Top U.S. Air Force generals are floating the idea of buying a new warplane to support ground troops better and more cheaply than the venerable A-10 Warthog.
In addition to its utility against militants and other light-to-medium forces, Air Force leaders hope this new close air support, or CAS, plane will help them win the fight to retire the A-10. And they are even beginning to envision an aircraft beyond that, in concepts variously known as the “arsenal plane” or “flying Coke machine.”
“I’d love to build a new CAS airplane right now while we still have the A-10 [and then] transition the A-10 community into the newCAS airplane,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said Wednesday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “We just don’t have the money to do it and we don’t have the people to keep flying the A-10 and build a new airplane and bed it down.”
Welsh, who is retiring at the end of the month, said that the Air Force might seek a new aircraft design or adopt an existing one, depending how much money it wants to spend and how quickly it wants to move.
“We don’t think this would take that long to do and we don’t think it’s that complicated of a design problem,” he said.
The plane would not be meant for high-end combat, but a “low-to-medium-threat environment,” where it could fly low over the battlefield, bombing or strafing enemy forces without too much worry about advanced air defenses, Welsh said.
Compared to the A-10, Welsh envisions a…