Close Air Support:

Status of the Air Force's Efforts to Replace the A-10 Aircraft

NSIAD-88-211: Published: Sep 2, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the Air Force's efforts to replace its primary close air support aircraft, the A-10 aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) the Air Force derived its aircraft requirements from Army air support requirements, which specify needs for both air support against targets near friendly forces and attacks on enemy follow-on forces before they can replace troops at the front; (2) although the Air Force wanted to begin replacing its A-10 aircraft in 1993, the date slipped to 1996 due to technology development delays and budget constraints; (3) although the Air Force recommended replacing the A-10 aircraft with the A-16 aircraft, it was considering alternative aircraft; (4) estimated costs for replacements vary from $110 million for the A-16 alternative to $2.5 billion for new aircraft, while production costs vary from $7 million to $12 million for existing aircraft and from $8 million to $30 million for new aircraft; (5) the Air Force would not know the total cost of the replacements until it made key decisions on the aircraft and its schedule; (6) the decisions on the A-10 replacement would affect the Air Force's tactical force structure, since a replacement aircraft would require maintaining existing A-10 aircraft in the force until the late 1990s and would delay the planned conversion of 120 A-10 aircraft to a forward air control role; and (7) the Air Force could also decide to replace the A-10 aircraft with the A-16 aircraft instead of maintaining them during conversion.

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