UPDATED: With Targeting Details; Clarification About Syria
“They’ve been flying for a few weeks and have conducted multiple strikes in central and northwestern Iraq,” an Air Force source says. “No missions in Syria.”
Kristina Wong of The Hill broke the news about the A-10s being used against ISIL
but she reported they were also being used in Syria. Given how well protected the A-10s are against ground fire, and the toll that ISIL has been taking on Iraqi helicopters, it’s certainly not surprising that the A-10s are being used. Their powerful and accurate gun, combined with other weapons, make them a formidable asset for this sort of messy counter-insurgency fighting.
The plane is probably not being used in Syria because of that country’s sophisticated air defenses. Note that the F-22, which excels against the world’s toughest surface-to-air threats, got its combat debut against Syria. The A-10 is slow. While its armor protects the pilot against a great deal of ground, an advanced surface to air missile poses a formidable threat. Also, the A-10 doesn’t have the sort of sophisticated sensors you find on newer attack aircraft ,so independent targeting is more difficult for them. We’re waiting for confirmation, but it’s almost a certainty that Joint Forward Air Controllers are providing targeting info to the A-10s in Iraq. That’s something that wouldn’t happen in Syria as we are supposedly not sending any troops there.
We got more information from the Air Force about targeting. It’s not absolutely clear whether they re using JFACs or not. Here’s what the Air Force says: “They’re conducting strikes on dynamic targets in Iraq in coordination with ground commanders through established coalition operation centers. They are not conducting close air support in the way that they did in Afghanistan. Dynamic targets are where we patrol an area where we expect the enemy to be and look for a chance to strike–As opposed to pre-planned, fixed deliberate targets.”
The Air Force, of course. wants to retire the A-10s to save $3.7 billion. The service says that the great majority of Close Air Support missions, for which the A-10 is justifiably loved by ground huggers, are now performed by Precision Guided Munitions. A group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte — whose husband was an A-10 pilot — have campaigned hard to forbid the service from retiring the plane. They succeeded in placing language in the just-passed National Defense Authorization Act that stops the plane’s retirement — at least until the legislative battle resumes next year.
Clarification: (I thought Kristina’s story said strikes were occurring against ISIL in Iraq AND Syria. Instead of referring to ISIS and using the acronymn her editors just said Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: “The A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” attack jet the Air Force has pushed to retire has been carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since late November on a near-daily basis.” Fixed.