A Look at the F-35's CAS Tactics

The F-35 is causing controversy just about everywhere that it's mentioned. Politicians, civilians, soldiers, pilots, maintainers - it seems that everyone has an opinion on this aircraft, and it's often not a positive one.

Perhaps one of the biggest controversies that the F-35 is dealing with is it's projected replacing of one of the most effective and well-loved close air support (CAS) aircraft of all time - the A-10 Thunderbolt. The A-10 has been appreciated by both its pilot's and the soldiers on the ground for its ability to go "low and slow" - in order to both avoid friendly fire incidents, and loiter in the combat area for long periods of time, to provide both fire support and a warning to any enemy in the area.

It seems obvious, but since the F-35 will not be able to use the same tactics and weapons (mainly that big gun!) that are currently employed by the A-10, the Air Force has to develop new tactics in order to use the F-35 effectively in the CAS role. That's where Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, commander of the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, comes in to the picture.

Gen. Silveria, the highest ranking officer who is currently checked out on the F-35, is in charge of developing tactics for the new aircraft and systems, and recently gave a very interesting preview of what the CAS role will look like for the F-35 pilot.

You can read the complete article over at AirForceTimes.com, but here are some of the big points:

  • The F-35 will likely heavily depend on its external ordinance load for CAS - unlike the A-10, the ammo load for the gun is small, and only a last-ditch weapon.
  • The "danger close" range for the A-10's 30mm gun is 90 meters; for the F-35's GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (a likely mainstay of the CAS for the new aircraft), that range is 200 meters.
  • Sensor fusion - the ability for the aircraft to pass information between the various sensors and weapons platforms without pilot intervention will make it easier and faster to prosecute targets, even at altitude.
  • The tactics are still being developed - and it will be very interesting to see how this new aircraft works with the boots on the ground!

Don't forget to check out the link for the entire text!