A mini-documentary about the A-10 Warthog providing close air support in Afghanistan has been released to the public. It’s more ammo for the hardcore fans of the Warthog who claim it’s still the best aircraft for close air support.
Critics say that when fighting in a high-threat environment, the A-10 fails against the F-35. They say that the Warthog performs well in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the skies are uncontested, but it is not suited for operating against more sophisticated air defenses.
Critics of the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35 often claim that the Warthog can loiter over the target for 90 minutes, while the F-35A can only stay on station for 20 to 30 minutes. Fans of the F-35 say that in an uncontested environment, where tankers would be available, the F-35 can easily loiter above the battlefield for an hour and a half. To my mind that cancels out their argument above. If it’s uncontested, the A-10 is a known winner.
The 21-minute documentary below, Grunts in the Sky: The A-10 in Afghanistan, was made public after the Facebook group Air Force amn/nco/snco put in a FOIA request last year. The military claims they didn’t, but here’s the video on Youtube.
The documentary combines footage gathered by an Air Force combat camera during the summer fighting season of 2014. Since then the USAF has tried to suppress the video while the dickering over retiring the A-10 in favor of other aircraft, such as the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has dominated discussions in Pentagon and Congress.
The situation now is that, due to Congressional support and support from troops on the ground, the A-10 will continue to serve for the foreseeable future. Several squadrons could be grounded and retired, though, if a re-winging effort is not made to get the A-10s back in the skies.
According to American Military News, the documentary features interviews with fighter pilots who fly the A-10 and have had experience giving support to ground troops. U.S. soldiers are also interviewed, and they describe what it’s like to have the A-10 above them.
“To have boots on the ground, you need support and you need the right kind of support to have boots on the ground,” Air Force Technical Sgt. Sean Deam, a JTAC, says in the documentary. “It’s the A-10, honestly.”