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Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics
By Stew Magnuson

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh has heard one too many times that his service doesn't care about close-air support missions.

"Really? I'm kind of tired of hearing that," he said Sept. 15 at the Air Force Association conference.

The Air Force has averaged about 20,000 CAS sorties per year for the last seven years. "At what point do we get a little bit of acknowledgement for that?" Noting that airmen who require protection serve on the ground, as well as his own son who is a Marine Corps infantry officer, Welsh characterized the notion that the Air Force puts a low priority on close-air support as "silly."

He has answered those who have told him to his face that the Air Force doesn't care about CAS by taking out his phone and showing them a picture of his son.

His comments come during a public debate over the retirement of the A-10 Warthog, a Cold War era aircraft that the service wants to retire to make way for the F-35 joint striker fighter. Congress so far is not allowing that to happen. While he did not wade into the specifics of the arguments, he ran a short video of a former A-10 pilot who is now putting the F-35 through close-air support test and evaluation.

Welsh said: "CAS is our mission. And we will continue to excel at it and we will continue to provide it wherever and whenever it is needed and with whatever we have available to us."

Another statement he disputed is "the F16 is better than the F-35."

"Really? Does someone want to debate this with facts?" He followed that up with another video of an F-35 pilot attesting to the new capabilities of the aircraft. "We have to make sure we don't get distracted by silly discussions here. This airplane is going to be a great airplane," he added, noting that it is not fully operational yet and is not expected to be until 2021.

Welsh only mentioned in passing the Air Force's top three acquisition priorities -- the F-35, the long-range strike bomber and the KC-46 tanker -- and instead highlighted some of the lesser known aircraft that he said must be modernized.

The first mentioned was the combat rescue helicopter, which he said is "tied to the fabric of our force. If we are going to send airmen across the line into harm's way, we have people, great people, who are willing to go get them if something goes wrong. And they need to be equipped in a way that allows them to get home, or maximizes their chances to get home. We have got to keep this program on track."

The next is the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which has been a workhorse, he said. The Air Force can't meet combatant commanders' needs for the aircraft because they are old, and it takes a lot of money to operate. "It has been a phenomenal aircraft for us, but it is time to recapitalize this airplane."

The JSTARS recapitalization program is in the budget this year and "we are going to push hard to keep it on track and get this thing done,"  he said.

The EC-130 Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft, like JSTARS, has been a "silent hero" over the years, he said. It has been a workhorse in the counterterrorism mission, "but we need the capabilities it carries on a different platform, or on several different platforms. And we have to figure out how to do that," he said. If they have to be grounded for age reasons, "we're out of luck. That can't be the choice."

Also on his list is the E-3 Sentry AWACS. "We have to start thinking about recapitalizing this airplane as well. Airborne command and control is is a requirement that is not going anywhere." The Air Force is going to start work on a plan to replace it or recapitalize it this year, he said. The question will be where it fits into the funding flow, he added. "This is not a 'this year' problem but it is coming sooner than you think."

The last aircraft on his modernization list is the T-X training aircraft. "All these things need crews to fly them. We're not going to a 100 percent unmanned force anytime soon."

The T-X is in the budget and "we're going to push hard" for a 2024 initial operational capability, he said.

The overarching problem is funding. The demand for Air Force capabilities is going up, but the budget is not, he said. "And the flexibility we need to make the very hard decisions required is getting harder to come by. Holding onto the things that made us great in the past is not the best way to make us great in the future," he added, making another subtle dig at the A-10 supporters.

"For years we have enjoyed a capability advantage over every other air force on the planet. That capability gap is closing and it's closing fast. I'm not crying wolf. I'm just telling you the truth," Welsh said.

Photo Credit: Air Force


Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Remember when we pulled the Invader out of the boneyard for SE Asia. I get the fact that we cannot afford the 35 and anything else...but the 10 is still better bang for he buck.
jim at 9/15/2015 7:51 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

The F-35 will be a appalling air power asset, effectively vulnerable to enemy air defences, beatable in air combat and bringing in a host of unreliable sensors etc.

The F-35 is not the all-singing, all dancing platform that was once envisaged or expecting in some quarters, though at the same time it will be much more incapable and inflexible aircraft than any tactical aircraft that has gone before.

F-35 advocates/supporters have wrongly and continue to be proven wrong to point out that close-in dogfighting is the sine qua non of air combat. I emphasize that the F-35 pilot unaffords its pilot with no opportunity to see and kill the enemy at Beyond Visual Range (BVR). Because the nose geometry of the F-35 limits the aperture of the radar. This makes the F-35 dependent on supporting AEW&C aircraft which are themselves vulnerable to long range anti-radiation missiles and jamming. Opposing Su-30 family, PAK-FA & J-20 aircraft have a massive radar aperture enabling them to detect and attack at an F-35 long before the F-35 can detect these aircraft. The F-35 will be hopelessly outclassed in Within Visual Range (WVR).

It is an unmitigated disaster in the history of air warfare.
Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/16/2015 7:37 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

To Gen. Mark Welsh,

"Really? I'm kind of tired of hearing that,"

Well, serve you right you need to be told that several times for you to understand that the F-35 and other fast movers are not up to the job of supporting the ground troops effectively.

You need to get out of the United States Air Force permanently. The service is much better without you and other generals and some colonels of ruining the whole process.  
Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/16/2015 8:13 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Gen. Mark Welsh,

Cut the nonsense crap and lets give the A-10 all the advancements the pitiful F-35 has and that way you might have a plane which will save American lives instead of a piece of junk which can only bring embarrassment and lose American lives.
Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/16/2015 8:31 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

if the F35 will not be fully operational until 2021 then why mothball the A-10 now?

...your job awaits you at Lockeed...retire now. 
Guest at 9/16/2015 9:21 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

The military exists for two very simple purposes: To kill people and break their things. Anything that enhances that ability should be pursued. Anything that distracts from or diminishes that capability should be ignored.
John at 9/16/2015 10:01 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Talk is cheap General. If you really care about CAS, why is your band getting more funding than your JTACs? If you care about CAS, why are you re-writing JCAS doctrine to back into an ill-suited aircraft vs reading the USA TRADOC requirements document?  
TT at 9/16/2015 11:00 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

The F-35 is not a replacement for the A-10 in any way. The A-10 isn't sleek or sexy, but it is the best ground support aircraft in the inventory and the F-35 is just a compromise in every way. Our troops deserve much more than that.
Jim Wright at 9/16/2015 11:04 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

The two are very different the F-35 is a fast attack long range plane that cannot turn inside the A-10 attack zone basically curling 3 times inside the first pass. The A-10 has tons of advantages. it operates of WWII quality airfields or can that is with out fodding out it engines, It is proximate to its targets, it can loiter over target for up to like 2 hours supporting and attacking, no other fixed wing can do that. It lives with the grunt low and slow and can take unreal damage that no fast mover is gonna survive, I mean half wing and one engine type damage and still finish and come home. In its roll nothing is its peer with all respect to the copters the A-10 is built to take damage and dish out hell!!
razz at 9/16/2015 12:22 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Caring about CAS means doing the right thing even when it will destroy your career and your retirement.

TW at 9/16/2015 10:48 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Some how the Air Force got it in it's head that it needs to have this massive change towards an all 5th Gen fleet of tactical fighters or we wont be able to win in a future conflict against a pier level enemy.  How and why is this true? 

If the Air Force as a single person they would be treated for delisions.  5th Gen tech is great but ONLY has supremacy over low 4th Gen tech.  Our adversaries have rightly figured out that a powerful, 5th gen radar is cheaper than building a stealth fighter, and all but negates the fighters advantages (and the Mega$$ spent on it).  Sure the enemys 4th Gen air force might not be able to challange the F-35/F-22 in terms of digital coms, radar "quality", goofy sensors like DAS, number of sub-contractors used, or a $800K helmet...but they will have just the right kinds of things to counter all that junk, rendering it useless.  Once our tech advantage is gone or (to use the Regime's words) degraded it will come down to kenimatics, aircraft construction and pilot training.  In terms of CAS missions...why would ANYONE need 5th Gen tech to do a Gun run?  What a collasal waste of resources the Air Force should be ashamed that they even thought of this.  I could go on, and on, and on...but why bother.  AF brass are fixed on this all 5th/4.5 gen course and will be for the a long time to come. 

Welsh is right about the CSAR-X...need that YESTERDAY.
WpnsLoader175 at 9/16/2015 11:49 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

One further point, the A-10 is CHEAP to operate with an average of $4000 per flying hour.  It's replacement comes in at a massive $65,000 per hour (and as someone that might be involved in some of that "maintenance", I feel that # should be HIGHER).  Can anyone explain this to me??????
WpnsLoader175 at 9/16/2015 11:52 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

To Gen. Mark Welsh,

The fact is that the F-35 has NO legs, loiter time, acceleration, turning performance, armour, and an extremely limited amount of ordnance that it can carry. It is prohibitively expensive and for all that expense, in the end it is a total compromise aircraft that may be able to do many missions, but can't do any exceptionally well. Yes, the sensors and weapons systems are impressive, and if applied to other aircraft designs would probably be decisive if those aircraft designs were mission specific. This aircraft will NEVER be the equivalent let alone the superior to the A-10 in close air support. No armour, legs, loiter time, an inferior smaller gun with 185 rounds (versus almost 1200 rounds in the Hog) and fewer on-board weapons that must be carried internally to preserve the "all important" stealth capability in an environment where Stealth isn't really that necessary. The bad guys on the ground can see the Hog rolling in them because it's in the weeds rooting them out, not flying at 10,000 or 15,000' and trying to find the bad infantry and take a few of them out with a $100,000 smart weapon when a few $100 30mm rounds will do. If there is a significant threat of radar controlled AA or missiles in the environment, put a stealthy A/C there prior to the Hogs to take those threats out. An IR guided system can be effectively handled by A-10's and have been for decades.

The F-35 is a terrible performer and not cost effective by any stretch. All of the advantages of the A-10 are also there over the F-35 when it comes to Combat Search and Rescue support (with the possible exception of speed, but getting there fast with no loiter time doesn't really help much…, especially since the CSAR helo's will still need to get there.

How can you affectively provide close air support with an aircraft who cannot fly lower than 10,000 ft because it is so expensive CAS means get down and dirty, not fly high and pretty? Retiring the A-10 is going to cost lives of the Army brothers and sisters

Ask the troops and they will favour the A-10 covering them over the F-35 any day. Planes like the f-35 don't stay over the battle field very long. The A-10 pounds the enemy relentlessly and just keeps coming back with another pass. Captured enemy combatants have stated the A-10'is the plane that they fear the most. The kinetic energy of the A-10 bullets can actually throw an enemy soldier fifteen feet into the air. Because of this fire power an A-10 can tear up an enemy compound in minutes. Everything from armoured vehicles to enemy soldiers is completely obliterated during an A-10 attack. For this reason the A-10 is the perfect weapon for the mission it finds itself in today. With powerful supporters in Congress the A-10 will be doing this mission for the next decade.

Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/17/2015 1:10 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Solution give the A10 to the Army. They will be under the armies budget.
oli at 9/17/2015 4:46 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Gen. Mark Welsh,

There is nothing far more survivable for the F-35 that is supposed to replace the A-10.

I reckon the test office’s conclusion is misleading. The vulnerability has decreased 25 percent focused on a small area “if the aircraft is hit.” The probability is actually high, classified number. This means the overall impact to aircraft’s survivability is high, higher than 0.5 percent.

Why is the survivability higher than 0.5 percent?

To restore a 2 lb safety valve system part of 43 lb (20 kg) equipment will increase more weight on the F-35 affecting the aircraft’s flight performance parameters, making it draggier that can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run to escape gunfire/missiles, terrible acceleration, limited range/endurance and doesn’t have enough motor for the weight. Lockheed Martin has done very little with major safety precautions on the F-35 which is a very delicate aeroplane that makes it more vulnerable (if flown at low altitudes when performing close air support missions) from a high-explosive round such as .22 Rifle, or any form of gunfire that will disable or destroy an engine and fuel tank and the F-35 has no armour cockpit tub to protect the pilot if hit by a bullet or fragment. The F-35 doesn't carry flame-retardant foam in its fuel tanks because the foam displaces fuel. The fuel tanks are not equipped with self-sealing membranes to plug bullet or shrapnel holes.

Also the F-35 is a single engine which gives it little margin for error. The very thirsty thrust-producing of the F-35 will be extremely hot. The back end of the F-35 in full afterburner is something like 1600 degrees (Fahrenheit). In terms of temperature, aluminium combusts at 1100. You are talking about something really, really hot. If you have got a dirty big sensor on the MANPADS or whatever, it lights up like Christmas lights and there is nothing you can do about it. And the plume, because of the symmetric exhaust, is all over the place. It is not shielded; it is not ducted in any useful way.  The F-35 will be like a “blow torch” if detected and hit by high explosive rounds.

As its limitations are inherent to the design, they cannot be altered by incremental upgrades. The F-35 will be ineffective against the anti-access & area denial threats with current generation of extremely powerful advanced Russian and Chinese systems; In any combat engagements between the F-35 and such threat systems, most or all F-35 aircraft will be rapidly lost to enemy fire.

So if you have the F-35s that just aren’t capable of dealing with the anti-access & area denial threat zones, it just doesn’t do you any good of going ahead with the failed program and sink the money.
Because the F-35 will be increasingly expensive aircraft that will fail the requirements.

Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/18/2015 12:53 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Gen. Mark Welsh,

The authors make two fatal errors in their understanding and analysis of CAS, the environment it is delivered in and the unique utility of the A-10.

First in reference to “the wonder of smart bombs”, many anti-A10 commenters like you and armchair analysts of CAS fail to realise or conveniently ignore the “danger close” requirements of ordnance. Even a precision guided 500lb bomb is not to be used closer than about 1,640 ft (500 m) because the danger of blast and shrapnel to friendly troops while cannon fire has been employed up to 164 ft (50 m) from friendly troops. Even with the wonder of “smart bombs” the enemy is afforded a 1,640 ft (500 m) deadspace when they don’t have guns/cannons to support the ground troops and while they may “check the block” in providing CAS the quality of that CAS is exponentially less than the A10 that can employ those same “smart bombs”.

The second fatal issue is that of MANPADS. The F-35 is as vulnerable to being hit by MANPADS as the A-10 but much less survivable. Many A-10 detractors often cite the danger of MANPADS to the A-10 while not applying the same standard to their aircraft of choice.

A less fatal faux pas is the non-comparison of the F-35’s 185 rounds of 25 mm to the A-10’s over 1100 rounds of 30mm. The A-10 brings SIX times the basic load to the fight than the F-35 with an aircraft designed to take punishment vs. the relatively fragile F-35.

Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/18/2015 1:01 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

The commenters here keep recycling the same old, same old debunked notions in support of the A10 and declaring the F-35 a total disaster ... and what's with the dude from Australia - where's your dog in the fight?  If your country doesn't want to buy the F-35, nobody is holding a gun to your head.

Anyway, no. 1, the A-10 is NOT our leading CAS aircraft.  That title happens to belong to the F-16, which carried out double the number of CAS sorties in our recent Middle Eastern wars. used and most effective CAS aircraft today.

The "F-35 doesn't have the loiter time" argument simply doesn't hold water.  The range of the F-35 is more than 50% longer than that the A-10, and the F-35 can be throttled down and flown slowly just like any other aircraft, and conserve fuel, if that is what the mission calls for.  It will be flown supersonic only rarely.  Besides all that, the F-35 can, if needed, arrive at the battle site in half the time of the slow A-10 ... a major consideration if it's your fire team that needs the help of CAS.

And those who hang their hat on the A-10 carrying more cannon rounds, just be aware that the F-35 carries more overall ordinance than the leading CAS aircraft, the F-16, and can direct that ordinance at multiple simultaneous targets far more lethally than a 30 mm cannon can.  The ability to kill bad guys quickly of the F-35 is overwhelming.

Lastly for those who rely on the "The A-10 can absorb more groundfire than a F-35", again, the F-35 A and C doesn't need to get low and slow to deliver hellfire (and a host of other killer ordinance) down on the heads of bad guys in multiple simultaneous locations.  The F-35 can do that quite nicely from an altitude that small arms ground fire cannot reach.  And meanwhile, its stealth and electronic warfare capabilities are much more advanced than that of the A-10 making it far more survivable in a high threat SA environment.  Considering that the Russians are proliferating their high end SA-300 systems to Iran, and effectively by extension, to most of the other bad guys in the Middle east .. if you can't survive in that high threat environment, you can't survive, period.

Listening to the pro-A10 arguers, you can close your eyes and imagine all the same arguments being made in 1950 as to why we could not possibly abandon the P51 Mustang for those new-fangled jets that cannot possibly dogfight nearly as well, or cost as little as the old reliable prop fighter.
Duane Truitt at 9/18/2015 5:18 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/17/2015 1:10 AM  said it in detail exceptionally well.

Even if every mission on the F-35 wish list is proven to be capable of being 100% fulfilled the facts still remain:  It cannot loiter, it has a lousy loadout of weaponry, the pilot and aircraft are in the hands of God, it cannot fly slow enough to be effective, the pilot's Mark One eyeball is heavily restricted, its highly vaunted stealth capability is useless, its turnaround time to refuel, rearm (and otherwise 'maintain') is pathetic.

Please general, refute with sworn testimony that none of the above are true and give the soldier and the Marine (and the American public that is footing the bill) ONE capability that the F-35 WILL HAVE that will make it an EFFECTIVE CAS platform, at least as effective as the A-10; just one.  I double dog dare you!
JJSchwartz at 9/18/2015 10:34 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Welsh, maybe you are tired of hearing questions.  It does seem you have your mind made up.

BUT, pulling out your son's photo won't answer this simple question, intelligence will.

IF all you need is the F-35, and the others are obsolete and need to be replaced to save money, then why aren't you recommending retiring the B-52, B-1, F-22, F-16, F-15, etc.???

Let me guess?

The F-35 compromises too much in too many areas to be an end all fighter?

Wayne at 9/21/2015 1:58 AM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Gen. Mark Welsh,

The A-10 is specifically "Designed For The Mission That Is Based On Real Combat, Not the Gadgets".

Incorporating lessons learned from combat history was key to the A-10’s successful creation. The failure of the F-35 program, we point out, is that it has been designed for technical features. The real mission of the F-35 is to send money to contractors and to ruin any air forces requirements.

Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/23/2015 11:07 PM

Re: Gen. Welsh Makes Subtle Digs at A-10 Supporters, F-35 Critics

Gen. Mark Welsh,

Low & slow works perfectly well supporting the ground forces. You need a single purpose aircraft for that mission. You want to spend multi-billion dollar for a fast-high flying aircraft that is not suited for the close air support mission. An F-35 will certainly cost much more to purchase & support. The life cycle cost will be much greater expense over the years than the A-10. This is insane as it was just reported on 4th September 2013 that Boeing had just finished building 56 new wings for the A-10 as the 56 is part of an order of 242 sets of wings which was supposed to keep the A-10 flying for the next 30 years as talk about the right hand not know what the left hand is doing.

Sure the A-10 is slow, again it is designed for the CAS mission, not the gadgets, but it's a fantastic aeroplane, get that message in your head Gen. Welsh. Those who flew it and were shot up by enemy fire were able to live, RTB (return to base), and fight another day. Try doing that with a stealth aeroplane. For those of you who don’t know, one F-117A was shot down by a SAM during "Allied Force" in 1999.

Nowadays the US is the biggest military junk producer, nothing looks right and doesn't work properly and the F-35 is a great example.

The Russians make great fighter jets and they sell them to anyone for a good price. Only idiots like you and other top brasses would sign up to buy the failed F-35 which is a massively overpriced jet with full of junk that flies like an elephant.

Just another ridiculous spin from LockMart. The cost of the F-35A will keep going up more than $180+ million. Well I predict the F-35 will become such an embarrassment and will be cancelled before 300, 400 or 500 aircraft are built, instead of 2,443 aircraft which you will never be able to afford.

The failed F-35 programme needs to be permanently scrapped ASAP.
Another Guest (from Australia) at 9/23/2015 11:35 PM

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