The Air Force would be a complete idiot to get rid of the A-10. Its triple-redundant flight control system has allowed many pilots to return to base who would otherwise have ejected. This airframe should be upgraded, not scrapped. Give him a FLIR and the proper GPS hardware.
The A-10A is receiving some upgrades from what is known as the A-10C. It is highly survivable and works well.
The USAF will be lucky to “ever” buy another bomber that has been as versatile as the B-52. Although some of its systems are dated (engines!), the airframe still has life in it. The avionics have undergone several upgrades during its life to date. It has proven to be a reliable bomb carrier and is now equipped with PGMs. Its long range and charge make it worth keeping.
As for the B-52, there is talk of replacing the 8 engines with 4. The combat record of the B-52 shows how good it was and is. I don’t think any aircraft have flown longer missions than the ones the amateurs flew during Desert Storm 1. They flew from Bars Dale to bomb Baghdad. The only other aircraft that came close to this was the British Vulcan in the Falklands conflict.
What would the USAF replace them with? I think the idea of a dedicated ground attack aircraft is excellent. Even though the Warthog drivers thought it was fun to call our camp in Iraq, they were a very comforting presence to have. There is something special about having a big ugly plane that has a huge multi-barreled cannon that can take out a tank.
I did an article on the A-10A Warthawg. USAF Warthawg pilots wanted a two-seat N/AW A-10 version (ie three N/AWs for every 10 to 12 single-seat A-10s). They actually said that they would have been useful in Iraq in 1991 and would make the perfect FAC aircraft.
The so-called “C” A-10 is actually a glass cockpit model so pilots can wear NVG goggles like AH-64A pilots do. The way to use the Maverick infrared seeker heads is like trying to find a star with a soap straw.
Throw in a couple billion worth of upgrades for the BUFFs and you’ve got yourself a great bomber. It may not be needed for a nuclear strike, but its payload makes it a formidable attack aircraft, especially if it carries a load of (flight-programmable) cruise missiles in rotary launchers as well as wing pods. Just because it’s a “bomber” doesn’t mean it has to carry nukes or iron bombs.
As for the A-10, it must be one of the singular aircraft best designed for its purpose: to make things on the ground disappear. The survivability is amazing. Until, and unless, Congress and the Air Force pass an acquisition program similar to the one that produced the A-10, it will be the best bird in the world for what it does.
The Air Force tried to retire the A-10 once before when it got the F-16, but had to retire them again. Fast jets are fine for air interdiction, but not for close air support. You need something slow that can stay on top, identify friend from foe, and then tear them apart.
Helicopters help, but there has never been a better aircraft for close air support than the A-10. (Though you might get a good argument for the AC-130.) Although the A-10s are budgeted through 2020, I’m afraid that when the Air Force gets its new air-to-ground fighter, the F-35, it will try to divert the A-10 again.
A-10: Awesome platform, very capable and survivable. The combination of decent speed, loitering time, resistance to being shot down, and payload give it an edge over many other aircraft with CAS performance.
The advantage the A-10s have over the AC-130s is daytime operations. AC-130s can operate during the day, but due to the circular (and therefore reliably predictable) patterns they use for target acquisition/orientation and sustained engagement, they cannot operate as safely during the day. like during the night. A-10s can vary their approaches and provide smaller opportunities for ground aggressors due to their lower altitude (yes, other threats win) and varied methods of destruction.
Besides, the plane stays here whether you like it or not. Its range, payload and loitering time put it in the crosshairs for testing CAS work and an electronic platform.
The only variant of the B-52 in use today (and the only type in service since 1994) is the B-52H, which is powered by 8 TF-33 low-bypass turbofan engines. These are the same type of engines used in the KC-135E. Some 160 KC-135Es are in service. The KC-135 ‘R’ and ‘T’ use the CFMI CFM56 turbofan engines, the type of engine you were referring to, is a high bypass.
It would have to be the PW2000 series engine. At least it could share engines with the C-17.