The Air Force will consider developing a new dedicated close air support platform capable of operating in contested airspace; a follow-on to the A-10, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Thursday. Speaking with reporters at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Carlisle said that such a platform “may be something … we need to look at in the future, depending on what’s happening. Nothing is off the table.” Carlisle said he believes “we’ll have to perform close air support in contested environments” given that adversaries are growing more sophisticated. They “are going to try to figure out how to … not let us do that,” he said, so a new platform may be required. The idea is not a response to critics of USAF’s plan to retire the A-10, Carlisle insisted. USAF has “always been dedicated to the mission of support to the ground component” and takes the mission seriously, he maintained. Airspace denial is already a tough challenge, and the need to “close … gaps and seams” in future capability “I think (is) something we have to be cognizant of.” He added that for the near-term, “there may be something that we can do with legacy platforms to make them better” at delivering CAS. The A-10 is “significantly more vulnerable in a contested environment than other airplanes … and what provides that mission set in the future is something we’ll continue to look at … it’s something that’s got to be in the discussion,” he added.
Rumored cuts to the F-35 from the fiscal 2025 defense budget—six from Air Force plans—would not be offset by recent Foreign Military Sales, and will disrupt ongoing Lot 19 negotiations, Pentagon and industry sources said.