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Modeling Political Influence in Command

Political restrictions and influences have always played a part in war, and several Command scenarios have taken this into account. To what degree political difficulties should be implemented depends greatly on the context on the scenario. The tools a scenario designer can use include: geographic restrictions, point penalties, indirect political effects and the briefing.

Geographic Restrictions

No-navigation zones have been frequently used to simulate off-limits areas. These work, but are imperfect. They have an inherently “gamey” and crude quality to them. Especially in earlier periods of time with vastly inferior navigation, this can lead to unrealistically good awareness on the part of the units involved.

This is not to say that no-nav zones don’t have their uses. I’ve used them without any regrets, and they work for “simple” issues. A “Don’t fly over Iran” instruction, when the targets are not anywhere near the Iranian borders can work for no-nav zones. In this case, the instructions are clear, and since the target is far away from the restricted area, there’s less chance for panic to lead to a mishap.

What can work better than simple no-nav zones is having consequences for entering the restricted area. The official scenario “Operation Lightning Strike” illustrates this well-go anywhere but over Pakistan to hit the nuclear missiles, and you will face the wrath of that country. Lua has made the possible responses more varied and effective.

Point penalties

Point losses for violating the specified orders are common. To what degree they penalize the player should depend on the context. My own scenarios have ranged from a response that amounts to “Eh, try not to hit any civilian fishing boats even though they’re reporting your position to the enemy anyway” with no actual point losses should the boats actually sink for a 1940s sense of ethics, to a “Any loss of either civilians or an E-3 AWACS with a large crew will cause the scenario to be failed”, for a mission conducted by an under-resourced country that cannot afford an American backlash.

There is a middle ground, and exactly how much depends on the nature of the forces involved, and what the political situation is. The comparative restraint or ruthlessness of an army often goes against the stereotype of how it “should” behave.

Combinations

One of my attempts at innovation was modeling an arbitrary restriction-in the first Rollback scenario, non-stealth aircraft were not to cross the 31st parallel except in case of emergency. What I did was painstakingly create “unit enters area” triggers for all carrier aircraft except the A/F-117 stealth fighters themselves, and assigned those to an event that led to a small point loss for the American side.

This illustrated a violation without being an immediate scenario-ender, and allowed for certain types of aircraft to be deployed while others were incentivized to stay behind in a way that a cumbersome no-nav zone could not accomplish.

Combinations like this have many possibilities. A Vietnam War intrusion into Chinese airspace could trigger a massive point loss, a flavor message saying that President Johnson wants to give you a good talking-to, and huge numbers of J-5s scrambling to guard their airspace. Better keep a better eye on landmarks next time, Mr. F-105.

Indirect political effects

Politics is more than just direct restrictions. Politics can influence force skill (altering the proficiency of certain units), deployment (which can range from interservice rivalries shutting one branch out on one end, or an Eagle Claw-level pileup of including everyone whether it really makes sense or not on the other), and command structures (best achieved by multiple sides that do not necessarily have access to each other’s data). As this is “background” politics as opposed to obvious limitations, the scenario creator would (as I have often done) be entirely justified in not mentioning it in the briefing.

Briefing/flavor

Briefings are excellent at simulating a political mood. They can be vague and even wrong on purpose. Similarly, flavor events can enhance the desired tone even if they have no effect on the scenario itself.

In conclusion, there are many tools at a scenario creator’s disposal for simulating the effects of political influence on a battle gamed out in Command.

Lua in Play – Using Lua to Implement Scenario Functionality

Lua provides a vast number of new possibilities for scenario creators, letting you automate tasks. Today we’re going to discuss how you can use Lua in a real scenario, using my upcoming Operation Fei Lian as an example. We’ll discuss how to integrate Lua into your scenario development workflow, and also how to implement solutions to some common problems.

The Setting

The name Operation Fei Lian tells some of the story behind the scene. Fei Lian is the name for the Chinese god of wind – and in the scene, three winds are sweeping North Korea:

  1. A literal wind, making the skies abnormally clear
  2. Yet another internal coup
  3. A Chinese attack in support of that coup

The PRC intends to help topple the Kim dynasty by military force, a task eased by the unusually clear skies over the country. However, there are some complicating factors: the North Korea’s nuclear weapons – a force that could potentially kill millions of Chinese. The PLAAF must destroy the DPRK’s strategic air and missile forces before they can be used to retaliate against the PRC.

This idea, originally by JanMasterson, really intrigued me, as it depicts events that aren’t usually seen in Command. Playing as the PLAAF is unusual, compounded by the complex relationships and timing inherent in a nuclear counterattack. Before 1.06, Command couldn’t simulate a randomized event chain like needs to happen here, but not modelling the missiles leaving their hangars, the nuclear integration time, etc, would leave the scenario rather lacking in detail. Lua was the solution.

Planning

Lua requires some forethought, like any other scenario. You need to figure out what needs to happen in your scene to implement it with Lua. The major component in Fei Lian was the North Korean nuclear retaliation pipeline – integrating a process including missiles, airplanes, trucks, and a palace.

In-game, the process works like this:

  1. T+0: Realization of PRC hostility (attack/entry into NK airspace)
  2. T+20m: Conventional forces launch (KPAF mass scramble), special forces ready (IRBMs to launch locations)
  3. T+30m: Nuclear go: Trucks carrying NK nuclear weapons depart from Kim Jong Un’s palace to the aircraft and (randomized) missile launch site
  4. T+~1h: Nuclear weapons arrive at ballistic missile launch site, and begin integration.
  5. T+1h30m: Nuclear warhead integration complete, missile launch against Beijing
  6. T+1h45m: Nuclear bombs arrive at MiG-23 bases
  7. T+2h: MiG-23 with nuclear gravity bomb ready – air attack on Shenyang

This chain of events would be hard to do in Command in the pre-Lua days – especially the randomized nuclear missile selection process. To implement this sequence of events, you have to keep track of which units are where and when they start out, hard with the traditional mission editor, much easier with Lua.

The implementation of this system has these trouble spots that need Lua solutions:

  • Timing events in general (e.g. event A happens, then B happens 30m later)
  • Departure of nuclear missiles from hangars to launch sites
  • Missile selection for nuclear delivery
  • Nuclear integration (only one missile should be nuclear, not all of them)
  • Transportation (tunnels through mountains)

Implementation

The actual implementation of the solutions to these trouble spots is beyond the scope of this article, but they provide some insight as to what’s possible with Lua right now.

Timing is the big part – Lua allows you, via the Siberian Humvee method, to schedule events in the future. This lets Lua implement some interesting things, including simulating strategic OODA loops, but also how long it takes for a truck to get through a tunnel, for instance.

Another part of Fei Lian implemented with Lua is storing ground vehicles in hangars. In the past, you couldn’t put a truck in a hangar, as a limitation of the engine. However, Lua lets you simulate the truck being inside, by spawning it at the right time and only if the hangar hasn’t been damaged yet.

Lua lets you go even further, though. A problem in Fei Lian was that you, with the traditional event editor, could destroy the same TEL out of 9 to ensure that no nuclear weapon was launched, because the nuclear warhead’s destination has to be fixed. That’s no longer the case – Lua can store what’s arrived where, so that the nuclear delivery trucks can make an intelligent decision about which missile gets a special warhead.

I plan to describe how these features were implemented in a series of tutorials on my website commandlua.github.io, explaining the Lua features involved and how to apply them in Command so that you can add Lua to your toolbox. Lua allows you to extend Command’s scenario building capabilities manyfold, both when editing (as JanMasterson described on Friday) or in the scenes directly. If you want to play Fei Lian, take a look at it here.

Command 1.07 Release Candidate

Command 1.07’s first release candidate has been released! Matrix thread.

MAJOR NEW FEATURES
===============================

* Weapon Release Authorization (WRA). See here: http://www.warfaresims.com/?p=3598

* Mission Editor 2.0 . See here: http://www.warfaresims.com/?p=3653

* Scenario Attachments (aka auto-bundling). See here: http://www.warfaresims.com/?p=3710

USER INTERFACE IMPROVEMENTS
================================

Updated functionality
———————-
– Ignore plotted course when attacking: moved to doctrine
– Hold Fire turned into doctrine setting and merged with Engage Unknown to become Weapon Control Setting (WCS)
– Added menu item to window for configuring Quick Turnaround for airborne aircraft
– Added menu item to window for setting fuel and airborne time for airborne aircraft

Doctrine changes
———————-
– Doctrine tab in Doctrine window re-done
– EMCON tab in Doctrine window updated
– Added Weapon Release Authorization (WRA) tab to Doctrine window
– Ctrl + Shift + F9 opens side-wide Doctrine window

Air Ops (F6) window
———————-
– Added ‘Assign to mission’ button to allow the player to assign aircraft to missions
– Added ‘Doctrine’ button to update various setting for aircraft whilst still on the ground
– Added context (right mouse-click) menu

Boat Ops (F7) window
———————-
– Window redone, added ‘Abort launch’ button and synched looks and functionality with AirOps
– Added ‘Assign to mission’ button to allow the player to assign boats to missions
– Added ‘Doctrine’ button to update various setting for boats whilst still in dock/davit
– Added context (right mouse-click) menu

Land range for weapons
———————-
– Added ‘Land range’ for weapons, to separate surface and land gunnery ranges for large-caliber guns. For example, surface range for the 16 inch guns on the Iowa class is 12nm (fire control limitations), while land range is 21nm (max ballistic range).
– Added ‘Land Weapons’ range rings. Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk TLAMs now have separate range rings.
– Range rings take into account nuclear weapons release doctrine, showing the TLAM-N and TLAM-C ranges depending on whether nuclear release has been granted or not.

Weapon Allocation (‘Attack Target’) window
———————————————-
The Weapon Allocation window has been re-designed. One of the most noticeable changes is the ability to multi-select targets and assign salvos to all with one mouse click. This functionality uses the Weapon Release Authorization (WRA) table to automatically create fire missions with pre-defined weapon quantities. It should be noted that assigning salvos this way does not take into account shooter limitations or automatic fire range limitations. Pressing the ‘Assign Salvo’ button multiple times will add additional salvo quantities of weapons.

Another significant change is that the number weapons fired or already impacted as part of the ongoing salvo are displayed alongside yet-to-fire (assigned) weapons. This means the player gets a much better overview of what targets are currently under fire and the weapons involved.

The updated window also allows the player to add and remove shooting units and targets. In theory, this means that the player only needs to open the window once per scenario, and add/remove units and targets as needed. Destroyed units and targets are automatically cleared from the list.

Finally, the player can now resize the window, and it will also auto-update when the player runs the simulator. The player can also de-allocate large quantities of weapons with one mouse click.

Mission Editor
—————–
* The “Area Editor” component (used on mission editor etc.) has a new button: “Highlight + center on selected”. If one or more reference points are currently selected, clicking this button highlights them and brings the map camera to their geographic center. This is useful, for example, for quickly seeing and moving around the reference points that comprise a patrol area.

Contact management
———————
* New UI feature: You can now filter-out a selected contact (“Filter-out” command on the contact context/right-click menu). Filtered-out contacts are shown ghosted and no information on their movement vector, sensor & weapon range symbols and AoU is presented on the map. This can be useful if you have a lot of contacts of no interest (e.g neutrals) on the map and want to eliminate the clutter they create. [Inspired by the gazillion whales on “Opening Moves”]. You can cancel a contact’s filter-out status the same way.

You can temporarily override a contact’s filtered-out status by hovering the mouse cursor over it. This allows filtering-out multiple contacts to reduce map clutter, and then checking them individually “at a glance” to determine if they’re worth reseting their filter-out.

Misc
———
* The DB viewer now lists additional information for mounts & weapons (compatible directors, autonomous, local control possible etc.)

SIMULATION IMPROVEMENTS
===============================

* Thoroughly revised mechanics for the endgame of AAW weapons against aircraft:

a) Speed is life: Most AAW weapons are optimized for engaging highly-subsonic (500-600 kts) targets since this is by far the most common flight regime in the jet age. Target aircraft at higher speed are proportionally more difficult to engage both for guns and guided weapons. The degradation depends on the maximum target speed of the AAW weapon (listed on the DB viewer); for example a SAM with a 1500-kts max target speed will be severely degraded against a 1200-knot target while a missile with a 5000-kt max target speed will barely notice the difference. This makes high-speed aircraft like the SR-71 and MiG-25R (and UAVs like the D-21 and Tu-123) very tough targets even if the intercept geometry is achieved, which is consistent with RL reports.

This also means that an aircraft evading a missile (and having its speed reduced as a result of the manouver) will, for at least a few seconds, have reduced ability to dodge subsequent attacks until it accelerates again to higher speed. This means that oft-quoted real combat examples like the “Kosovo Slammer Dodger” (the Serbian MiG-29 that evaded 3 AMRAAMs before finally succumbing to the fourth, probably because it was close to stall speed by then) are actually now reproducible in the sim. So ripple-fire those AAMs/SAMs!

b) The evasion bonus must now be earned: Until now all aircraft got their full evasion bonus (as long as they detected the incoming weapon) regardless of their actual geometry at the time of impact. This allowed players to “cheat” by disabling auto-evasion on an aircraft, heading stright down their target (or enemy shooter) and still get the full evasion modifier. Now however, the projected impact angle is critical: High-deflection (“crossing target”) impacts maximize the agility effect, while head-on (less so) and tail-on (severely more so) impacts significantly reduce the actual evasion modifier (with further variations for forward-oblique and rear-oblique geometries). So now it often comes down to “beam or die”, as in known RL engagements.

* AAW missiles attacking small-or-larger size ships/facilities disable their proximity (airburst) fuzes and rely on direct impact instead. Primary damage delivery is through impact kinetic energy.

* Sub battery recharge rate has been significantly increased. Also now the recharge rate is maximum when creeping, and reduces as throttle setting increases.

AI & DOCTRINE / ROE IMPROVEMENTS
===================================
* Doctrine for landed aircraft use new inheritance rules for Air Ops Tempo and Quick Turnaround, so that aircraft will use the Air Ops Tempo and Quick Turnaround setting of the base they’re currently staying unless explicitly set on the aircraft themselves or their mission: Unit – mission – host – host’s mission – host’s group – side

* New ‘Weapon Control Status’ (WCS) replaces ‘Fire at unidentified contact’ doctrine and the Hold Fire functionality for units. The WCS settings are:
— WEAPONS FREE – fire at any contact not positively identified as friendly
— WEAPONS TIGHT – fire only at contacts positively identified as hostile
— WEAPONS HOLD – do not fire except in self defence (manual only)

* Airborne aircraft assigned to strike mission via right-click menu or Unit -> Assign To Mission will have flightplans automatically generated for them.

Lua as a Force Multiplier

Lua Logo

 

Integrated in Command version 1.06,  the Lua scripting language is a new “Event Action” type in the Scenario Editor’s established Event Engine allowing for altering elements of the running scenario. Baloogan, Tomcat and ckfinite have produced an excellent documentation explaining how to use Lua in Command scenarios. What I want to share with you here is my non-advanced user experience of using Lua language as a force multiplier to simplify repetitive work during the scenario design phase.

Using Lua allowed me to get time-consuming tasks done way faster, for example like placing units or reference points in a circle around a facility.

 

 

To obtain that result, I simply got on Baloogan Campaign Forum, in the RP Reference Point Drawing Toolkit thread, to copy the draw_circle_of_units function, adapted it to my case by looking up the ID of the unit I want to position around the facility in the ingame Database Viewer.

 

 

Here I want to place some Crotale short-range anti-air missile batteries, ID 62, so the function is now:

function draw_circle_of_units(a,b,t,txt)
    if txt == nil then
        txt = ""
    end
    t = t - 1
    lat1 = a.latitude
    lon1 = a.longitude
    lat2 = b.latitude
    lon2 = b.longitude
    dlat = math.abs(lat2-lat1)
    dlon = math.abs(lon2-lon1)
    r = math.sqrt(dlat*dlat + dlon*dlon)
    for i=0,t-1 do
        th = 2 * math.pi * i / t
        rlat = lat1 + r * math.sin(th)
        rlon = lon1 + r * math.cos(th)
        ScenEdit_AddUnit({
            side='PlayerSide',
            type = 'Facility',
            dbid = 62,
            name=txt,
            lat=rlat,
            lon=rlon,
            heading = th * 180.0 / 3.14159})
    end
end

I paste it in Command’s Lua Script Console and press Run button so it knows it.

 

 

Then I also adapt the statement provided by ckfinite to the number of such units and the name I want for them:

local unit = ScenEdit_GetUnit({name=”BA 133 Nancy-Ochey”,side=”France”})
draw_circle_of_units({latitude=unit.latitude, longitude=unit.longitude},{latitude=unit.latitude + .1, longitude=unit.longitude}, 6, “EDSA 9/50″)

Note that “BA 133 Nancy-Ochey” is the name of the facility around which the Crotale batteries will organised, and France is the side on which the facility is and “+ .1″ mean that the radius will be about 11 km (more on that here).

Then, as you may guess, I paste that statement in the Lua Script Console and run it.

 

 

Voila! Simple, isn’t it?

 

Now, using the same technique, let’s look at another simple example: how to draw a circle of reference point around a facility.

 

 

Here I used the reference points to establish a No-Navigation Zones around neutral airports.

So, as above, I simply go get the function on Baloogan Campaign Forum, in the RP Reference Point Drawing Toolkit thread, draw_line here, directly paste it in he Lua Script Console and Run it so Command knows it.

Then I get the statement ckfinite provided and adapted it to:

local unit = ScenEdit_GetUnit({name=”Omara Airport”,side=”PakistanMil”})
draw_circle({latitude=unit.latitude, longitude=unit.longitude},{latitude=unit.latitude + .2357, longitude=unit.longitude}, 12, “”)
local unit = ScenEdit_GetUnit({name=”PAF Pasni”,side=”PakistanMil”})
draw_circle({latitude=unit.latitude, longitude=unit.longitude},{latitude=unit.latitude + .2357, longitude=unit.longitude}, 12, “”)

Here I wanted 12 Reference Points at a 26 km radius.

 

Dozens of Reference points in a matter of seconds, that’s what I call a true force multiplier!

As we have seen, the Lua language can help in various situations and using it is far from being demanding in term of knowledge, in my opinion it truly is for everyone to use.

 

What do you think?

Air Power in Civil Wars

There have been many good reasons why air-to-air combat remains the near-exclusive domain of nation-states. Even the earliest and/or simplest aircraft require trained pilots and ground crews that are not exactly in the greatest supply, and to use them requires a complex supply chain.

Because of this difficulty, the one proven route to the deployment of aircraft on both sides in civil wars is to have a faction’s foreign patron supply and equip them. The few historical examples show this pattern at work, with  CIA operators like Allen Pope crewing small numbers of planes to assist allied rebel forces in Guatemala, Indonesia, and Cuba.

Even these met with only limited success-Pope’s A-26 was shot down, and the failure of the “exile” air force at the Bay of Pigs is well-known as well. These planes were effective in Guatemala, which had no opposition, but as they found out over Cuba in 1961, they were no match for a proper air force.

Since then, the increasing complexity has made aerial deployment even less effective. Basing needs have only increased (providing the opposition with a large, vulnerable target), and the types of aircraft that are both worth the effort to deploy and which can provide even a ‘Seconds turn their back to the duelists and then swear under oath that they saw nothing’ level of plausible deniability are vanishingly rare. Given these limitations, any outside opponent wishing to semi-secretly intervene on behalf of native non-state allies would, as multiple nations already have, choose to just use their own air power and merely remain quiet about it. Although increasingly hard to actually keep secret, this fits the narrow “duelist” level of deniability.

With the foreign intervention in civil wars aspect of air power covered, the question then turns to whether there has been an instance of genuinely native air power on both sides in a civil war. The answer is that there has indeed been such a case.

On November 27, 1992, Venezuela suffered the second of two coup attempts in that year. The bulk of forces actually attempting to carry it out belonged to the air force, which gave them a ready supply of planes. However, the entire air force did not go along. Two F-16s with loyal pilots shot down several rebel planes over the course of the battle. By the afternoon, the coup had failed.

The biggest contributor to this anomalous demonstration of air power was the extremely short length of the conflict. The other factors-A fairly large, dispersed air force, and a military divided enough to launch the coup yet coherent enough for both sides to quickly ready their fighters- paled in comparison to the simple one of time. There were enough ready supplies that for the few hours of fighting, the crushing logistical problems could be put off.

To transpose a similar situation into Command while maintaining some degree of realism is quite possible. While unusual, all it takes is some explaining in the briefing/background page, and the placement of each faction’s planes at the appropriate airbases.

A-10 and the Future of US Close Air Support

The A-10 is a program that the USAF loves to try and cancel, and recently there was a big push for it. Chopping entire fleets of aircraft saves an awful lot of money, and they needed the crews to help with the F-35A entry into service. However, the A-10 is a much loved airplane, and for an excellent reason:

The GAU-8 is fantastic, and the A-10 has a operating cost lower than that of its competitors. It carries 16,000lbs of munitions and fuel, and can carry a wide range of sensors. Furthermore, it uses a titanium bathtub to keep shrapnel away from the pilot while keeping weight down. A-10 is a fantastic airplane.

A-10 performing a GAU-8 run. Source.

In evaluating the A-10’s real performance, however, we need to place it in the context of the modern close air support environment (CAS). The US has the potential to fight one of two wars: one, against Russia or China, where the US would face the latest and greatest, and the other against ISIS and the like, where the opponent has very little advanced arms if any at all. Intermediate conflicts fit the former category better than the latter in the context of the A-10, for reasons we will describe later.

Pantsir-S1, an evolved Tunguska. Source.

Let’s consider the first environment. In this world, we’re looking at facing a defence in depth approach over the front lines, where rings of protection are provided by the S-300V and Buk-M1 medium range SAMs, the Tor short range SAM, and the Pantsir/Tunguska SPAAG(self-propelled anti-aircraft gun), with the final layer of defences consisting of Igla MANPADS(Man-portable air-defense systems). The CAS objective here is to be able to hit and destroy armor, infantry, and AD assets in this environment.

Image
US losses to various air defence weapons in Operation Desert Storm. Source

The A-10 cannot perform even this basic role. The A-10 was comprehensively defeated by the Iraqi IADS, a system that was state of the art … in the 1970s. The Strela-1 in particular was able to perform well against the A-10, destroying 3 A-10s outright and damaging more. The A-10 in general fared poorly against IR SAMs – according to the table, 2/3rds that were hit by an IR-guided SAM were destroyed outright. A further 11 were damaged by AAA, substantially more than for any other aircraft.

Strela-1 SAM system. Source.

Strela-1 is not a particularly  sophisticated system – it is a vehicle mounted IR guided day-only short range SAM system, originally intended to be a compliment to Shilka SPAAGs. More worryingly, the Strela-1 is very closely related to the Strela missile proper, a missile that can be easily concealed and employed quickly (the major difference is that the Strela-1 has a larger rocket motor). If a Strela-1 can repeatedly take down A-10s, then the successor to the Strela, the Igla, should be able to with relative ease.

Additionally, the much-lauded hardening of the A-10 didn’t stand up to its trial by fire. If we examine the statistics for O/A-10 losses, a IR guided SAM hit had a 66% chance of causing a total hull loss, as 6 out of 9 aircraft damaged or destroyed were lost completely. Those survivability features were only effective against AAA – a threat that is rapidly diminishing, replaced by better, smaller, lighter, harder to spoof, and more accurate missiles. The hardening, then, does not make up for the riskier role.

Image
US Sorties vs losses in Operation Desert Storm. Source as previously noted.

Worse, the A-10’s losses were far worse than those of the F-16. The F-16 flew up to 26% more sorties, and yet had 23% of the A-10’s damage rate per sortie, despite facing more sophisticated and trained threats. As Gen. Charles Horner, the commander of the Desert Storm air operations said (via),

The other problem is that the A-10 is vulnerable to hits because its speed is limited. It’s a function of thrust, it’s not a function of anything else. We had a lot of A-10s take a lot of ground fire hits. Quite frankly, we pulled the A-10s back from going up around the Republican Guard and kept them on Iraq’s [less formidable] front-line units. That’s line if you have a force that allows you to do that. In this case, we had F-16s to go after the Republican Guard.

To reiterate, this is against the Iraqi military, a military deeply damaged by the Iran-Iraq war and woefully outdated, and the A-10 was unable to continue operations against their front-line units. Why would the A-10 be any better against the Russians or Chinese, militaries with much better technology and training?

This sophistication is spreading, too. Tunguska, the predecessor to Pantsir and a SPAAG designed specifically to be able to take the A-10 head on, has been exported to 7 countries. S-300V, the best of the Russian tactical SAMs, has been exported to 5 countries, with several more in the works, and the Igla MANPADS has become the man-portable SAM for 33 countries. The A-10 cannot perform CAS against any governmental military – they have all bought the tools needed to take it down.

The A-10 has utility as a bomb carrying aircraft, but that alone does not justify its cost. An F-16 can carry 1,000lbs more than the A-10 for about $2,000/flight hour more, and the F-16 can fire all the same kind of PGMs that the A-10 can. The F-16 can therefore fill the A-10’s roles that involve PGM employment from altitude, the only remaining refuge for it.

Furthermore, A-10 serves a smaller role in more recent CAS operations than one would think. The aircraft flew just 32% of CAS missions in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The majority rest of the operations were flown by F-16s, the airplane the F-35 is replacing.

S-75 – the top-tier Iraqi threat. Source.
HQ-9: the modern threat. Source.

As such, the A-10 is not a valid platform against a modern opponent, and cannot provide effective support for troops fighting the Russians or Chinese, whereas the F-35 can (for reasons that I’ll describe in a later article).

However, A-10 has found considerable use in COIN operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A-10 is a great platform for COIN, as it flies low and slow, and can deliver substantial accurate fire with its gun at a reasonable price. However, as before, there are issues.

Ecuadorian Super Tucano/A-29. Source.

The main one is necessity. A-10 is cheap to fly – just $10k/hr (see original low-cost source). However, there’s another plane that you don’t hear much about, called the A-29, which is even cheaper – just $430/hr. The A-29 has much less armament – it can only carry 3,300lbs, across 5 hardpoints – but can provide much better availability and wields comparable firepower for the gun/rocket CAS role (20mm cannon +  4x Hyrda 70 pods or 4x Hellfire).

A-29 loadouts. Source.

The A-29 is also better suited to the COIN profile. The A-29 is easier to keep ready or even airborne (as indicated by the operating cost), so CAS can arrive faster to an attack, vital in the ambush-centric guerilla warfare that is so common in insurgencies.

Additionally, there is no evidence that the modern COIN role has to face any kind of risk from small arms fire, a criticism commonly leveled at the A-29. The A-29 has logged thousands of combat hours in COIN situations without a single combat loss, and the A-10 has suffered very little over the thousands of missions it’s flown in the COIN role. Toughness is not required for COIN – cheapness is.

In this light, then, the A-10 costs more than an A-29, and doesn’t have any substantial benefits over the latter. F-16 already flies the missions that need substantial payload, and the A-10 is useless at anything other than COIN. Why should the US continue with an aircraft that has no unique utility at very high cost?

Baloogan Campaign Chat (BCC) back online!

Baloogan Campaign Chat has returned! Sorry about the downtime.