The military-industrial complex is alive and well in the Air Force’s effort to kill off the A-10 Thunderbolt, which first went into operation in 1977, in favor of the $1.5T F-35 supersonic jet, which has not yet gone into operational testing.
Writing in the February Harper’s, Andrew Cockburn details the collusion between the Air Force, Congress and defense contractors to promote the F-35 made by Lockheed Martin, which promises to support 133K jobs in 45 states. We’ll see about that.
The Air Force claims the five-year phase out of the A-10 Warthog would save taxpayers $3.5B, which is chump change compared to the F-35 program. Production cost for an A-10 is $20M per-copy, compared to the current projected $200M each K-35 outlay.
Cockburn points out that the armor-cladded A-10 is the Air Force’s most effective weapon for today’s warfare. It is designed for “close air support” of troops on the ground. Flying low and slow, an A-10 pilot visually targets bad guys, which is a key to fighting fast-moving and lightly armed terrorists and insurgents.
The bulk of Air Force’s accidental bombing of civilians in Afghanistan, according to Cockburn, stems from the high-flying B-1 bombers that were originally designed to deliver nuclear bombs to Moscow. B-1 bombers rely on sketchy videos when zeroing in on targets.
Though CNN captured the “shock & awe” bombing of Baghdad during the America’s first Iraqi invasion, it was deployed A-10s that did the grunt work of taking out tanks and troop convoys. The Army’s General Norman Schwarzkopf had to pressure the Air Force to commit A-10s to Iraq.
The Air Force prestige, wrote Cockburn, is based on massive weapons programs like the F-35. It has been doling out “special inducements” (bribes?) to legislators with A-10 bases in their districts to win support for the F-35.
With the A-10 phase out, the Air Force plans to use the B-1 and F-35 for close air support.
Cockburn wrote: “This decision, which practically guarantees that more civilians as well as American soldiers will die, may seem bizarre and irrational, but in light of the core beliefs that give the Air Force its identify, it makes absolute sense.”
With America’s chip on its shoulder Air Force, it’s all about the money.