So, the Air Force is going to test fly a replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II "BRRRRRT!" plane this summer — all on account of a Senate committee that just voted to provide $1.2 billion in funding for this program.
A number of planes are competing to see which will replace the legendary Warthog. Among the competitors are the OV-10X from Boeing, the Textron Scorpion, the A-29 Super Tucano, and the AT-6 Texan.
And while these new planes have their advantages for close air support, they lack some key attributes that makes the A-10 the beloved "Hog" that it is.
3. No armor for the pilot – or other stuff
Let's be honest, one of the reasons we love the A-10 is that it can take a beating and bring the pilot home. The tale of Kim "Killer Chick" Campbell doesn't happen with a Tucano or Texan. It just doesn't. So don't give us some small prop job and tell us you gave us an A-10 replacement, okay? Just. Freakin'. Don't.
2. Lack of payload
The A-10 can carry up to 16,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, and other ordnance — that's eight tons. The Textron Scorpion carries up to 9,000 pounds. The OV-10X is a modernized version of the OV-10 Bronco, but that plane has a limited payload as well, with the heaviest weapon it carries being 500-pound bombs.
Not bad for a COIN mission, but weak at supporting boots on the ground in a heavy firefight.
1. No GAU-8
The A-10 was built around the GAU-8, a 30mm Gatling cannon. It could hold 1,174 rounds' worth of BRRRRRT!
Now, the old OV-10 that served in Vietnam and Desert Storm had guns – four M60 machine guns. That's right four 7.62mm machine guns. The OV-10X swaps them out for M3 .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad when you wanna take out Taliban, but a problem when facing tanks.
Now, there was a gun pod that had a version of the GAU-8 with four barrels as opposed to seven, and with 353 rounds. Not bad, but it's not a GAU-8 mount.
Don't get us wrong, the OV-10 makes for a nice COIN bird, and the Textron Scorpion could be a nice, cheap supplementary multi-role fighter.
But let's get down to the ground truth: If you want to replace the A-10, do it right. And if you can't replace the A-10 with a new plane, then just admit that the best A-10 replacement is another A-10 and just get them back in production. Is that too much to ask?