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The Infeasibility and Non-Ideal Use of A-10 Warthogs if Operated by PAF

Having a close air support aircraft like A-10 Thunderbolt that a respective country has is something a fanboy is imagining about, only considering its sheer firepower and setting aside other technical areas which are important as well. Here, though, each reader needs to understand the factors that predetermine the feasibility of an aircraft within an armed force through parameters that will give clarification, as well as some harsh truths for the fans wherein it comes to the analytical knowledge that is primarily needed in defense avenues (with references as well).

(Pitz Defense Analysis Note: This article is to provide a trickle knowledge for a reader who has a little idea about defense technicalities, and to get an idea, or to be enlightened for a bit, where the information given out serves as a guide for any interested in defense to understand the concepts which help people to engage in every discussion with the right mind and knowledge. It goes on with this adage: "Read more, post less")

A-10 Thunderbolt II. Something that a fanboy dreams about. Source.

A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is a U.S. Close Air Support aircraft which is a jet-powered, versatile aircraft with GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun as its main weapon (also used in Goalkeeper CIWS) alongside air-to-surface missiles like AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

It entered service in 1972, and they produced around 713 units of this aircraft. It saw action in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and recently in Syria, which gives its combat performance into test in actual scenarios. Through the years, operating A-10s are becoming a financial burden for the U.S. Air Force that is presently opting for light aircraft such as A-29 Super Tucano which at present is still at the post-qualification phase in the Philippines' Close Air Support Aircraft procurement program. The scenario alone within the U.S. Air Force is simply the tip of the iceberg regarding the aircraft's ever-growing infeasibility in operating it. 

Going on, misinformation, as well as the fanaticism of having A-10s for the Philippine Air Force, is getting stronger, wherein it, sad to say, involves a mainstream media outlet that makes a mistake regarding having it as "wish-listed". Other sophisticated weapons are also wish-listed by many uninformed fanboys for the AFP, which, because of the numbers, we cannot mention them all. Here, the so-called "wish-listing" of having A-10 Warthog becomes much worse back then wherein it screws up people's minds, especially the ones who have a little idea about defense issues and the gullible ones.
This infographic from PDI shows the aircraft's PAF gets concerning the Marawi crisis sorties. There is one mistake there.

The sheer intensity of misinformation among the people who have a first peek at the said infographic is great which definitely fuels the orgasm of those who are interested in such an aircraft but don't have an idea about the technicalities and factors that prevent the armed forces into obtaining the Warthog. To get things clearer, the armed forces themselves aren't interested in gaining it considering that there are better alternatives that also enhance the capabilities regarding close air support operations such as the Super Tucano aircraft. Matters such as these need to get clarified for us to understand things further regarding close air support.

We based the information and thoughts about this matter out on references given, as well as having an informative viewpoint that can provide out from such references. Also, it is for each reader to understand the concepts regarding the considerations needed for procuring military equipment.

Textron Airland Scorpion jet. It is just one out of many candidates showcased for the Fairchild A-10 Warthog replacement program in the U.S.

Here are some but the important factors regarding why A-10 Warthogs are infeasible and not ideal for an air force, such as those for the Philippine Air Force. In this manner, it is worthy to take these notes up to understand. Notwithstanding, this is to debunk the minds that "having a popular aircraft" in mind does not mean it is ideal for an air force to have...

1. Cost of the procurement and airframe life. Buying the Warthogs alone isn't that expensive, which will not eat the portion of the defense budget, which there will be no more left for other projects to have (unless if it is on operating costs). To be specific, check its general characteristics as got from the U.S. Air Force page below.
Click larger for clearer details. 

Given the details, the cost per unit is at an estimated cost of around US$18.8 million. To take note, this is as per September 2015, where, if based on the September 2015 exchange rates, it is at around Php841,235,400.00. Take note, the data provided isn't just based alone on price per unit considering that in any procurement contracts, factors such as warranty, freebies, add-ons, maintenance cost, inflation rate, and exchange rates can make such pricing higher or lower depending on the terms given in it. 

Here, though, the pricing at present will be higher than it is previously because of the factors like a depreciating peso which as per posting, it is at Php51.00 per US$1.00. Concerning its airframe, we expected it to get expanded so as the U.S.A. F overhauls its existing A-10s with its wing replacement program, which will delay its decommission until 2021. In it comes value-added attributes, and in it influence the price to increase if Boeing itself offers overhauled ones to the Philippines (in which it did).

It shall be not that bad considering the price where brand new FA-50PH fares at around Php1.6 Billion as per its contract and the provisions that are attached to it. However, the pricing isn't also the factor aside from the ones that are affecting it when considering "buying A-10s" that goes with the gleaming eyes of the fanboys. Things like logistics are also at play as well.

2. Logistics, Maintenance, and the Number of Users. This is another consideration for considering any kind of military equipment and not just the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II. Given its number of users, alone is an obstacle where there is only a sole source of spare parts and any other amenities should an air force consider it, and with that comes the laws of the user country that are needed to comply. That branch of the United States military is the United States Air Force.

Being the sole user of the Thunderbolt Warthog, the United States is relying on its very own regarding its spare parts which comes with problems especially if it considers selling such jets to international users like the Philippines (IHS Janes reported it at one point saying that the congress might not agree to it). Here, there is at one time that Boeing, through the reports given by Air International Magazine, offers 12 overhauled former the United States Air Force A-10s with another 12 being spare parts hulks, coming at overall 24 units. See the article below.

Taken by the context of the Air International Magazine Article once again, it sounds promising wherein the deal Boeing offer for the Philippines is good of its own worth where aside from Warthogs being overhauled, it also comes with spare parts hulk for the jets to operate further considering the wear and tear that takes place on the jet's parts. 

But then again, it doesn't go with the guarantees considering the mere fact that the United States Air Force, in its worth is only the sole user of these jets and at present, they themselves opt for a more light Close Air Support Aircraft like the Super Tucano that the Philippine Air Force preferred and to be having soon. From there, it goes hand-in-hand to these two fundamental factors, which are the operating costs and the better alternatives that it coincides with.

3. Increasing and Unaffordable Operating Costs. This is the very main reason it is infeasible for the Philippine Air Force to get the aircraft with logistics, and procurement cost concerning airframe being its following attributes. 

Considerably, the United States Air Force is in fact considering decommissioning its inventory of said jets because of this very reason. Due also to this, the USAF almost decommissioned these out, but the legislators saved the Warthog from getting into the chopping block, with its airframe life extended further because of lobbying that counters such a proposal. 

Adding things up, this article from Foxtrot Alpha may explain the rationale regarding these considerations. Take note, what will consider as cost effective among the Americans may not be that cost-effective for the Filipinos given the disparity of the financial status these nations comprise. 

Just take the F-16 for instance, it may be cost-effective and battle-proven as well as being used by neighbors like Indonesia and Thailand, but is not ideal for the long term because of its airframe especially if it is a refurbished aircraft which DND soured a lot in its time way back 2012 as the FA-50 LIFT program is still at the negotiation stage. 

To have some oversight in operating cost, National Interest in its article gives a detail where the USAF gives figures that the Warthogs has an operating cost of estimated US$20,000 per hour which equates to around Php1,020,000 per hour given the approximate exchange rate as per posting. The cost is greater than OV-10s like the Philippine Air Force gets where it runs at an estimated US$1,000 per hour or only approximately Php 51,000 and further, the EMB-314/A-29 Super Tucano with an operating cost of approximately US$430 ~ US$500/hr or Php29,930 ~ Php25,500 as per posting's exchange rate.

The disparity of the cost between the Warthog and its predecessor is large wherein the Philippine Air Force at present is comfortable with the old OV-10 it presently gets that it is still effectively capable of doing its sorties in combat where they opt to look for its equivalent replacement such as A-29 Super Tucano.

4. Performance. The Warthog, throughout its history, proved itself in several theaters of combat, where its agility and survivability as what the U.S.A.F. is explicating goes to the extreme with favorable results.

Aside from the GAU-8 Avenger Main Gun that gives fanboys the chills, the Warthogs also carry various munitions to achieve its primary mission objectives. Munitions include AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, Mk-82 bombs, Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick, among others. 

Some side note, the FA-50s of the Philippine Air Force possess this capability of carrying such bombs, with the Maverick being the newest addition in its guided munitions arsenal. Not to mention that the Super Tucano Close Air Support Aircraft can carry these weapons as well. 

Add to these the considerations of having pilots trained to operate these aircraft which an obstacle where in Close Air Support Aircraft terms, PAF pilots honed their skills more on helicopters and slow, propeller-based aircraft like SF-260s and OV-10s. The Super Tucanos, meanwhile, may be the closest one there is to these aforementioned aircraft where the experience and skills of operating OV-10s and SF-260s can get applicable to the Super Tucano with minor adjustments in understanding its avionics.

Simply put, the OV-10s and A-29s may provide the same capabilities that the Warthog has at a cheaper operating cost per hour. Not to mention that the Philippines, being an archipelago, doesn't have any internal adversaries that get armored units, which the Warthog designs for in-part. With internal OPFOR units being comprised men, as well as these parties, don't have anti-air capabilities, having OV-10s at present or A-29s for some time may suffice the needs.

5. Alternatives. Given the sour F-16 deal, it might as well go hand-in-hand with the overhauled A-10s wherein like the deal back 2012, the Defense Department sees for a better alternative which settles for FA-50s which shares several attributes with the F-16 considering that the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) helped manufacture these indigenous light jets with the help of Lockheed Martin. 
Brazilian Air Force EMB-314 Super Tucano. Credits to its owner.

Many alternatives are there in the market that also caters to Close Air Support Aircraft that the Philippine Air Force can choose from for its program to enhance its COIN or Counter-Insurgency Operations like those presently taking place in Marawi. One of the said aircraft is the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which won the Philippine Close Air Support Aircraft bid and is present at the post-qualification stage. That is aside from the active units of OV-10s, which already proves its worth through the years within the Philippine Air Force. 

These planes are more ideal for the Philippine Air Force to have than the Warthog, where its cost-effectiveness is essential to keep the operations going at the lowest cost possible in terms of maintenance as well as enhancing capabilities further where it gets the results intended. With OV-10 getting replaced eventually, the EMB-314, being used by Brazil and Indonesia, may get the fair share for PAF as soon as they will do a contract signing and if gets pushed through.

As much as fanatics may want it, the Defense Department has no plans of having it. Photo Source.

With good aircraft in the market like the EMB-314 Super Tucano and the points given above, having A-10s is not viable for the Philippine Air Force in both the short and long terms.

These near 40-year-old aircraft, just like the second-hand F-16 deal way back in 2012, are nearing its life where the United States Air Force is planning to ax it in favor to either the F-35s entering the service or candidates such as the AT-9 Texan or the Super Tucano that the Philippine Air Force may have later on. 

Given these circumstances, with the threat of terrorism in the country, having A-10s is a bit of an expensive gambit which can equatable to an overkill if used where operational costs and maintenance gives a headache for the decision-makers considering that aside from the enemies not having anti-air capabilities, the Warthog's jet-powered engines are not well-verse in local areas which the Turboprop OV-10 gains a lot. Not to mention that the pilots can adapt better to Super Tucano than the Warthogs considering that the former, being a turboprop aircraft, is something that PAF pilots are familiar with because of the use of OV-10s. 

Speaking of China, it is better to leave that matter to the Multi-role fighters which will get gained in Second Horizon, and to the Navy which will have more assets later on with the frigates getting processed for construction in its way to active use by 2020.

Overall, the Warthogs are simply not ideal. Something clearly known that the Defense Department nor the Philippine Air Force doesn't ask about procuring this aircraft, whereas the EMB-314 Super Tucano has the chance of getting got. The bottom line is that the main point of these things is more of practicality, where pilot training, maintenance, operational costs, logistics, and airframe life do matter for the viability of the Air Force's capability.

(c) 2017 PDA, 2021 edition.

State of the Nation Address 2017, Military Enhancement and National Security Emphasis

The President recently spoke on his second State of the Nation Address which took place last July 24. There are many topics to discuss ranging from Mining to tackling corruption issues and sorts. And to highlight it out, there is this something that goes side by side with the very focal point to get discussed in this article. That is, with respect to National Security.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: This analytical piece is something where the issues tackled defines the essence of any actions that affect the way society behaves. So to speak, the first four paragraphs following this note pertains to the simplified emphasis on national security issues like those of Marawi Crisis as well as the primary needs of the Armed Forces to enhance its mandate. A deeper analysis and a collective conclusion on the matter will follow it. To take a note, all references will get highlighted and underlined in yellow with respective links in them both in the statement itself and in the end of this article.

For referencing, please read the full text of his speech in this link here.

President Duterte addresses before the people. Image source.

President Duterte is once again addressing the entire nation about the achievements and plans that his administration partakes at past, present and for the rest of his term. In this second State of the Nation Address, various issues have tackled, ranging from criminality to illegal mining and tax rate revisions and development. In such a case, there is one factor where it really gives emphasis as for the sake of the peaceful lives of the Filipino People. Eliminating terror threats is one area tackling in terms of national security.

Given the situation in Marawi City, the casualties at both sides are still mounting until at present where given the latest reports from a June 30 Rappler article, there are 82 Government deaths, 39 killed civilians and 317 terrorists eliminated where it may increase as the battle rages on with the government continues to fight in order to control the remaining four barangays in the City which are still under terrorists control. The increasing number of casualties concerns the government, where the President says in the address that it slowly goes unbearable, which means a solution needs to plan so that the government can eliminate threats that hampering the society with lesser collateral damage at stake.

The solution goes through international collaboration considering that terrorism affects not only the Philippines but also the rest of the globe. So speaking, foreign military help such as air-to-ground munitions and surveillance plane flybys from the United States and the Chinese rifles are helpful to combat terror threats at present and for the years to come. Aside from the help mentioned, the President also is keen to eliminate bidding proceedings enacted through Republic Act 9814 regarding buying weaponry to help the military fast-track purchase of equipment for enhancing their capabilities and to thread out anomalies as per presidential speech.

To surmise this up, the government is doing its best so that there will be no other Marawi Crisis in place where terrorists harm more innocent civilians intending to sow fear and hatred across the Philippine Society. Improving military capabilities as well as minimizing collateral damage, are a necessity to help enhance national security, which will lead a path towards a more peaceful and more secured Republic of the Philippines.

Troops and wartime correspondents in the frontline. Source.

In relevance to our article on Urban Warfare with correlation to reports cited via news outlet Rappler and those of Interaksyon, this conflict is perhaps the difficult one for the military to fight to fare upon the stringent planning on taking in Marawi City along with other plans which trigger military raid and eventually, making the whole conflict intensifies from May which with it implements Martial Law.

Given the statistics earlier in the simplified analytical piece above, opposition force casualties, as per its report, is at 317 deaths whereas per this posting will bear higher given the time-to-time updates on the ground. Their huge losses makes it more difficult for these terrorist to move where options such as suicide bombing to be employed in sheer desperation will be imminent and citizens both in Marawi and across Mindanao like Iligan City, Davao City, Zamboanga City etc are in danger given such circumstances where it wreaks more casualties and fear that is already taking place in the main battle zone.

The difficulty of the battlefield and the death of around near a hundred troops is making an urgency and a bit of realization as per the necessity of further enhancing the capabilities of the military ranging from aerial surveillance to additional firepower that will pack a punch against key enemy targets. At present, the United States and the Australians help aid the Armed Forces of the Philippines through the use of P-3C Orion Antisubmarine Warfare planes for aerial surveillance and the Php370 million worth of weapons from China for a bit of firepower.

Such an intensified conflict can also help influence the processes of procurement of military weaponry which the Armed Forces is still gaining various military equipment in each respective projects funded by the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program Trust Fund which in it aids the whole program and the respective horizons it gets in the aim to have fully capable armed forces in due time somewhere in 2028. One of such considerations is the procurement of drones and planes for aerial surveillance and additional firepower for M-113s, additional 20,000 troops and light tanks, which is slated for second horizon. Add to that is the pleas of streamlining of the procurement process to ensure that the best one will be bought. So speaking, any process from G2G to lowest bidding has its pros and cons where details about it will get discussed in a separate article entry.

Also to consider is the other areas of national security where aside from internal threat posed by Maute-ISIS in Marawi City, Chinese encroachments in the West Philippine Sea is also by nature a threat where the Philippines claims a portion of the disputed sea alongside other claimants such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, and of course, China itself. Hence, diplomacy between China and the Philippines makes this issue a bit tamed for the meantime wherein it may buy time for the Philippines to improve its own as well as somewhat for a bit, to decrease the likeliness of flash point where, despite all this, China still asserts its policy where they still hold its artificial islands, to no avail.

Given these areas of consideration, it may get found out that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will go benefited from this administration if we consider notwithstanding that such planning will go materialized on according to plan with no obstacles hampering in its way. Hence, Horizon 1 will end this year and Horizon 2 will start by next year where a bulk of projects like Multirole fighters are planning to be purchased. Hence, developments pertaining to it will remain to be seen and worthy to give attention now with a so-called "no-lowest bidder" procurement policy is being eyed upon where if approved, it needs to prove its effectiveness in a promising way that better fruits will come out of the projects that are in the pipeline.

Also, in case we missed regarding the health of injured troops, the administration sets to allocate Php 500 million for the better, sophisticated army hospital which will improve the welfare of the injured ones that in terms of confinement, the facilities will serve these soldiers better which may aided their way to full recovery.

To take note, a better national security means better safety where
citizens will have nothing to worry about regarding threats.

Giving the emphasis of the president in his speech especially regarding Marawi Crisis, military capabilities and the welfare of the soldiers alongside normal citizens, it goes to the most promising ideas that better things are to come for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to have at present and for the years to come.

Also with that, the consideration regarding lesser casualties, enhancing security mandates and additional numbers of equipment, troops and compensation benefits for those in the front lines, the modernization program is there continuing to roll where some procurements are still materializing and some others awaiting its turn. So speaking, such planning for purchase can still be depend on the hands of the Defense Department where line-ups can get changed with no further notice. There are updates being made from time to time varying on various factors, from exchange rate to the security situation of the country.

It is at the best interest of the public to stay vigilant at all times, especially those in Mindanao amidst the various terror threats that may lurk on its next victim. Henceforth, it is find out that the government is doing its very best where such crisis will never take place soon where with better defense capabilities and enhancing security mandates, the citizens will live free of worries from threats posed by opposition forces which purpose is to disrupt the way of living and to sow fear among the people in which authorities will never let happen.

(c) 2017 PDA. First edition 8-5-2022.




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