CAS and CSAR Without the Warthog

If Congress allows the Air Force to divest its A-10 fleet, as the Fiscal 2015 budget proposes, the service will reapportion training and investments across a combat fleet already seasoned in the close air support mission, an Air Staff official told reporters Tuesday. As a fleet, the Air Force already performs CAS ably, Maj. Gen. James Jones said. In operations across Afghanistan, USAF aircraft demonstrated that with precision-guided weapons, most combat aircraft are capable CAS platforms. USAF is now trying to figure out the best force mix to meet its whole range of missions in the coming years, Jones said, adding the service is focused on capabilities that provide the “best contribution to the joint fight.” USAF combat power focuses on what is called “second echelon forces,” or enemy forces in the rear of the fight, but in CAS situations in Afghanistan, Air Force aircraft have answered the call. “Those capabilities are already there. Our force is trained to CAS and they’re very effective,” Jones emphasized. Asked about the A-10s role in Combat Search and Rescue packages, he said as the A-10 is retired, USAF will look to increase training in platforms like the F-16 to fill the armed observer role. “We will have to look at the training requirements for each squadron, and make sure that we have accounted for that task,” Jones added.