Aerial warfare has had a renewed focus since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia earlier in 2022. Everything from the Ghost of Kyiv to the debate of gifting aircraft has had the world watching as the conflict continues to unfold. But there may be a change in tune about how to help Ukrainian forces, specifically by gifting troops with A-10 aircraft, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the A-10 Warthog. This is an idea that only months ago seemed to be off of the table.
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America Wants To Replace the A-10, But It Can’t
At the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in March 2022, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall didn’t seem too enthusiastic about sending any A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft to Ukraine.
“I’m not aware of any current plan or even a discussion of a current plan to field or provide A-10s to the Ukrainians,” said the Secretary.
But there are many who are looking to replace the A-10 Warthog to move forward. The presented idea would help expedite this process, all while providing Ukraine with a better aerial fleet to help with their war efforts and defend their home. There’s a lot going on, however, from various fronts that make the logistics of replacing A-10 Warthogs a nightmare.
First off, there are budgetary issues. This isn’t the first time someone’s proposed upgrading the aircraft, as attempts have been thwarted since 2015. Secondly, there are issues with finding a new plane capable of being better suited for combat. Last but not least, you can also throw in the political aspects that go along with supplying a foreign government with weaponry to fight a foreign government that is less than fond of American interests.
However, the A-10 Thunderbolt is a technological relic at this point. Built in the 1970s, there are growing concerns that they’re not fit for close combat anymore. This is why there’s a call for the fleets to be reduced or retired. It’s also a reason that some are concerned about receiving the aircraft, as A-10s are “vulnerable” to Russian air defenses.
Among these conflicting points, an A-10 official issued a warning over the U.S. Air Force’s “devastated” Warthog fleet after claiming that the USAF is withholding resources for the A-10 Warthog but still flying it.
Is Time Changing America’s Plans With the A-10 Thunderbolt?
To say that the resilience and effectiveness of Ukraine’s defense have been a shocker is the understatement of the year. The country is still able to hold against what was thought to be an overwhelming opponent, and these shifts could be changing the way America views the war. This could also be the reason for Kendall’s newer statements pointing to the possibility of supplying Ukrainian forces with the A-10 Thunderbolt.
“(It’s) largely up to Ukraine. Older U.S. systems are a possibility… We will be open to discussions with them about what their requirements are and how we might be able to satisfy them,” said Kendall, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum.
This statement follows a newly approved 2023 National Defense Authorization Act aiming at training Ukrainian pilots that would provide $100 million. The decision by the House of Representatives comes as the war is now approaching its sixth month in Europe.
The attack planes were used during the Cold War and had the task of being ready to attack tanks should they ever be needed. It’s obvious that warfare has shifted since those times; however, training for operating an A-10 Thunderbolt can still take months to years to complete.
Training concerns were also at the center of the hesitancy to supply the aircraft to Ukraine, but that tune looks to be changing as interest is renewed. Alternative methods of training and supplying Ukrainian forces are also being explored.
Delivering the A-10 Warthog in Ukraine Could Create Conflict
Sending jets during a conflict has extra ramifications that could send the world into another world war. This is exactly why ideas of supplying Russian jets were abandoned earlier on. The supplying of Russian jets for Ukrainian troops was an idea because of their familiarity with the aircraft.
The A-10 Thunderbolt being gifted could kill two birds with one stone, but how these goals are accomplished will be important points to watch. Ukraine believes that its forces can learn to operate the aircraft in only a few weeks, and NATO has concerns that transporting the jets could see Russian forces attack their airspaces. All in all, there’s a lot to consider, and our leaders cannot afford to get things wrong.
Image: Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot | U.S. Air Force