Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh thinks the service needs a new low tech close air support platform “in the relatively near to mid term future.” Welsh added that such a capability is needed “if the money would allow it. It doesn’t today.” However, USAF would “like to have something like that, that operates more efficiently than the other airplanes we have today, that brings more firepower that we can use in a low-threat environment.” Welsh made his remarks at a Defense One symposium in Washington D.C. on April 22 in the context of whether future USAF aircraft will be manned versus unmanned. The CAS aircraft is “probably going to be a manned platform. I don’t see that as being unmanned in the next 20-30 years,” Welsh said. Welsh’s comments dovetail with recent remarks made by Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle, who has said ACC is looking to augment its low end CAS capability in the near future, and Welsh has pushed ACC to closely scrutinize the future of USAF’s CAS mission. Congress, thus far, has blocked USAF attempts to divest the A-10 fleet, and opponents maintain the Warthog’s operating costs are lower than any manned aircraft USAF flies.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.