It’s time to answer some mail. I’ve been thinking about cherry picking in science so this note from the mailbag at Chaos Manor appears to be relevant. On the topics of dark matter, vacuum energy and Aristotle’s Aether, Mike Flynn writes:
Aristotle’s aether was not Lorenz luminiferous aether and so it was not disproven by M&M. Here is an interesting comparison of the properties of dark matter, vacuum energy and Aristotle’s Aether.
Philosophy — at least as I understood it when I was young — relates to many fundamental questions of today. But today’s philosophers don’t always discuss philosophy. I am grateful for my education in philosophy of science from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa when I was an undergraduate and to the Christian Brothers for introducing me to Aristotle in high school.
Also, thanks to Mike Flynn for reminding us that we never should lose sight of just how relevant the old questions are.
Photo credit of an A-10 Thunderbolt: Wikimedia Commons
I also received a note from Joseph P. Martino, who had something to say about the A-10 aircraft. He writes:
Regarding the A-10, I’m reminded of the Stuka. At the outset of (World War II), it was the best close-support aircraft on either side. It was regularly in the news. By the end of the war, it had disappeared from the news, just as it had disappeared from the sky. It couldn’t survive in skies with high-performance fighters. It had neither speed, armor, nor armament to outfight the P-51 or the P-38.
I think the same would be true of the A-10 in a war against a “peer” power like Russia or China. It wouldn’t survive against their front-line fighters.
Having said that, the A-10 has been extremely successful in wars against non-peer powers. One of the most effective aircraft used in the Vietnam war was the A-1 Skyraider. It was originally developed during the second World War as a carrier aircraft. It would not have survived in a sky full of MiG-19s. But it didn’t have to. There weren’t any over South Vietnam. The A-10 is now doing the job the A-1 formerly did.
We may have to fight a peer power some day, although I hope not. We are very likely to have to fight non-peer powers in the future, just as we have for the past fifty years. Getting rid of the A-10 because it can’t outfight Chinese J-10 would be foolish. They should be kept around for when they’re suitable, not eliminated from the inventory.
Joseph P. Martino
Joseph, no one ever supposed that the A-10 would be useful in performing an air superiority mission. I should mention that I was on Boeing’s TFX design team. We went through that analysis. The kind of airplane that wins dogfights is not the airplane you’d need for close support of a ground army — or, for that matter, for local battle area interdiction missions.
Now the P-47 turned out to be useful for both, even though its major value was for interdiction. P-47 Trainbusting recce/strike missions were major factors in the conquest of Europe. This is true even if you consider that the P-47, after all, was an escort fighter by design.
The P-51 with the Rolls Royce’s supercharged engine ended up better at that mission.
The Army neither wants nor is able to perform missions of air superiority in a peer power war. That’s the job of the United States Air Force. And the USAF is pretty good at it, too.
After all, you aren’t going to get rid of all your hornets by swatting them away one at a time. You do need the capability of getting the guy with the Flit through a swarm of hornets.
Air superiority takes a combined arms approach just as winning ground forces are those with combined arms capabilities. I say, give the A-10 to the Army. Give the local interdiction mission to the Army. And leave air superiority where it belongs — with the Air Force.
History demonstrates that combined-arms armies usually are victorious. That would seem to apply to the air superiority campaign, too. The Warthog is important in ground campaigns, and it might well perform the equivalent of the heavy cavalry charge at just the right time in battle. This is provided that there is air superiority — necessary for the A-10 to perform its mission.
Jerry Pournelle, aNewDomain.net’s senior columnist, is taking your comments and questions at Jerry@aNewDomain.net. Check in regularly for his View from Chaos Manor column here at aNewDomain.net and at Jerry’s site here.