A-10 Warthogs for the Philippine Air Force?

Bbbrrrrttttt. An A-10 firing its famous GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm cannon. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Bbbrrrrttttt. An A-10 firing its famous GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm cannon. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The A-10 is one of the more popular aircraft among Filipinos, if you look at the comments on defense-related Social Media sites, every now and then you will come across somebody writing, “let’s get the A-10” (yeah, sure, let’s). This possibility has come closer to reality though as the United States Air Force (USAF) is now seriously considering retiring some of its A-10 aircraft, and the manufacturer of the A-10 has announced plans to sell them off in case it does happen.[1] So, the big question now is, should the Philippine Air Force (PhAF) try to get some of these aircraft in its inventory? Is the A-10 a good “fit” for the PhAF?

’The A-10 Warthog and COIN’
The A-10 is a subsonic, straight-wing, twin-jet engined aircraft designed for Close Air Support (CAS) and built by the American company Fairchild Aircraft. It first entered service with the USAF in 1972 and is so far is the only air force using it. Around 716 A-10s have been built, and its official name is the Thunderbolt II although it is better known by the nickname its pilots gave it, the Warthog.

It is a COMBAT-PROVEN design, destroying thousands upon thousands of Armored Vehicles, Trucks, Artillery, etc. in the various wars in the Middle East that the US has participated in the last 2-3 decades. The latest version is the A-10C with improved avionics like a “Glass Cockpit”, etc. [2]

As a ground attack aircraft, one of the main roles for the A-10 in the PhAF would be for Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations. However, in that role I feel that the A-10 would be sort of an “overkill”. For one, our insurgents do not have sophisticated Anti-Air weapons like Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) or even Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) which the A-10 was designed to survive against. In the last 1-2 decades, even if we were using only relatively simple MG-520 Defender Helicopters or SF-260TP Jaguar Light Attack Aircraft against insurgents, none has ever been shot down as far as I know.

Second is that with its twin jet engines, maintenance and logistics will be more difficult and expensive compared to a single-engined propeller driven aircraft designed for COIN operations like, say, a A-29 Super Tucano (ST). And not only that, the A-10’s engines are bigger and a lot more powerful, resulting in higher fuel consumption which in turn adds up to the operating costs even more.

’High Operating Costs’
A couple of years ago, the USAF Comptroller’s Office[3] provided Time Magazine[4] the ACTUAL CPFH for the A-10C, which from 2008 to 2012 averaged USD 18.5k (approximately P 830k). I find this data to be quite high, but this could be due to a couple of factors:
– A good number of these aircraft were deployed overseas, mainly in the Middle East, and these foreign deployments does increase the operating costs;
– These A-10s averaged around 335 Flight Hours Per Year, way higher than the NATO minimum standard of only 120 FHPY. [5] More flying hours in shorter periods of time could ultimately result in higher maintenance costs;
– Since the A-10s are participating in actual wars, they are expending large amounts of expensive LIVE AMMUNITION, which will increase the Variable Cost per aircraft.

It’s likely that in a non-foreign deployment, non-war scenario with less FHs, the actual CPFH will be much lower. That being said, even if we cut the A-10’s CPFH by HALF to around USD 9k as a rough estimate, it will still be nine times higher than the available CPFH data for the ST which is only USD 1k (approximately P 45k). [6] Also, if we do go into an actual war with China, we will need to use a lot more Flight Hours and we will be expending a lot of live ammunition, hence we can expect the CPFH to be closer or at the level of the USAF data.

’A-10 versus the A-29’
Below are some more important comparative statistics between the A-10 and the ST. [7][8] For more information on the terms used on the table below, refer to my “Aircraft Comparison Notes and Details Page”.
A-10_Payload_and_Range

As we can see, the A-10 has vastly more range and payload than the ST, indicating that it will enable our PhAF to deliver an unprecedented amount of ordinance against the insurgents at any given time. But then again it would only be able to do this at a much more expensive rate because of its higher operating costs, and I’m also not sure if we really need that much firepower against insurgents. I feel that for our COIN purposes, advanced COIN aircraft like the ST with its advanced sensors and guided weapons that are a lot cheaper to operate would be more than enough.

’Maritime Strike’
What about China, would the A-10 be more worthwhile to use against them? Well the thing is that the area we are contesting against China is the West Philippine Sea (WPS), hence naturally any conflict there would mainly be MARITIME in nature, and as such we will need an aircraft that first and foremost must have good maritime strike capability, with ground attack capability coming in only as secondary.

In a maritime strike role, the A-10 is hampered by its lack of RADAR and that it has not been qualified yet to carry large Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs). Of course it can use other sensors like pods with Infra-Red (IR) optical capability and weapons like its powerful GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm cannon or the AGM-65 Maverick missiles, but these IR pods have lower detection ranges than radar, and the cannons/Maverick missiles don’t have the range of larger AShMs like the Harpoon or even medium sized missiles like the Penguin, for example. This means the A-10 will have to move in closer to attack enemy ships, making them more vulnerable to enemy Surface to Air Missile (SAM) defenses.

The FA-50PH with its ELM-2032 Multi-Mode Radar (MMR) would be able to detect ships on its own at much longer ranges. Of course like the A-10, the FA-50s are also not yet qualified to carry larger AShMs, but that is an easier problem to fix than trying to put an MMR on the A-10, and I think it’s just a matter of time before the FA-50s end up with better AShMs.

’Ground Attack Against China’
The A-10 would be most useful to us when repulsing Chinese Amphibious forces invading mainland Philippines or our territories in the Spratlys, and for attacking Chinese military installations in the WPS. In such situations, “Bbbrrrrrrttttt” (the sound of the GAU-8 Avenger cannon makes when being fired) will be the sound of DEATH for Chinese forces.

But I am not too worried about China invading our mainland (i.e., Palawan, etc.) because if they do so, they will have to contend with Uncle Sam, who I really do believe will help us if that happens. Besides, we should be able to mobilize quicker and better our approximately 90,000 Infantry soldiers to go against them due to our shorter supply lines, and I don’t think their amphibious forces are anywhere near that number.

An A-10 Warthog of the US Air Force. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
An A-10 Warthog of the US Air Force. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

What we are not so sure about, though, is the US’ commitment in the Spratlys Islands as I had blogged about before. [9] I think we will be pretty much on our own there, and if so the A-10s would then be useful. HOWEVER, there is one big problem for the A-10s when attacking ground targets in the WPS, and that is ENEMY AIRCRAFT. The A-10 was NOT designed to fight against enemy aircraft (although it has shot down a number of rotary-wing aircraft/helicopters), hence would be easy pickings for such.

I also don’t like the fact that to reach the WPS, the A-10 will have to cross hundreds of kilometers of ocean where it is exposed out in the open, unlike when flying over land where it can “hide” around and in between Hills, Mountains, and other geographic features. And remember that this is a subsonic aircraft, it won’t be able to travel very fast, increasing its exposure time to threats.

’Anti-Air Capability’
Below is a comparison of the A-10s Air Combat capability against aircraft like the FA-50PH and the SU-30MKK Flanker-G, which currently is the most capable aircraft for air combat in the inventory of the Chinese Air Force (or the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, PLAAF). [10][11]
A-10 Maneuverability
A-10 Weapons

The A-10 has no radar to detect enemy planes on its own, no medium/long-range or Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, and has a very low thrust to weight ratio making it vulnerable in air combat situations. About the only advantage the A-10 has over the FA-50PH are its Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS) and High Off-Boresight Missiles, but if the FA-50PH are fitted with that also then the A-10 will have problems matching up against our FA-50PHs, so how much more against the Chinese Flankers?

Hence to be effective and survive an attack against Chinese military assets, it will need an effective AIR COVER. With the USAF, the A-10 almost never had to worry about enemy aircraft since the USAF have very capable fighter aircraft like the F-15C Eagle or F-22 Raptor to sweep the skies and keep opposing aircraft away. The problem for us is that we don’t have any aircraft with similar capability yet, and even if we do eventually get aircraft like the JAS-39 Gripen to support the A-10, it will only be in limited numbers and we may not really be able to establish the same kind of air superiority that the A-10 was used to operating under with the USAF.

’Specialized Ground Attack Aircraft’
To summarize the pros and cons of the A-10:
PROS:
– Large payload, long range and long loiter time
– Excellent ground attack aircraft

CONS:
– High operating and maintenance costs
– Lack of MMR means limited maritime strike and anti-air capability
– Needs effective air cover against enemy aircraft to operate well

The A-10 is a SPECIALIZED ground attack aircraft that only does one job and doesn’t other jobs as well. But that one job it does, it does it VERY WELL. In a rich air force like the USAF, it is just another tool in their inventory, they have many other “tools” or aircraft designed for specific purposes, like “Air Superiority”, for example, or “Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD)”, etc. They then COMBINE all these elements together to form an effective aerial attack force.

The US can afford to have these specialized planes for each given task, but not us. We only have a limited number of aircraft, and we need them to be able to do one or two other things as much as possible. Ironically, the US is also moving away from using specialized aircraft, which is one reason it is thinking of getting rid of its A-10s.

’Parting Shot’
So, should the PhAF get the A-10? I have mixed feelings about this, and my initial opinion would be … No. The A-10 has limited Maritime Strike capability; Its Ground Attack Capability would be an overkill for COIN, and would only be secondary priority in any war with China. It will need an effective air cover when operating against an adversary with a strong Air Force, and with its high Operating Costs, it’s hard to justify the limited role it will have in our Air Force.

However, if the US gives it to us for a very low price, or better yet if they give them for FREE, then maybe we can get a couple. We will still have to worry about its high operating cost, but if there aren’t that many we may be able to maintain them.

I think specialized aircraft that are cheap to maintain are okay, OR aircraft that may be more expensive to maintain but can at least do a couple of other jobs relatively well will be worth it. If we get too many of these A-10s, we may have problems keeping them in the air, and they will just eventually end up being wasted as non-flying assets like what happened with our F-5 and F-8 aircraft.

If the A-10 is not ideal for us, then what aircraft would be ideal for attacking Surface or Ground targets? I think it should be something that is fast, has an MMR, and can defend itself from enemy aircraft, meaning basically any Multi-Role Fighter aircraft out there. If we can buy more Gripens, then good, but if not then maybe we can adopt a “Hi-Lo Concept”.

This concept means getting aircraft with different levels of COSTS and CAPABILITY, but as applied to us we could look more towards at different levels of costs rather than different levels of capability. For example, the Gripens/Other New MRF could be our “Hi” end aircraft while lower cost MRF would be our “Lo” end aircraft.

The FA-50PH would be a good candidate for the “Lo” end aircraft, but if more range and payload is needed then we can look at other cheaper MRFs for that also. An upgraded F-16A Netz that the Israelis are offering now[12] will be a good idea for a “Lo” end aircraft as it can defend itself being an excellent dogfighter, and still have good Payload-Range combination …

An example of the great load carrying capability of the A-10. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
An example of the great load carrying capability of the A-10. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SOURCES:

^[1] Boeing touts A-10s for international customers should USAF divest fleet,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160331150345/http://www.janes.com/article/51570/boeing-touts-a-10s-for-international-customers-should-usaf-divest-fleet

^[2] Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160629175834/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II

^[3] USAF Comptroller’s Office CPFH Data,
https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/afcap-data-for-2008-2012.xlsx

^[4] Costly Flight Hours,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160617055842/http://nation.time.com/2013/04/02/costly-flight-hours/

^[5] Tweaking NATO: The Case for Integrated Multinational Divisions,
https://web.archive.org/web/20130305025750/http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB130.pdf

^[6] First Super Tucano Accepted Into U.S. Air Force,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160605041025/http://aviationweek.com/defense/first-super-tucano-accepted-us-air-force

^[7] A-10 Thunderbolt II Specifications,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160326064502/http://www.northropgrumman.com/Capabilities/A10ThunderboltII/Pages/Specifications.aspx

^[8] Super Tucano,
https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.embraerdefensesystems.com/english/inc/dforcetor.asp?caminho=download/pdf/Spec_TUCANO_abril_09.pdf

^[9] The US will not help the Philippines defend the Spratlys,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160729083715/https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/the-us-will-not-help-the-philippines-defend-the-spratlys/

^[10] FA-50, the first light attack aircraft made in the Republic of Korea,
https://web.archive.org/web/20140804124228/http://blog.koreaaero.com/4

^[11] Sukhoi Flanker Program Dossier, by the Aviation Week Intelligence Group,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160102093412/http://aviationweek.com/site-files/aviationweek.com/files/uploads/2014/11/asd_11_14_2014_Flanker6.pdf

^[12] Israel details F-16 ACE bid for Croatia,
https://web.archive.org/web/20150923053747/https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/israel-details-f-16-ace-bid-for-croatia-413918/

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “A-10 Warthogs for the Philippine Air Force?”

  1. if we want to be practical, get brand new MRFs. after we have the FA-50s and MRFs then we can look on special combat aircrafts or A-10.

  2. I’m a huge fan of the A-10 but i wouldn’t really recommend it to us. Unless we have the money to modify it for maritime strike like replacing the GAU-8 with radar and single barrel 30mm and some additional sensors and weapons integration of AshM. But i doubt that. Nope. A-29 or other type can do.

    1. Love your FA-50 renders, Edward. Is it okay if I crop to Widescreen and use some of them here on my blog in the future? I will provide attribution, of course. Will be re-blogging your post on the FA-50s, by the way …

      1. Okay, thanks. I saw your work at Deviant Art, too, and I like best the digital camo pattern on the aircraft, I hope the PhAF considers using it …

  3. I don’t think we need a cost gobbler which comes with less employability in our quest for internal as well as external security… I love A-10 but it’s not for us. Even our ASEAN neighboors are not impressed enough with it for them to give it a serious look.

    1. Japan is reportedly interested in the A-10s, but of course we know how rich Japan is, and that they have a strong Air Force with their domestically built F-15s …

  4. while we have still insurgency problems, we should still consider the A-10 in our future plans. The other ASEAN countries might not be interested on it because they dont have insurgency problems. but i still believe the A-10 even just a couple of it, will have a psychological effect on the rebels once employed against them.

    the sri lankan govt effectively used the kfirs and the saar missile gun boats from israel and destroy the tamil rebels after 16 years of rebellion.

    we should remember what gen. macarthur said “But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative that to apply every available means to bring it to swift end”.

  5. Sir request lang ako comparison of eurofighter typhoon vs jas gripen vs kai fa-50 for our air force. thanks

      1. A good “Hi” end aircraft might be the Boeing F-15SE “Silent Eagle” which can carry AMRAAMs and 1000lb JDAMs and still have a “clean” profile due to its CWBs. And did i mention it is said to be “almost as stealthy as the F-35 in the frontal plane.” Can you compare it to the SU-35?

      2. Yes, the F-15SE would be good Hi end aircraft, but then again it might be a bit too expensive for us to maintain. But who knows, if our economy continues to improve, we may be able to eventually afford it. As for the comparison with the SU-35, if the opportunity comes I will do it, but no promises as of now …

  6. first, pardon my little knowledge about military things, i just really want our military capability to be “upgraded” as soon as possible for whatever future may bring to us.

    for “LO” end aircraft you mentioned F-16 Netz.
    i checked at wiki, though wiki is not really that reliable
    per price comparison it seems F-16 is more affordable and wiser buy than FA-50.

    Unit cost
    F-16A/B: US$14.6 million (1998 dollars)[2]
    F-16C/D: US$18.8 million (1998 dollars)[2]

    Unit cost
    T-50: US$21 million (2008)[3]
    TA-50: US$25 million (2011)[4]
    FA-50: US$30 million (2012)[5]

    marami na sana tayo aircraft… am i correct?

    1. For military aircraft prices, I think it is best to look at the CONTRACT prices that countries pay for the aircraft. True, such prices not only includes the price of the aircraft but also Logistics Support, Training, Weapons, etc., but then again its not wise to buy just the aircraft, in the end you also need to include these other things. If you don’t, then your aircraft would not be maximized.

      For the F-16Cs, Indonesia bought some recently for only USD 31 million per aircraft including Training, Logistics and some weapons (http://www.dsca.mil/major-arms-sales/indonesia-regeneration-and-upgrade-f-16cd-block-25-aircraft). However, take note that these are second hand aircraft, and the “Block” version is low, meaning it is not as advanced as the latest Block versions. And also it is expensive to operate, estimated to be at least USD 7k per hour …

      1. How about scorpion light attack aircraft from cessna? It’s cheap and has a pretty good endurance and most specially low maintenance. And is capable of doing the mission since it has good sensors and good amount of weapons.

  7. the scorpion light attack aircraft is a duplication of the super tucano which the philippine airforce is interested to replaced its OV-10. but considering the capability of both aircrafts the super tucano has a better armament capability and a better close air support aircraft although it is a propeller driven.

  8. The only reason why the US won’t export the A-10 like the F-22 is because it’s VERY expensive to operate and most countries can’t afford the Operating and maintain cost for the A-10. It cost the USAF $20,000 per flight hour to operate and Maintain the A-10. Now if the Philippines have $20,000 per flight hour to spend on the A-10, then the US might entertain the idea. Otherwise the Philippines should get the A-29 Super Tucano because it’s cheaper to operate and maintain and cost per flight hour is cheaper than the A-10. Another option is Textron AirLand’s Scorpion, a multi-mission attack jet that can be purchased for $20 million and flown at $3,000 per flight hour.

  9. hi rhk, can you research this aircraft that is unknown from most of GI-lovi’n pinoys? Please come up with an article for the Frogfoot, the SU-25 ground attack aircraft of the Russians I think based from its impressive specifications is our ideal CO-IN, ground attack aircraft.

    1. Only if news comes out that we are seriously considering them, mark. Otherwise I am not too keen on doing all those research, writing and then re-writing the blog, etc. based on just an assumption, at least not anymore. I used to do that a lot during PNoy’s time because it was so inspiring since we were buying so many things then. But now, Duterte’s AFP Modernization still hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. Maybe in a year or two. Maybe.

      1. Okay, thanks. I hope when the President visits Putin on May of this year, he consider the frogfoot in the wishlist and by that time you may come up with the review of the aircraft. Btw, thanks for the no non sense and impressive technical but apolitical reviews of military weapons.

  10. now it can be told that the A-10 is among the cheapest warplane to operate and to maintain among the list of active fighters and attack aircraft in the U.S. inventory. Further, it is also one of the easiest to fly.

    With the threat of the ISIS, I think the AFP have to re-think in acquiring the A-10. Just recently our warplanes including the FA-50s bombed the Maute and Abu Sayaf groups who supported ISIS.

    acquiring at least 2 A-10s, even without rockets, bomb and missiles, its gau-8 avenger 30mm cannon with 4,200 rpm can wreck havoc on the enemies with precision accuracy. at least we can save on the cost of rockets, bomb and missiles, although it is also capable of carrying it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s