In time, one of the ongoing “lessons RE-learned” has been/continues to be the need for a tough, heavily armed aircraft that is able to perform in close coordination with ground troops, in a high intensity, small-arms fire environment. Whether facing armored assault or insurgency attacks, through the years and myriad of conflicts, some aircraft have distinguished themselves in this role:
The Russians as well, had their signatory close support/ground attack aircraft with the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik:
. . . popularly known among the Russian infantry as the “flying Tank” (or alternately by the Germans as “schwarzer tod“, or “Black Death” ).
CAS/ground support aircraft weren’t sleek or blindingly fast – but they carried a ton of ordnance, could absorb even more punishment and when you needed heavy fire delivered within yards of friendlies, were the best bar non.
They also tended to be rapidly discarded after the war in favor of their faster, sleeker fighter brethren – because eagles are always more popular than badger hounds in the upper echelons of the air services. But as time has proven again and again — you need badger hounds to get down in the dirt and root out the enemy. And so in Korea the task fell to the A-1 and F4U, in Vietnam, the A-1, and a variety of other platforms including the A-37, AC-47 and AC-130. But as the enemy’s mobile AA and shoulder-launched SAMs began to proliferate, new platforms were needed – especially as one looked back to Europe and the growing Warsaw Pact ground forces facing NATO. So the A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as the “Warthog”) came to pass, with significant input from the Army, for whom it would be supporting and developed and deployed by an Air Force that pretty much kept it and its crews at arms length while it was busy with the F-15 and F-16. With the end of the Cold War, it looked like the A-10 would be headed for the barn – until, surprise, there arose a need in SW Asia for a tough, heavily armed CAS/ground support aircraft that could take a lot of punishment, deliver more and stay with the troops as they pushed Saddam’s forces out of Kuwait.
Still, the utility of the type has not been lost on the Russians, who, after developing their own modern CAS, the Sukhoi Su-25 found it a better platform than helos in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
This approach proved its worth during the 1979-1989 Afghan War when the Su-25 became the most popular plane to serve with Soviet forces, carrying out numerous close-support missions in the most difficult situations. The Su-25s conducted effective air strikes while heavy supersonic warplanes ran the risk of causing collateral damage (friendly fire incidents) and when helicopter gunships were deterred by the Mujahedin’s short-range anti-aircraft weapons, which included modern 40-mm anti-aircraft automatic guns, machine-guns and Stinger man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
In fact, as the Russian military slowly emerges from the downsizing and stagnation of the past couple of decades, there is even now talk of re-opening the Su-25 production lines:
The Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (UUAZ) in Eastern Siberia could resume production of Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft on orders from the Russian Defense Ministry and the United Aircraft Building Corporation. . . So far, there have been no official reports of any plans to purchase the Su-25UB/UBM under the 2011-2020 state rearmament program. Well-informed sources in the aviation industry say that no final Su-25UB production decision has yet been made. Reus’ statement merely implies that both UUAZ and the Air Force are interested in resuming production of these planes.
According to the article — “this decision has its advocates.”
Indeed, CAS supporters abound -
its just that their voices are often lost in the rush for the newest, shiniest thing…
Incredibly (or perhaps, not) when the requirements for the F-35 were being drafted, the Air Force and Marines looked to the F-35A and -B models, respectively, as their CAS replacements – the Air Force to replace the A-10 and F-16 (in the Fast CAS roles), the Marines to replace the AV-8B. Experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, however may be mitigating against that move as momentum develops for a new “low intensity” or COIN aircraft . Whether that aircraft can survive in the kind of non-permissive environment that the A-10 has or even replace the A-10 is another question – assuming it even sees the light of day.
Article Series - Future of Air War
- Of Wargames, JSFs and Baby Seals (Part I)
- Is the F-35 the Next DDG-1000? – UPDATED
- Of Wargames, JSFs and Baby Seals (II)
- Of Wargames, JSF and Baby Seals (III)
- F-35 Slated for Common Electronic Attack Platform?
- Bulava Fails Latest Test – Lessons for US?
- E-2D Advanced Hawkeye – Death By A Thousand Cuts?
- Boeing Unveils the F-15SE ‘Silent Eagle’
- More Hawkeye Pics
- Stand-up of the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC)
- A JSF Program Re-Structuring on the Horizon?
- E-2D Update: Progress Report and Hawkeye BMD?
- Fifth Generation Fighters – The Competition Casts Its Ballot (UPDATED)
- Some More Observations on the Sukhoi PAK-FA
- Красная звезда вторник: Red Star Tuesday — Overhauling Russia’s Air Force
- De-constructing Sukhoi’s PAK-FA
- Let’s Talk Integrated Air and Missile Defense
- Progress – However You Measure It
- Thought for the Day
- Close Air Support Aircraft Find Renewed Interest
- IAMD Acquisition Updates: E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and SM-3 Blk IIB
- Fighter Deal of the Century: Europe – 2, USA – 0
- Steeljaws Airborne Again?
- ♫♬ Oh When the Drone is Called Up Yonder… ♬♫