For the past week and a half, the USAF has conducted a so called Close Air Support (CAS) Summit. They are doing this as part of a nefarious and all-encompassing propaganda campaign to justify divestment of the A-10C aircraft ahead of the brewing tempest of tough budget decisions as part of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In theory, the CAS Summit explored new territory by bringing together talented CAS community members, taking their suggestions, and, at some point, presenting their unfiltered views to the military and civilian leadership. Instead, in true Kangaroo Court fashion, their deep experience and understanding of the seminal issues was sanitized, bleached and wrung out of all truth to make it more palatable for senior general officers from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.
The so called summit’s stated purpose was to “confirm that all branches of the service understand our (USAF) past, present, and future CAS capabilities and ensure that we continue to deliver those effects to the battlefield”. The perception generated by this statement might give the false impression that it was worth paying for approximately warfighters and stakeholders to travel to Davis-Monthan to discuss CAS. The dream clashes with the cold reality that if the Air Force was truly interested in providing world-class support to our Sons and Daughters on the Ground, wouldn’t they have representatives from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps leading these working groups? Or maybe include our finest Joint Terminal Attack Controllers who, while taking fire, direct CAS aircraft on targets directed by the Army or Marine ground commander? This summit actually was similar approaching a drive through window and the attendant saying “I don’t care what you want, we (USAF) can only give you the chicken with no bun, and no condiments.”
The summit discussion started with “our charter is to assume the A-10 is gone, now come up with ways to mitigate the risk”. So much for fighting to save the finest airplane to ever do the job. It appears the summit’s purpose was to ask the “also ran’s” how they can step up and fill a mission neither they, nor the Air Force leadership, would touch with a ten foot pole. How can you perform more efficient support without the best tool to do it? Countless more families are doomed to suffer terrible loss and tragedy, and maybe join the tragic “Gold Star” club, because of the sickening and disingenuous USAF cover up of the true risks associated with A-10 divestment.
USAF General Carlisle, the highly paid leader of Air Combat Command, was present for the reality show at DM. When the requirements for a replacement to the A-10 were discussed by key stakeholders, the list was identical to the proven attributes of the A-10. “If the requirements of the A-X are identical to the A-10, then why are we here?”
Perception: even this general, who has traditionally prostrated his soul at the altar of political expediency, understands the true problem.
Reality: this general, like so many before him, ignored the warfighter comments, buried the true risks, sold his integrity, honor and reputation by sanitizing the out-briefing provided to senior Army and Marine Corps generals today and painting an impressionist view of a world without the mighty A-10.
So, as yet another chapter of Operations Destroy CAS unfolds, we are certain to be barraged by media articles haranguing people to “look, see, we do care about CAS”. The reality is, this was only a “summit” for those looking to justify their political agendas on the backs of OUR Sons and Daughters on the Ground. Storm clouds are building, will we whistle past the graveyard, or prepare for what is to come?