Future Air Force Close Air Support Aircraft
San Jose State University Dept. of Aeorspace Engineering San Jose United States
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Close air support CAS has had a vital role of the Air Force since the introduction of aircraft into the military. The physical and psychological impact a military aircraft can bring into the battlefield can turn the tides of battle. This is made even more apparent in recent theaters of war in the Middle East, where dogfights have taken the backstage and air to ground strikes are relied upon more. The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been the USAFs primary close air support aircraft for the last 40 years, but much of the fleet is nearing the end of their service lives. The A-10 was designed specifically for close air support role and thus has multiple attributes that assist with this mission such as armored airframe to protect from ground fire, ability to use unguided and guided munitions, short take off and landing distance, and minimal maintenance requirements. The original service life of the A-10 was to be at 2028, but a wing replacement program is being looked at to extend the service life. The planned replacement for the A-10, the F-35 Lightning II, has been given criticism as being a step back in CAS ability. The F-35 has relies heavily on guided munitions and has a higher sortie cost than the A-10. The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, and Textron Scorpion were also considered by the Air Force as a cheaper replacement for the A-10 in low threat environments. But these light aircrafts do not have the speed or the protection to provide close air support in a higher intensity conflict as the A-10. Thus a new, more focused design is needed in order to properly replace the fleet of A-10s. The Future Air Force Close Air Support Aircraft FAFCAS is designed as a replacement for the aging fleet of A-10s. To replace the A-10, the aircraft will need to have low operating costs, limited logistical needs on the ground, good maneuverability at low speeds, and protection from ground fire.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics