What Might Have Been: A-10’s for the Army?
In 1948, the US Army and the new US Air Force hammered out an agreement over who would fly combat aircraft. The Key West agreement gave most of the combat aircraft to the Air Force. However, for years the Army would complain that the Air Force was neglecting close air support.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Air Force tried to get rid of the A-10. Most of the Air Force leadership were fight pilots, the idea of flying a slow, low tech aircraft did not sit well with them. However the Army was willing to take them off their hands.
The Army argued that the Key West agreement of 1948 (under which they were prohibited from operating fixed-wing combat aircraft) was now obsolete, and that the USAF’s A-10’s should be turned over to them for use alongside AH-64 Apache helicopters. In 1990, Congress decreed that some USAF A-10A’s and OV-10 Broncos be turned over to the Army and Marine Corps beginning in 1991.
— A-16 Close Air Support
The Air Force argued that the F-16 was better than the A-10. While they tried to modify the F-16 (with limited success), the Army and Congress had other plans. Experience in Desert Storm proved the usefulness of the A-10. Alas
Congress made the Air Force retain the A-10. The OV-10 would be phased out of service.
In AIT I heard about a similar Air Force plan to take over Patriot. When the DOD and Congress asked how many airmen would it take to man a Patriot squadron, the Air Force said 120. The Army has 80 soldiers or less to a Patriot battery. Guess who won that one.
When I heard about this I almost dropped out of college to join the army. With my hopes of A-10 wings dashed, I instead graduated with a BS in psychology. Now I’m a Patriot soldier.
To this day many in the Army and outside the DOD feel that the Air Force is still trying to ditch the A-10.