CAS or Credit?

The Air Force is looking for a new close air support platform that’s “essentially, overhead all the time,” and largely fulfills former chief of staff Gen. John Jumper’s concept for a “flying Coke machine” that dispenses whatever type munition ground forces ask for, outgoing chief Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. He told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., that the CAS requirement isn’t going away and an A-10 replacement will be needed, but that it doesn‘t have to be stealthy. The A-10 retirement decision was USAF’s attempt to live within Budget Control Act spending levels and was made with the concurrence of theater commanders, “but the world has changed since then,” Welsh said. Keeping the A-10 in service “has been a wonderful thing for us” but a new CAS aircraft will have to wait until the money appears. “I’d love to have a new CAS airplane right now, while we still have the A-10” for a smooth transition, Welsh asserted. For the “Air Force of the future,” however, USAF is looking for an airplane that costs $4,000-$5,000 per hour to fly and “brings more firepower” than the A-10, which costs $19,000-$20,000 per hour to operate, he said. Either an off-the-shelf design or a clean-sheet approach could work, Welsh added. “A lot would depend on how much resources you have [and] how much time you have. We don’t think this would take that long to do, we don’t think it’s that complicated of a design problem,” he continued, as long as it’s “optimized for the low-to-medium threat environment, not a high threat environment.”