Sound Off: Mothball A-10s or F-16s?



It was quite a struggle, but thanks to pressure from numerous advocates, the A-10 will last for at least a few more years in active service. But, according to the Air Force, that will come with a hefty price. In a recent piece by Kris Osborn, Air Force officials told that keeping the A-10 would require “retiring an unspecified number of F-16 fighter aircraft or delaying the deployment of the F-35 by at least a year.”

The original Air Force plan involved retiring A-10s beginning in 2016. This would take place until 2019, when the fighter would be scrapped altogether. According to the Air Force, this would save roughly $4.2 billion over five years. Now, they have some difficult choices to make. The Air Force claims that multiple aircraft can perform facets of the A-10’s job, including F-15Es, F-16s, AC-130s, B-52s, and B-1s. But, A-10 advocates argue that that A-10 is so good at what it does, that the Air Force’s ability to support infantry would be significantly decreased without it.

Do you believe keeping the A-10 is worth sacrificing F-16s? Sound off!

  • mkantzler

    My decision would be to postpone the F-35 in favor of keeping both the F-16 and A-10 at full force levels, with the stipulation that the F-35 program would remain on hold until Lockheed provides evidence that fixes for its numerous problems have been designed AND the means to bring the fleet into service under the first revised budget for the program can be met. In other words, if Lockheed wants to make its $billions on the F-35, it would have to do it under costs it provided in the first budget revision or pass on the contract. Truth is, the USAF can meet its mission requirements with the F-22 for at least the near future.

    And if it ever comes down to F-16 vs. A-10, keep the A-10. Keep the A-10 until there is a replacement that can do EVERYTHING better that it does to keep ground troops alive and destroy tanks.

    • Thomas Kelly

      I agree with you 100%. We have a new fighter aircraft that can’t make it off the run way half the time. Now are experts want to ground the F-16. What are these clowns thinking? Don’t protect are ground troops; now , don’t protect our bombers, airborne control or aerial flying gas stations. What other crazy ideas are they going to come up with. Someone had better get Lockheed- Martin to clean up their mess like yesterday! Sorry, I’m from the old school SAC.

  • sw614

    Tough call. Keep a single mission acft that is very good at CAS and COIN or an acft that is a very good multi role platform that has proven itself many times. The older F-16s will need a SLEP and other upgrades while the A-10 have recenly undergone transformation to the A-10C standard.

    As much as I like the F-16, it may be cheaper in the short term to keep the A-10 even though a lot of F-16s have been retired in recent years and they are getting a little thin in numbers.

    Whichever way it goes, some units will be without any acft until the F-35 comes on line in significant numbers.

    With only 187 or so F-22s, there is not enough of them to pick up the slack.

  • weweedman

    As an old infantry medic, anytime I saw an A-10 fly forward of my position, I knew that 2 things were going to happen: the armor would go away and if anything else was left my infantry unit could mop it up with no trouble. So as many of my senior sergeants would say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I have yet to read anything that says the F-35 is anything but a total screw-up; I’ve had brand new privates that were less fouled up than that program. Yes the A-10 is old & yes the F-16 is aging as well, but for my money, I want the A-10 flying over my medic brothers today instead of a promise that something might work in 10 years or so.

  • bart ninja

    best plan is to not start any new wars… then we will not need any of these three aircraft types.

  • Gordon Eatley

    Considering that the majority of the battles we have been fighting have been against ground troops that have no air power and the fighting has been close in, the A-10 is my weapon of choice. the F-35 has been troubled prone and there is no assurance that this aircraft will be available for quite some time and even then it has questionable close in ground capabilities and minimal carrying capacity. As with the case of most all purpose, all mission weapons, it won’t do any well.

  • majeff

    We have 4,000 + F-16’s, A-10 not enough to support ground troops and there isn’t a replacement for the A-10, certainly not the over priced F-35. I am retired from Lockheed and I know both F-16 and F-35.

    • sw614

      I think you need to research how many F-16s are currently in the inventory. Hint – no where near 4,000. That 4,000 number is approximate total produced (all customers, not just USAF). Current active inventory is around 970 with another 530 or so preserved and stored. The older F-16A/B are being used for FSAT.

    • sw614

      We do not have 4,000 F-16s, no where near it. That is the approximate production number for all customers. Current inventory is around 970 with about another 530 preserved and in storage. Some of the older F-16s (A/B) are being used as FSAT.

  • smokemityougotem

    Dump the F-16s oldest first to the newest over the next few years. Mission taken over by the F-22s and F-35s as they were planned to do when envisioned.

    • sw614

      F-22 never meant or design to take over F-16 mission. While the F-22 can do limited strike missions, we did not buy enough F-22s to attempt to replace F-16s with F-22. The F-35 mission is to replace the F-16 and now with limited numbers of F-22s (0.25 : 1 versus 1:1 as originally intended), the F-35 will have to pick up some of the F-15 missions as well.

  • CPowell

    I’d go with the A-10 (cost, effectiveness, weapons versatility, survivability), but my preference is to keep BOTH.

    My thinking is simple : We are retiring equipment before their replacements are here and ready. This leaves us equipment short if need arises. What if something happens?

    We are too invested in other countries’ problems. Also there ARE lunatics out there who WILL have to be dealt with sooner or later. For good or for ill, we WILL get involved in something, sometime.

    Do we DARE be equipment short? It seems all our branches (except Coast Guard, who ALWAYS are getting short-changed in the equipment race) are modernizing without seeing short-to-mid term…

    • CPowell

      Let me clarify on the F-35: I’ll not state here why I do or do not support it.

      My issue is that it is NOT READY NOW to take over for aircraft they are talking about retiring NOW.

      My comment is not about the future F-35, but of retaining force levels NOW.

  • Wayne

    The Air Force says it can no longer afford to field single mission AC such as the A-10, however they have not mentioned retiring the AC-130 gun ships, which have an even narrower single mission. The F-35 program has slipped so many times, as a result of design and manufacturing problems, that its hard to imagine another year would really have a serious impact. It would seem logical to test the concept of replacing the A-10 with an alternate AC but sending a mix of A-10s and the proposed replacement to a region currently requiring close air support and critically analyzing the effectiveness of the two options in accomplishing the mission. Then a decision could be based on effectiveness, rather than dollars.

    • sw614

      The AC-130s support SOC/AFSOC and are budgeted through them IIRC. The savings by retiring a few dozen AC-130 would still leave the problem as the USAF sees it.

  • The Time is Now

    Keep and modernize both the F-16 & A-10. Halt the production of any F-35 not yet started until the weapons and systems that are supposed to work with it actually do work. Reconsider allowing F-22 sales to our closest allies (e.g. Japan) as an incentive to get the contractor to un-mothball the production line. With regard to air defense, air superiority and strike capability… until the F-35 mess is cleared up or a viable drone strike-fighters comes along … consider “mixing” wings and/or squadrons with F-15, F-16 & F-22. Lastly, how about some Growlers going along with the mixed wings/squadrons?

    • sw614

      A-10 has had some upgrades (avionics, wings) and can continue to do so. As to the F-16s, we would be better off, if we go that route, in buying new build. The line is still open and the possibility in putting latest F-35-like avionics in them exists. Maybe even build the Agile Falcon variant. Some of the ideas from that program were used in later (block 40 and on) F-16s and the Japanese J-2. Could even dust off the F-16XL and see if it fits today’s environment. If push came to shove we could even get Boeing to build F-15SE in both single and two seat versions. Could even produce a Growler version of the F-15E/SE.

      Better served by each type in its own wing. Mixed/composite wings generally are a little more expensive to operate. The types can still train together, but are based with like types.

  • bbabbitt

    Why either-or? Keep the both. Quit spending money on illegal aliens, and use the money to keep both great weapon systems.

  • Ereilad

    Keep both aircraft and mothball an aircraft carrier. Use some of the savings from fewer carriers for more submarines also, Aircraft carriers are sitting ducks in this century with modern missile technology.

  • Guest

    The Army and Marines love the A-10. Historically the Air force brass have been either favored fighters or bombers. The ground support mission has never been popular with either group. I just don’t see any other nation that will challenge the US in air combat. Most future warfare will be as we have now, where close air support to ground troops is necessary.

  • Machbuster

    It comes down to strategic risk. The A-10 only does one mission and it does it very well–CAS in a benign environment.
    F-16s are providing most of the defensive counter air protection of our country on a daily basis. Not to mention CAS and interdiction missions elsewhere. In addition, much greater savings come from completely retiring a weapon system from the inventory. F-16s are going to be in the inventory for at least 10 more years due to their multi role capability and F-35 delays.
    We tend to always fight the last war which for 20 years has been against small arms and handheld SAMs. If air power was needed in the Pacific theater, it is doubtful that A-10s would bring much to the table. I think the PACAF commander would much prefer the survivability and multi-mission capability of the Viper.
    It might take more sorties and we might have slightly more ground casualties in the middle east due to a lack of A-10s but nothing like the losses that would be sustained in other theaters if additional multi role 4th generational fighters are retired. I’m sure the Air Force has done a number of risk assessments and the prudent decision in weighing capability vs modernization is to retire the hogs.

    • Vitsing

      Spoken like a true fighter pilot. I am a ground troop and prefer the A-10 to protect my six and twelve, over any fast mover. If you don’t think we need REAL CAS in PACOM; then we don’t need ground troops in the Pacific.

      Therefor, let’s bring our ground forces home to provide more funding for the F-35.

  • jjschwartz

    Scrap the F-35 platform but keep working on the software and avionics. That’s where the future of advanced manned fighters lies. The concept of a multi-mission fighter for multiple services is folly. An impossible mission. A bridge too far. It’s a no brainer but to keep the A-10 with a single dedicated mission that cannot be matched or even approached by any existing platform.

  • John Grimes

    If their is one plane in America’s arsenal that has proven itself it is they A10. It was built for ground support and anti tank platform. As for the F16, well what h a s it done except to chase down passenger planes and eat up the Air Force’s budget. The B52 has a long track record for being the best bomber platform (in my opinion). If the A10 were to receive a quarter of the BUFF’s budget for upgrades what kind of a killer would it be?

  • Ron stillwell

    I’ll take the A10 anytime!! Look at how long the B1 and the B52 have been around . What a life span !!
    If anything or anyone needs to go it’s some of thoughs air force generals. If I needed some good close air I’d call the marines then the army then the navy. It’s sad that the A1sky Raiders are gone they could stay on station for a long time and put the hurt to a lot of bad guys !! But the A10 is doing just that now . Keep them flying and build more one them . If the cry baby air force doesn’t want them maybe the ass kicking us marines would like them. Old tech still works, 7.62×51 Nato , the 50cal. The 1911 pistol in 46cal. Hell the m14 is still with us . The cobra gunship is still around in its modern form. From what I read and hear the grunts like having the A 10 around . Maybe the airfofce Generals need to be pinned down and have a A10 save their BUTTS.

  • Joe

    History….no one seems to remember it. I was a young airman when the F-111 was touted as the do everything airplane. It was supposed to be used for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. As luck would have it, That didn’t happen.

    There are different missions for each branch of the service and it takes different types of aircraft to accomplish those missions. If we remember history we would never try to produce a one-fits-all aircraft ever again.

    BTy, the F-111 was a spectacular failure and didn’t do any mission well. It was tried and phased out a of the service rapidly.

    • DAVE

      Joe you must not have worked on the F-111A out of Nellies AFB NV as I have from 1972 to 1974 that went to Thailand. We flew from sundown to sunup and did an outstanding job of putting bombs on target. Anyone who ever worked on this aircraft loved it. We took 52 aircraft over there, and 7 were lost .Because they flew low and fast at night to the target it was hard to tell how they were destroyed.

    • Vark

      Joe, you are quite correct that the F-111 was a flop as a do everything jet. That’s a dumb concept from the outset. However, you are quite wrong about the F-111 being a failure overall. It was the only platform capable of high speed deep interdiction at night in any weather, and it gave the Soviet forces nightmares for a number of decades. Just ask any Mig 23 driver and you’ll see what I mean. Thousands of Mig 23’s were deployed in Europe to defend against a handful of Aardvarks, with the outcome never really in doubt. The F-111’s would have devastated the Warsaw pact assets night after night with virtual impunity. Then there’s the record of tank kills racked up during Gulf War I by the Aardvarks with Pave Tack, a record approached only by the Warthogs.
      The F-35 suffers from what might be called Aardvark syndrome, the stupidity of politicians of various stripes trying to save money at the expense of combat effectiveness and American lives. I’m sure that when the smoke clears, a viable mission for the F-35’s will manifest itself and the new jet will make its place in air war history. I just don’t see it doing so in the CAS environment.
      The Warthog is indeed getting a little long in the tooth, but until something at least equally as potent comes along, we may as well continue to upgrade and modify this well proven asset.

    • Joe

      Ok, I misspoke about the F-111 as a bomber. The FB-111 was indeed a great platform as well as those other variants used in the tactical bomber role. The fact is that it was developed as a fighter aircraft first with bombing as its secondary mission. It was never a fighter nor was it capable of being one any more than the multi-mission F-105 was.

      This was at the same time that the M-16 was shoved down our throats as a replacement for a real battle rifle, the M-14. I was AirForce and carried a S&W .38 as a primary weapon as I worked in a command post. The M-16 was good enough for AF use but I pitied the poor infantrymen having to use it in combat.

      One size does not fit all in the military. It is a means to save money, not lives; whether it is airplanes or rifles. Jerry Dart hit the nail on the head, spend the money on the troops and take it away from those on welfare who contribute nothing to this country.

  • SFC S

    The choices offered by Air Force leadership are simplistic: which is more painful? There are many other ways to cut operating expenses that they don’t want to address. They would rather offer offer up two painful choices and leave it at that. The argument to keep the A-10’s in service is also simple. What other aircraft is able to provide it’s pilot the same degree of protection, loiter over enemy positions as long, put as much ordnance down range, and return home safely even if severely damaged; as the A-10?

  • Caesari

    Mothball the F-35 and upgrade both the A-10 and F-16.

  • jerry dart

    Keep both aircraft and take the money from some of the 55 million people on the government take.

  • Rick 462

    Keep the A10. Being slightly bias, USAF – having worked the A10 as a Weapons Troop. In numerous meetings and discussions with Marines, all spoke highly of the A10 and worshiped the skies it few in.
    This aircraft takes a licking and keeps on dishing it out. It seems like we still have the B52 as a reliable weapons delivery system even though we have several Bomber platforms. No one is screaming drop the Buff.

  • CharlesHouston

    The A-10 does a job that we must have done well – we should keep it and retire some F-16s. The conflicts that we have recently had, and the ones that we are most likely to have, are NOT against opponents that have capable air defense systems. So the A-10 should be survivable for a few more decades.

    If we were smart we would go ahead and do the inevitable – curtail production of the F-35 at 300 or so. They are too expensive, they have stealth that has never been worth the cost, and they do not have the capability that we need.

  • Jerry Pickett

    The F16 is a 2000 hr aircraft after that it is wore depending on the mission most are fatiqued to like 4000 hrs the cost to maintain and repair outways the need we have plenty of f16.
    The res and guard waste millions ebery year keeping them in the sky just to fly around the flag pole all day, let the raptors do their job and beef up the A10 and save some lives.

  • Jpickett

    The real truth is all the F16 dose is keep old fat Guardsman employeed.

    • tsgtnelson

      hey dick bag, those fat old guardsmen do 35% of the AF job with 10% of the budget. I’ll take my hard charging guardsmen up against your active duty turds everyday of the week.

  • Barrack

    The F-35 is way over budget causing this discussion. Having worked on both and saved by both in combat neither should be mothballed. What should happen is to jail the government officials who were/are responsible for oversight of this program an take the overage out of the company owners and boards personal wealth/trust and property.

  • Ric Nelson

    NO aircraft in the ENTIRE AF inventory can do what the A-10 does !!. She is rugged ,tough , has alot of loiter time , has THAT gun , can take VAST amounts of fire and punishment and keep flying ! She can be turned around VERY fast ,and has just a fraction of the maintenance hour versus flight hours !!. She is easy to fix and get flying again ,compared to legacy fighters in the inventory .She is BELOVED by all hog mechanics !! When you have army and marines types buying a bunch of A-10 hog people beers ,pizza and drinks all night in some overseas NCO club , you KNOW you have arrived !! CMSGT Ric Nelson , 926 TAC fighter wing –retired !!

  • What the US perhaps need to do it to retire the majority of the Air Force generals above 07 and start over. The efforts in the past to build a multi-role and multi-service plane that works very well for the Navy and the Air Force and the Marine air arms such as the F-4 have never really panned out to be rousing successes. In all probability, the F-35 will be a so-so compromise just like the multi-role and multi-service planes that have preceded it.

    Keep the A-10s and the existing F-16s and let the F-35 program drag on an extra year or two or three.

  • Bill Baker

    Give the F-10 to the Army and Marines, keep the F-16 for the Air Force and the Navy’s carriers. and dump the F-35 which is designed for the kind of future war that we’ll never fight.

  • Warthog Medic

    The F-16 of course. It is what the F-35 was built to replace, as a multi-role fighter, so pull the 16s as the 35 makes IOC and replace it as it goes, also solves the problem of maintainers. Train them now so they are ready when ‘their’ jets arrive. . . . .

  • Dave Smsgt USAF Ret.

    This is a hard choice. As long as we are in conflicts needing close air support this seems like a no brainier since the A-10 is a flying tank. The F-35 seems to be lacking in gun power and delivery of ordnance. The A-10 is flying now not in 2023 or whenever the F-35 will be fully mission capable. The F-16 is a good weapons platform but extending their service life pushes the scale in favor of the A-10.

  • Dude

    Ummm, getting rid of the A-10 Warthog makes about as much sense as retrofitting the A-10’s wings with Chicken wire. Mister SecDef – RETROFIT and MODERNIZE THE A-10 – DO NOT GET RID OF IT!!!