The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and A-10 Thunderbolt II will soon square off in a “common sense” showdown that will test each aircraft’s capabilities in a variety of war scenarios. U.S. military officials are hoping that the showdown will determine which aircraft will provide better support for infantry units engaged in combat and will determine whether or not the F-35 will render the A-10 obsolete.
The decision on whether or not the F-35 will completely replace the A-10 on the battlefield has generated a fierce debate between military officials. Congressmen and infantry units can be found on both sides of the debate. Some argue that the F-35, which is still in development, has technological advances that make it a superior “Jack of all trades” while others argue that the A-10 has proved its titanium armor and powerful nose cannon make it the pinnacle of military technology designed to support infantry engaged in combat.
The F-35 has been in development for over 15 years. It’s development has been delayed and set back multiple times due to scandals and technical glitches. Despite these glitches the F-35 is still deemed the most technically advanced fighter jet on the planet. The F-35 relies on advanced technology to provide the pilot enhanced situational awareness that cannot be replicated by the aging A-10. It offers advanced stealth, integrated avionics, an integrated sensor package and a ground-breaking $400,000 helmet that provides pilots with a 360 degree view of the battlefield.
The technological advances are a double-edged sword for the F-35. They offer clear advantages but can also cause complications that render the aircraft useless if things run amok, such as problem with the aircraft’s software system that causes the radar to blink out and require rebooting mid-fight.
The A-10, on the other hand, offers a tried and true method of providing support for ground units. It is capable of flying “low and slow” and its powerful nose cannon offers more firepower than the F-35s. The A-10 has built a cult following of combat veterans that vouch for its unique ability to concentrate fire on a specific location for an extended period of time. Critics of the A-10 argue that its airframe is aging and costing too much in upkeep. They hope to retire the aircraft by 2022.
Despite objections from experienced combat vets, Frank Kendall III, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition states that the F-35 will inevitably replace the A-10. He admits that the F-35 is incapable of providing support in the same way that the A-10 does but states that to compensate for this the way mission are carried out in the future will be changed to work with, rather than against, the F-35s capabilities.
Do you think that changing the way missions are carried out to accommodate the equipment provided to our soldiers is the right way to go? Sound off in the comment section below!