’s to the Marines; they make sense in that they are the best support platform for ground troops and the Marines generally are always attacking, unless some DC a$$hat decides they should be occupying someplace…

  • charles

    Everyone would like to have that new shiny toy, and the military will always want new technology. But in times like these we need to think of what will best serve our needs now and in the future. I think that we would be best served by keeping the newest A-10s, and also buy the F-35, just not so many.

  • Miguel

    The only thing which could account for the stupid decision to end the A-10 has to be big money and elected pockets. It;s a FINE weapon, it’s strong, fast, MUCH better than helicopters and almost as good in landings.. FOOLS!

    Read more: https://www.defensetech.org/2015/02/25/nato-commander-
    Defense.org