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A look at F-35 close air support tactics development

Defense News // December 08, 2014

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a stealthy, high-tech, fifth-generation strike fighter — may also become a major player in close-air support (CAS) missions. Last week, we talked with the US Air Force general who is leading the testing and preparation for the CAS mission.

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: the military aviation community is divided as to whether the F-35 can be an effective CAS platform. A lot comes down to the relative merits of fast-jet CAS versus the kind of low-to-the-ground, persistent CAS practiced by the A-10 or AC-130. (We wrote more about this in January.) Neither side is willing to give ground — perhaps understandably, because the question can truly be answered only when ground troops, under fire, call for help.

Some members of Congress, including incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argue that jets such as the F-15 or B-1 bomber are simply too high and move too fast to be effective. Members of the A-10 community point out that the Warthog can go “low and slow” in a way that something like the F-35 will never be able to do, avoiding potential friendly fire incidents like the one that occurred this summer. That’s an argument backed up by the Tactical Air Control Party Association, which supports keeping the A-10 around to protect ground forces.

Read the full story from Defense News.