070529-F-4127S-238I have gotten a ton of email with various articles attached talking about how plans are in the works to retire a whole slew of “legacy” (ie front line) aircraft types in a desperate attempt to protect the most flawed weapons procurement concept in modern history- the F-35 Lightning.

So far strong rumors are being passed around and even touted stating that the USAF will work to can the A-10, KC-10 and B-1 fleet so that “key procurement programs” can be protected. Even the F-15C community has been said to be vulnerable to meat cleaver cuts for the USAF’s FY2014 budget. At what point to the Generals and Civil Servants that have a major say over decisions like this just cease to have any credibility? If even a portion of these across the board fleet retirements are true than they are actually mortgaging America’s national security on a machine that has so far been nothing short of a disaster and whose central concept is now almost totally out of date and based on technology “choices” of the late 1990s. This is so stunningly stupid and offensive to the tax payer that it is actually personal. How many young soldiers lives have been saved by the A-10 with its comparatively infinite amount of cannon trigger pulls? How much gas have KC-10s passed to hungry fighters and transports during the War on Terror? These rumors, if true, amount to a sickening, short-sighted joke that is being spurred by inward career motivation, industry tyranny and plain old “go fever” for their pet project that is now “too big to fail.”

General Hostage and others have touted the prioritization towards multi-role platforms, in the meantime they have dropped key niche capability fleets to such low numbers that they now appear comparatively cost prohibitive on the books even though their abilities are superior, infinitely more proven and actually more cost-effective than their alternatives. These guys are now playing with a loaded deck and the geniuses in Congress who think they understand the big picture of air combat via a series of briefs delivered from those who are pushing these force structure gambles down their throats better not play along. General Hostage- tell the team of Green Berets about to be overran by Taliban nut jobs that the A-10 they so desperately need to deliver hundreds of rounds of danger close fire support that their bird of salvation was “rationalized” because it could not hunt enemy aircraft or go over the speed of sound (who cares about this anymore anyway?). The USAF has spent a decade of perfecting close air support and at the first chance they get the fast jet mafia pulls out the saber to cut the Warthog’s neck. Be ashamed of your military leadership on this one if such a “strategy” indeed materializes. Actually be furious.

f-35-jsfIf these buffoons actually attempt to kill the A-10 they better be ready to hand them over the US Army, where they belonged in the first place. An owner that will treat them with the respect they have won the hard way, in bloody battle.

Oh, USAF, also maybe you should totally cut the HH-60 Combat Search And Rescue fleet as well. I mean picking aircrews up after being shot down behind enemy lines is such a niche capability right? I mean we could eliminate the whole PJ community too! We could just act like it never existed! I mean why can’t the standard Army medevac and H-60 community pick up this “niche” mission right? Yeah I did not think so….

The possibility of cuts of entire fleets of tactical and strategic aircraft goes along with the fabricated idea that America will choose its wars of the future. The thought process is backwards. The DoD acts like it is time for a new fighter so we will build one and then set future doctrine so that future strategy and contingency planning support the fighter in development, not the other way around. News flash! The wars that may be on the horizon may not be ones of choice, where boots on the ground can be taken off the table at will. In fact the last decade plus has proven the opposite. Furthermore, if the USAF was serious about the “Pacific Pivot” than they would have canned this short legged fighter and would be procuring medium ranf-35a-04ge UCAVs, massive stockpiles of standoff weaponry, and a regional fighter bomber (FB-22) instead…

Build advanced UCAVs and standoff weapons for kicking down the door and for goodness sake leave the A-10, KC-10, and especially the F-15C community alone until you have a proven and validated weapon system to replace them in adequate numbers. This is not politics, it is about the security of our country and the safety of the young men and women we put in harm’s way in seemingly endless wars. To the decisions makers who would actually prop up such a reckless strategy like this- blood will not be on your hands from slitting the Warthogs throat, it will be from the brave Americans who you left with air support from 10k feet so that you could have your “career making” abortion of a weapon system. Sickening.

Oh, and I know a lot of DoD and industry types read this website. If you would like to come and debate me on this issue I am totally available to do so. Come make your impotent case for such a reckless strategy for all to see, you will only embarrass yourself. Oh and your “F-35 is the only option” load of BS will not fly here. We know better, much better than that congressional shell game the F-35 lobby has been playing for over a decade. To anyone that would like to take my challenge, remember, I have NO dog in the fight here aside from logic and love of country, what about you???

Please speak out against this insanity. This strategy will break our air combat capability and is one way ticket to parity with potential foes, not dominance. The future is unmanned, especially for low observable deep strike and kicking down the enemy’s door, the exact mission requirements that makes the F-35 so expensive and inefficient. The idea that in thirty years the F-35 will be relevant is laughable, although the A-10 very well could be.

They all complained about the potential of a hollow air force for years, now they are making sure it happens. Nothing makes sense anymore with this branch of the our military. Time to clean house, before it is too late…

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  1. GI JOE says:

    Bold and solid piece here. What are we doing, or even a bigger question, what have we already done!!!!?!???!?!

  2. Alex F. Peterson says:

    One would think that the A-10 would be a very small price to pay for extremely capable air support. Congress should make a deal and fund the US Army to absorb the fleet and just be done with the USAF in this role.

  3. AspenTwoZero says:

    I lost it at “abortion of a weapon system.” Solid arguments as always, Ty. Still eagerly anticipating your forthcoming drone piece.

  4. Bronc says:

    The F-35 will be range limited operationally without, (and probably even with,) external fuel stores. Above all else, the Navy requires an attack aircraft with long legs. Carriers with short-legged strike aircraft are known as, “targets.” As it stands now, future F-35C strike packages will be carrying external fuel stores AND be tanking once, and maybe twice, on the inbound leg and probably tanking twice to get home. And, in case anyone forgot, carrying external fuel stores will eliminate it’s “5th Gen. stealth capability.”

    Oh, and by the way, the Marine Corps needs “5th Gen. stealth capability” like it needs a regiment of war elephants.


    • says:

      Good stuff here as always guys.

      The big netcentric warfare 2.0 piece drops tonight. It will be needed knowledge for future articles. People are operating “in the dark” when it comes to future force structure decisions without this key emerging facet of air combat explained.

  5. Space Weather says:

    And so with the proliferation of Russian and Chinese HF Over the Horizon Radars that support long range interdiction with TU-22s of US “threats” (as explained here) where does that leave the F35? An obsolete useless weapon system. Face it, game over unless you are a contractor supporting these unneeded and overpriced systems.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    The first thing to understand is that the F-35 cost figures from the Lockheed/Pentagon/media cabal are bogus.

    Pentagon PR Procurement propaganda
    F-35A $98m
    F-35B $104m
    F-35C $116m

    FY2014 Procurement Program Budget Request
    F-35A $176m
    F-35B $237m
    F-35C $236m

    AF p. F-4, Navy on p. N-3

  7. SMSgt Mac says:

    Not to pick a fight here, but you really ought to study up on the long ugly truth about CAS as well as Army and Air Force vision of control of same. There is the REAL conflict: it’s not about the hardware type and ownership. The A-10s are tired. They were born tired. They are dying on the ramp.
    Since CAS is a mission and not a platform, the real question is how does one ‘do’ CAS 24/7, in good and bad weather and in something other than a permissive environment. The A-10 isn’t the answer, and senior leadership who flew it and are nostalgic about it also see the limited utility of keeping it any longer. That alone should tell you something.
    I see you’ve got the usual flamers commenting and espousing bogus numbers, so I’ll leave you to them — but you don’t have to be like them. Seriously… Study. Learn. Know. Understand. Then opine.
    F-35? Same thing.

  8. Bronc says:

    As a matter of coincidence, the Defense Department’s OIG report on the F-35 came out today, and folks, it ain’t pretty.


  9. Bronc says:

    I encourage SMSgt Mac to read the OIG report and get back with us. You know: Study. Learn. Know. Understand. Then opine.


    • says:

      I read his profile, he says he is working on a large weapons program now. Hmmm. I wonder which one or from what vendor… Common in these “debates.” Sad, because a new respectable nay-sayer would be great to have here. If he is indeed knowledgeable and unbiased (I doubt that) than I would have loved to have heard is actual arguments. He has no clue how civil this discussion area is.

      Bronc- Funny, I just got sent this and opened it up. Reading now. Still want to get this monster net-centric 2.0 piece up tonight.

  10. Bronc says:

    The F-35 is supposed to be a, “flying computer” with some 8-million lines of code to make it fly and fight. Achieving Block “Unattainable” is the key to making the F-35 operational.

    Here is my favorite quote from the whole OIG report:
    “Our review of the JSF Program Air System Block Plan showed that the plan had not been updated since August 13, 2008, and does not reflect current block planning defining Air Systems capabilities for the F-35 Program. As a result, there is no authoritative document defining current and planned F-35 software capabilities.”

    So when do people start going to jail over the monumental FUBAR that is the F-35?


  11. glen towler says:

    I have always thought that the F35 is a huge waste of money. The US air force really doen’t like the A10 and has been looking to get rid the for years can’t think why as it has some much good work over the years in Iraq , Afghan and of course Kuwait. It of course madness to scrap the KC 10 tanker as the KC45 is many years away and of course knowing Boeing it will be late. Lets just cancel the F35 now.

  12. Chris says:

    I’m still not entirely against the F-35 yet.. No, the Air Force and the Navy don’t need it, not yet at least, but the Marines, they do. It’s the perfect aircraft for them, and that’s undesputable, they have kicked so much ass with the training program, and they’ve been all no nonsense about it. Let the Marines have it, tinker with it, perfect it. and then let the Air Force, and Navy learn from their examples. I know I’d trust Marines with a new aircraft, before I’d trust the Navy or Air Force.. They don’t fuck around when it comes to protecting and helping their own, and that’s what the F-35 needs, a swift kick in the ass, and the Marine Corps touch.

    • says:

      Hey guys, the netcentric 2.0 piece is almost done. Have to call it a night. Should post by tomorrow evening. This is a big one. Some 5000 words. I know everyone wants these big posts, I think this one will be a crowd pleaser. No way to do the drone piece without this first.


  13. C2Controller says:

    If you studied, learned, and understood the Senior Master Sergeant’s comment, you should have caught that the lack of confidence is reflected on the F-35: “same thing”. I’m sure from his point of view, and from that of many airmen, we see this old maintenance heavy aircraft leaking on the flightline, and know that its service life is coming due. From the boots on the ground, all they see is this magnificent angel on their shoulders. Fact is, neither F-35 nor A-10 is the answer, but the A-10 is at its end, regardless.

    • says:

      C2Controller- Welcome to the comments section, your input is much appreciated! I am not following your first sentence, please clarify? As for old mx heavy aircraft leaking on the flightline- Well if you starve an aircraft of needed upgrades for decades, and the ones that actually make it to the jet long after they were due were largely superficial and only to address a single issue, the jets would appear to be old and tired. The A-10 is a fairly simple machine compared to 4th generation mach1+ fighters. They could be totally rebuilt with new motors and updated systems for relatively low cost. Instead they get a targeting pod here, a datalink there, a new mission computer here and new wings there. The aircraft has always needed a more powerful motor, and the T-34 is used in various version all over the world, the main aircraft being the challenger biz jet series and the CRJ. Largely more powerful versions are commercially available. The reality is that the fleet has been deprived of resources since its beginning. The Precision Engagement Package was a token upgrade that simply could not be denied anymore by the brass, it was stupidly logical. They have already shut down the weapons school syllabus for the A-10 if that gives you any idea of how bad USAF brass want this aircraft gone. And once again, you starve anything of upgrades and downsize the fleet to a point that knowingly will stack the deck against it due to economies of scale and the argument you posit is what you get. Once again, it is a simple combat aircraft that can be totally rebuilt with new systems cost effectively, it’s the idea of it that the USAF has hated since day one. Just think what the F-16 fleet would look like if billions and billions were not spent on it over decades with everything being upgraded from the entire cockpit to the bare structure of the aircraft? Give it to the Army, and watch it flourish.

  14. Praetorian says:

    I have read some of the reports about the Airforce wanting to retire whole fleets of certain aircraft A-10,KC-10,B1-B’s, but even in the report it said this most likely was a scare tatic to try to undo sequestrian. The KC-10 is needed for the Pacific pivot and the A-10 they can’t retire because congress keeps blocking it.

    Bronc : The F-35C has More internal fuel then the F-18C that it’s replacing, and same for the F-35A that is replacing the F-16C. Nothing cane replace an A-10 except a new A-10. Boeing is building new wing sets for the A-10C that have already been upgrade to the ” C ” status.

    I’m not saying the F-35 will have long legs, just that it will be better then the F-18C.

    Glen the KC-45 is not replacing the KC-10, it’s replacing the older KC-135’s. The KC-135’s where produced between 1954 – 1965. KC-10’s poduced 1979 – 1987

  15. Bronc says:

    “Bronc : The F-35C has More internal fuel then the F-18C that it’s replacing, and same for the F-35A that is replacing the F-16C.”

    Yep. The F-35 fanboys are always saying that. But they always forget to mention that great big Pratt & Whitney F135 in the F-35 and how it burns twice (2X) the fuel of both General Electric F414-GE-400s in a Super Hornet and three times the fuel of a F110-GE-100 in a F-16.

    The lack of area-rule design in the F-35 crushes it’s flight performance and range. The reason why the F-35 needs the giant F135 is because it has the aerodynamics of a Freightliner.

    You fellers need to sell your glurg on the F-35 forum over on It don’t fly in the real world.


  16. bigvern says:

    Well,it’s already happened to a point here in the UK,we got rid of the BAe Harrier GR9 of the RAF & RN as well as our carriers,Leaving us with no naval airpower until.or if.this F-35 enters service & if/when the new carriers enter service.

  17. Don Bacon says:

    Speaking about retiring whole fleets, there’s this (taking it to the max):
    Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy and Peace) Hardcover
    by Robert M. Farley (Author)

  18. Don Bacon says:

    from Praetorian:
    ” this most likely was a scare tatic to try to undo sequestrian.”

    That’s ironic, because sequestrian itself was intended to be only a scare tactic never to be actually implemented, and look how that worked out.

  19. Don Bacon says:

    Make that sequestration. Sounds less equine.

  20. aerodawg says:

    For the first time in months I can actually read your blog from work. Apparently the DoD internet filter gods have decided that DoD related aviation material might actually be relevant to a job involving DoD aviation!

  21. Praetorian says:

    Bronc : I understand haters have to hate, but just because I have a different opinion then you does not mean I’m an F-35 Fan boy. Ty has solid arguments as do you. I would like to point out, that I’m not talking about the F414-GE-400s engines of the Super Hornet. The F-35C is not replacing the Super Hornet in the fleet, it’s replacing the F-18C Hornet with the GE F404 engine.

    You had made a point that the F-35 will have limited range. In my opinion that analysis might be a little flawed. I stand by my statement that the F-35C will have longer legs then the F-18C.

    F135-PW-400 fuel consumption : 0.886 lb/(hr·lbf)
    GE F404 fuel consumption : 0.81 lb/(lbf·h) x 2

    • Bronc says:

      Praetorian wrote, “F135-PW-400 fuel consumption : 0.886 lb/(hr·lbf)”

      That’s clean, with zero ordnance in the bays, (flying with absolutely NOTHING onboard except telemetry) at non-operational air speeds, straight and level, AFTER achieving altitude.

      The F-35’s range is a disaster. Trust me.



  22. Don Bacon says:

    Actually the F-35 won’t be tested operationally until at least 2017, so we’re stuck looking at a brochure.

  23. nico says:

    If DoD really was concerned about war fighting, wouldn’t they have kept the money for operations,etc…?

  24. Jules says:

    I’d be interested in hearing everyone here weigh in on the development of V-22 tanking support.

    It seems like V-22 ‘indigenous/integrated’ tanking, whether it takes place from a CV or LHD totally changes the game for the F-35 and allows the same vessel that deployed them to support extending their range significantly.

    • says:

      Jules- I would love to address this. It is of worthy note. As always the F-35B was the only variant that really was a spectacular increase in capability compared to the alternative, a KC-22 configuration lends more capability to the B model. Still, how much can it really offload, and aside from a launch and recovery tanker does it hold any relevance?

  25. Miles says:

    Ty you have lots of great articles on here, and I enjoy reading them. The more I read about the F-35, it just seems like a plane forced on us with technology that is not perfected, and being forced to do a job it can’t do properly. I am sure just like the V-22 that took years to solve some of its problems, that some year they will get this thing figured out, but the lives of the men and women it is supposed to serve and protect should not be put in danger by a flawed airplane at this time. I am disappointed by the way things have gone over the last 20 years or so, of forcing unproven technology into operational use til it is ready.

    • says:

      Miles- Its not if the F-35 will be a usable fighter, and even a good one at that, it is at what cost, both monetarily and especially opportunity cost. In 1999 you could have created the best CD player in history, but within a couple years what difference does that make right?

  26. Conquistador3 says:

    Very good piece as usual.
    There’s one thing however that I don’t understand.
    You, Ty, often said the Pentagon has to eye the bigger picture, meaning how Russian and Chinese radar and intercept capabilities are evolving precisely to counter the threat coming from 5th Generation stealth aircraft and similar UCAV. I agree with that wholeheartedly and I am sure it’s very hard to argue against, chiefly when you consider the F35 has been in development for way way too long and various “requirement changes” which popped up during development (and pushed back operational deployment) were obviously aimed at redressing the increased threat from evolving Russian and Chinese air defenses. If “requirement changes” will continue to pop up the aircraft will never “fly right” and will always be in a limbo between operational and experimental status.

    Now another thing. US international partners have been stacking an awful lot on the F35 but the question is… will they be willing to keep pouring money into it? It’s not that the F35, once is fully operational, will be fixed and immutable for the next decades. Systems will become obsolete and need replacement. Perhaps there will be the need for some structural changes in a future version. This is an extremely sophisticated weapon system built in relatively small numbers we are talking about, and as such upgrades and fixes will be extremely costly.
    The A400M (of which I spied one in flight during a recent trip to Toulouse) is an example of how European countries are increasingly seeing “failed” weapon systems. Germany will buy 53 (but the numbers are very likely to be cut), but will mothball 13 right away and attempt to sell them. Spain will buy 27 and likewise dispose of 13. France will cut acquisitions from 50 to 35. Italy has called herself out of the program, as had the two extra European partners, Canada and South Africa. Chile has lost interest and will probably buy Embraer KC390 or Lockheed C130J instead.
    I wouldn’t be too surprised if some European countries will call themselves out of the F35 program once they have bought enough units to appease local contractors. After all they have alternatives that, although not as incredibly advanced as the F35, are extremely capable… how much will cost to develop a proper multirole version of the Typhoon? And I’ve heard Dassault is currently working on a “second generation” Rafale, which will feature improved M88 engines, a fully operational AESA and other nice pieces of kit.

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