Goodbye to the Warthog and the Dragon Lady?Posted: March 2, 2014
The current proposed defense budget from the Obama administration would mothball the US fleets of venerable A-10 close air support (CAS) aircraft and the even more venerable U2 spyplanes (of Francis Gary Powers fame).
Miltech fans like me become attached to quirky planes like these, whose specialized missions lead to extreme designs (in the case of the A-10, basically a flying tank, and for the U2, an elegant jet-powered sailplane). Both aircraft have survived multiple attempts to kill them in the past, and both have proven their worth over and over again in surprising ways. Like the ancient B-52, that has been reborn over and over again to carry out missions it was never conceived for, these two aircraft have proven the value of a design that does one thing very well but isn’t all things to all people for all missions. Hated by the bean-counters and mega-defense contractors because they are such sturdy hedgehogs of the air, these old soldiers stand their ground in one corner of “mission space” against all comers. In this they are the opposite of what Defense Secretary Hagel says will replace the A-10, the gold-plated Swiss-Army-Knife F-35, which tries to do everything for everyone everywhere and, in doing so, does nothing extremely well.
Both the Warthog and the Dragon Lady have very vocal fans in and out of Congress. Time will tell whether they finally fall to the dreams of the budgeteers and bloated defense contractors.