11 May 2006

A-10 Replacement?

The aging A-10 Warthog attack plane has proven useful. It is the only aircraft in the U.S. military designed specifically for "close air support", i.e. tasks like blowing up tanks on the ground and providing fire support to infantry troops.

The website G2mil, a military reform brainstorming e-magazine, suggests the SM-27 Machete, available for about $10 million each for the fully equipped deluxe model, as a replacement for the close air support and counterinsurgency role currently filled by the A-10 Warthog attack plane. This is much less than either the F-35A or the F-22 fighters currently in the U.S. budget, and includes no R&D costs. In contrast, the price of the F-35 and F-22 is disupted, but seems to keep going up. One source states that the F-35 has hit an average cost of $113 million including R&D, and that the F-22 costs $170 million each to build, and a total in excess of $340 million per plane including R&D.

How do the A-10 and the comparable SM-27 (the SM-27J, which is the single seat, turbofan model) compare:

A-10 --------------- SM-27J

57'6" --------------- 43'0" Wingspan
53'4" --------------- 34'0" Length
14'8" --------------- 12'0" Height
51,000 lbs. --------- 16,940 lbs. Maximum Takeoff Weight
16,000 lbs. --------- 5,250 lbs. Bomb Load
11 ---------------- 6 Bomb Mounts
420 mph ------------- 513 mph Cruising Speed (both are subsonic)
800 miles ----------- 782 miles Range
45,000 ft.----------- 50,000 ft. Service Ceiling
2 ---------------- 1 Number of Engines
0.36 --------------- 0.56 Thrust to Weight Ratio at Full Load
30mm --------------- 30mm Cannon

Armor:

A-10:

"[T]itanium armor plated cockpit, redundant flight control system separated by fuel tanks, manual reversion mode for flight controls, foam filled fuel tanks, ballistic foam void fillers, and a redundant primary structure."

SM-27J:

"500 lbs of discrete armor protecting vital aircraft systems including the crewstation, powerplant and flight control systems."

In short, the SM-27J is relatively comparable to the A-10, but with a little more power and about a third of the bomb load capacity.

The G2Mil website also references a detailed academic article on better preparing the Army to fight counterinsurgency missions, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and most peacekeeping operations.

7 comments:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Some A-10 program history can be found here.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I don't understand your comparison. Comparing the a-10 to the sm-27 is comparing a heavyweight to a flyweight, they are not even vaguely capable of the same role.

You compare the a-10s titanium armor to the sm-27s undisclosed 500 lbs of armor and pronounce it comparable...do you understand why the choice of 900 lbs of titanium armor is so unique?

There is a reson why the a-10 has escaped several attempts to retire it. There is nothing available to take its place. The sm-27 is no exception unless you are going to redefine the role it will take up.

You are absolutely right that the a-10 is an old horse. It could use to be replaced but the more you read about the a-10 the clearer it becomes, its like is not yet made.

Anonymous said...

I agree, That comparison is assinine.The a-10 has no equal,the machete isn't in the same league .There is no way that thing has the survivability of the a-10.Look at it, it looks like it would break after one hard landing , muchless half of its control surfaces shot off.This must be a engineers idea of a tank buster.We all know engineers have great "ideas"!

ana said...

This is an ongoing problem not just for this scenario. It's where you have people and they think too much and over analyze something. They either go gung ho and take action but forget to aim and shoot from the hip, or make a million plans and are scared to jump in with them.
Then they add stuff like pleasing so and so and such and such people, oh make amends for this group, help this gang (politics). Then they take this super helium inflated, self projected vision (pride) and want for their fanciful thinking (fantasy and avoidance of reality). So they come up with something that works great in a video game but sucks in real life.


Its about balance. Its simple, really. You take what works and improve upon it.


its always good to improve on what you do have. The Machete is a step down.


It's a problem when focus isn't balanced and only put to one or a few main things. Like when a budget is the only factor and all others is thrown out the window.


It isn't the same you need 2+ engines for survivability . . . armor.

You need range and loiter time. Armor. lots of pilot / control / avionics / engine protection. Simple. Take what strengths the A-10 has, and improve upon it. You use a balanced set of guiding principles, with a foundation (close ground support).

sorry for the rant, I was one of the lucky ones where I was able to meet my grandfather despite the missile mistakes in far off Southeastern Asian country in a time long ago . . .


It's like what that quote from Armageddon;

"And this is the best that you c - that the-the government, the *U.S. government* can come up with? I mean, you-you're NASA for cryin' out loud, you put a man on the moon, you're geniuses! You-you're the guys that think this shit up! I'm sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You're telling me you don't have a backup plan, that these eight boy scouts right here, that is the world's hope, that's what you're telling me?"

Anonymous said...

I made a design. At first glance it looks like an A-10. I kept what works but put some thought into it and there are a few differences.

Enjoy...

http://nickdwyer.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/future-close-air-support-a-10-evolved/

shloime said...

the a-10 is well suited to its task, and the only thing wrong with the a-10s currently in service is their age.

rather than overhauling their aging airframes, and updating their engines to something newer, why not build a bunch of new a-10s?

the r&d has already been done, the plans are there, and probably some or all of the original tooling is still available.

on the plus side, it would be very cost effective.

on the minus side, the pentagon wouldn't be getting any shiny new toys - boo hoo!

choochat said...

Capabilities of the F-35 is going to be A-10 Thunderbolt. If cut stealth and harrier away.