Air Force tests two turboprops as potential A-10 “replacements”
The US Air Force has kicked off the procurement for another round of wing replacements for A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, known affectionately by many as the Warthog. With new wings, the A-10s will help fill a gap left by the delayed volume delivery of F-35A fighters, which were intended to take over the A-10's close air support (CAS) role in "contested environments"—places where enemy aircraft or modern air defenses would pose a threat to supporting aircraft. For now, the A-10 is being used largely in uncontested environments, where the greatest danger pilots face is small arms fire or possibly a Stinger-like man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) missile. But the Warthog is also being deployed to Eastern Europe as part of the NATO show of strength in response to Russia.
While the A-10 will keep flying through 2025 under current plans, Air Force leadership has perceived (or was perhaps convinced to see) a need for an aircraft that could take over the A-10's role in low-intensity and uncontested environments—something relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain that could be flown from relatively unimproved airfields to conduct armed reconnaissance, interdiction, and close air support missions. The replacement would also double as advanced trainer aircraft for performing weapons qualifications and keeping pilots' flight-time numbers up.