First F-35s Get Bashed In Hearing For Failing To Match The A-10

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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In an admission suspected all along by advocates of the A-10, the DOD’s chief weapons tester stated that the first F-35s won’t be nearly as good as the A-10 in protecting ground combat troops.

The F-35B will be limited by the amount of weapons it can carry and has to work within sharp restrictions on how long it can fly at night, compared to the A-10 Thunderbolt, which first got off the ground in 1976, Bloomberg reports.

“The A-10 can take hits that an F-35 couldn’t take,” Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing at the DOD, stated at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. Gilmore said the less stalwart F-35 would have to drop back and keep out of range of enemy fire.

Additionally, the first F-35s are still plagued with communications deficiencies. First, the aircraft has a difficult time distinguishing friendly forces from hostile ones, and second, it can’t verify the GPS ground coordinates.

Tests indicate that 80 percent of the F-35’s information system alerts constitute false positives. The first F-35s ready to deploy in July, according to the Marine Corps, cannot use night vision technology.

The testimony of the F-35’s failings comes at a bad time for an Air Force interested in retiring the A-10. Officials have cited the $4 billion dollars in savings through 2020 and the availability of maintenance crews as key reasons for why the A-10 should be sidelined. But the F-35 has been skyrocketing in costs on its own accord. Since 2001, the F-35 program has cost the Pentagon $400 billion dollars.

Republican Rep. Martha McSally, herself a former A-10 pilot, said that opting for an aircraft which can’t provide appropriate support to ground troops is dangerous.

“There will be times in the future when you must get down and dirty with the guys on the ground,” she said, adding, “This [F-35B] reminds me of something before the A-10, not something after the A-10.”

Congress is still considering the purchase of additional F-35s in the 2016 defense budget, but the Government Accountability Office, present at the hearing, said that Congress needs to be careful of making risky decisions. Some have even called for the F-35 program to be dropped completely, but according to Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, so much money has been sunk into the project that there’s no turning back.

“We just need to make this program work,” Sanchez said, according to

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