A-10 escapes fresh cuts; Spartans divert

Fans of the awesome A-10 can rejoice (for now at least), as Washington’s recently-signed National Defense Authorisation Act has blocked the USAF from planning to retire any additional examples until at least the end of this calendar year.

With NATO’s Afghanistan campaign due to end its combat phase in 2014, the Warthog would perhaps have been an easy target for a cost-cutting “fleet divestiture”, but opponents’ fears of losing a critical close air-support capability before the replacement Lockheed Martin F-35 is ready appear to have been recognised.

A-10 AirTeamImages

Clearly the budget situation in DC wasn’t as dire as the one which prompted the UK to sacrifice its Harrier force back in 2011, or else there isn’t any real fixed-wing alternative to the A-10′s firepower (AirTeamImages picture above) out there for now.

There’s been no shortage of other procurement weirdness though, as my colleague Jon Hemmerdinger has reported on our defence channel. The USAF’s unwanted C-27J Spartans will be transferred to the US Coast Guard, which will in exchange give up several C-130s for Forest Service applications. That should mark the end of a pretty sorry Joint Cargo Aircraft saga for the Department of Defense.

While probably wholly sensible, an order to study whether a ground moving target indication capability could be added to the US Navy’s unmanned MQ-4C Triton is bound to be more controversial, were it to hurt the air force’s Global Hawk ambitions, post the Block 30 cancellation debacle. And at a time of budget pressure, surely such new tricks will only move the Triton’s expected $11 billion programme cost the wrong way?

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