The A10 is a fascinating case study on the perception of a weapon systems effectiveness from different perspectives.

The leadership of the USAF think it is an over-rated cold war legacy aircraft that belongs in a museum, Congress and much of the think tank/lobbyist crowd think it is the second coming and considerably better than sliced bread.

But what is really interesting is what do the enemy think?

Perceptions are important, if the enemy perceive that a weapon is effective then it is.

Reputations are important, if the enemy fears it then it is an effective weapon.

So regardless of the arguments about the A10’s speed, survivability or technology, if the enemy shit their pants* when it does that brrrrdddd thing and devotes energy and resources to shooting the A10 down then should anyone be arguing for its withdrawal.

I don’t want this to be about the A10 specifically, but is the psychology of weapon effects discounted?

Is it an important factor to consider, how loud or mean looking something is?

Are there other systems other than the A10 that has that elusive quality of being feared regardless of effectiveness**, the Crocodile, Buratino, vehicle mounted miniguns or Ontos for example?

Anyway, have a one of those brrrrddddd videos


If there is an argument for deploying weapons that emphasise noise, flash and dynamic impact, perhaps in built up areas for example, whta would they look like?

A tank mounted minigun, a rocket launcher on a telescopic arm or a Python line charge undersling beneath a Wildcat :)


* assuming this is not a fabrication perpetrated by its cheerleaders

** assuming it is not effective



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January 24, 2015 9:35 pm

I don’t know about the a 10.

But one of the weapons the Afghan resistance feared more than any other in the Soviet forces was it’s su25 equivalent

of course he Germans put sirens on stukas to scare the enemy.

shark bait
shark bait
January 24, 2015 9:46 pm

Perception is important, I suppose it’s cheaper to scare your adversary off than to blow it up with a Brimstone. Another example would be choosing Lockheed over Boeing as their version of the F35 looked more mean / futuristic / scary.

If you think lots of countries use show tactics, like parading weapons and lots of marching but ultimately it depends how intelegent you enemy is and what their capabilities are. Probably why most of the world discounts the north Koreans dispite them shouting and making lots of noise.

Perhaps we should send some hawks in painting a union jack in the sky whilst firing off rockets in all directions and see what happens. It could cause some pant shitting.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 24, 2015 10:28 pm

I think I’m with the USAF leadership. ANY platform with a direct fire weapon on board is a dinosaur and easy meat, whether it drives or flies.

January 24, 2015 10:31 pm

If it makes an enemy spend limited resources on a perceived threat whether its effect in practice is worth all the hype or not, its a good thing :-)

January 25, 2015 12:01 am

I’d say perception is very important, not just for the whole breaking the enemies will to fight side of it, but for friendlies too. Not just the other sides morale you to worry about.

A10 is a great example of this for sure, it made a lot of it’s fans downrange remember. Not just in think tanks; gotta love that cannon;

We can argue all we like about this stat or that, doctrine and what have you(and will I’m sure), but you ask an Afghan vet what they want coming over the hill when they shout in the radio and A10 will be a very common answer, maybe even the most common. Reputation is a valuable thing. For the young lad holding the line the difference between told a plane is coming and being told the near legendary fire breathing, Taliban eating dragon is coming will have an effect.

Away from the noise and fury, on a larger or more philosophical scale as a statement of commitment to ground support from the air force. The perception that it’s primary role is them. Ground attack not just being some afterthought on a dog fighter.

I think the most important thing about it often gets missed, it’s cheap. Really cheap. Not just per flight hour, but munitions too. Rockets and cannon are a tiny fraction of Paveway/Brimstone and for most of the targets we actually face; hairy wankers with AK’s, more than capable.

There’s always a budget component, especially in our current spate of interventionist wars, to take it to the extreme would you rather have 3 F22 or a squadron of A10 for blowing up Terry. I’m all for whizz bang pointy black jets, they will be the decider in a peer war, no doubt, but sometimes they’re a waste of resources. Peoples perceptions of deploying hundreds of jets instead of tens will have an effect before they’ve even taken off. Sometimes showing commitment can be worth more than any number of sorties, by whatever jet.

It’s not the be all and end of all of jet’s like some seem to think and it’s past due a replacement(which it will never get), but there is a role for a cheap ground attack jet and always will be IMO.

January 25, 2015 12:32 am

The thing about perception and morale is it cuts both ways.
When your fire-breathing but obsolescent wonder weapon gets shown to be wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes, you get to lose a lot of men, and run home naked in public perception for a long while afterwards. The counter-hit can be devastating. HMS Hood anyone?

For rich (yes, really), technologically competent UK, our aim should be quietly carrying a good stick, not loudly carrying a big rotten one.
Funny thing, the A10 probably ought to have a long, sunlit evening of a career in front of it even now, because there is no end in sight of small wars, insurrections and insurgencies across the third world, and did any one say it is cheap? Providing it is never up against a competent oppo with decent weapons, it’s fantastic.
I side with RT after that..

El Sid
El Sid
January 25, 2015 4:10 am

The thing you’ve got to consider is “anti-perception” – in this case where something is less effective. And if you look at the numbers, the A-10 is pretty hopeless, they are much easier to shoot down/neutralise than perception would have you believe.

If, for whatever reason, they are deployed as mid-level missile platforms as they were in the Gulf, then they are a bit pointless. The reason for that kind of deployment is MANPADS, you won’t be using the big scary gun if you are scared of deplying within MANPAD range.

Malcolm Whitlock
Malcolm Whitlock
January 25, 2015 10:36 am

A good COIN weapon and therefore applicable to most problems today it seems to me and we have bought and paid for for them Greeat, from all reports so is the Tornado doing a flyby in the hills of Afgan – caused the enemy to bug out without firing a weapon – a much appreciated application according to many different countries surviving soldiers reports.

January 25, 2015 1:48 pm

I don’t know about the A10 (depends on if the blokes they were shooting at copped it or not). But in Afghan the Apache scared the shit out of them.

January 25, 2015 2:21 pm

If you want to talk about perceptions, you should listen to some of the testimony from Pakistani villagers who have had relatives killed by drones. I was once told that a drone doesn’t really have much of a psychological effect because you can’t hear it, but there was one kid who gave testimony to some committee or another who explained that he and his family are now afraid of clear, sunny days, because it means drones can see them and shoot at them. Importantly, because the drone is virtually silent and invisible from their perspective, the drone has now become a permanent weapon of fear because people on the ground have no idea when one might be over their heads.

As impressive as an A-10 gun run may be, you can’t really beat imposing a virtually 24/7 sense of dread on someone.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 25, 2015 3:04 pm

During the Japanese invasion of Malaya British defense positions rolled up because they perceived that the Japanese were attacking with tanks. The Japanese had no tanks, but the tyres on their bicycles had shredded and the defenders perceived the sound of the metal rims on rocks and roads as being the sound of tank tracks. Does that meet TD’s requirement.

As regards the A10, it is long in the tooth like me. During one of those big Cold War NATO exercises in the early 80’s, we were harboured up on the top of a hill in the middle of a wood. Some A10s circled slowly overhead. Don’t know of their effect on the enemy but, as the Iron Duke apparently did not say, by God, they terrified me.

January 25, 2015 4:47 pm

Surely the A10 is the ideal weapon for the African problems?
Designed to operate from less advanced airfields, so easier to deploy.
The distances are often too great for Apaches to react quickly enough
Trashing pick up trucks is very expensive with missiles and surely ideal for the cannon.
Morale seems to be a big issue for the “good guys” – having A10 support available would massively boost that.

January 25, 2015 5:02 pm

What if those pickup trucks are in a village rather than out in the open would you advocate a gun run or a hellfire from a reaper.

January 25, 2015 5:11 pm


A Maverick from an A10 would do the job. Larger warhead than a Hellfire but you can’t have your cake and eat it in every situation.

January 25, 2015 5:30 pm

The point is DN given the strick engagement requirements to keep civil casualties to absolute minimum you wanting excellent isr and video to relavent parties prior to shooting and then your wanting to use as small a targeted weapon, possibly requiring a few hours to monitor the situation. Reaper beats a10 on those counts by some margin. That’s not to say guns don’t have a place but probably better on an Apache than a10.

January 25, 2015 5:40 pm

Trouble with the A10 versus Apache / drone is that it’s much harder to track individuals moving on foot or groups which scatter. Apache and drones have persistence and can pick off individual targets better than an A10 gun run.

January 25, 2015 5:46 pm

The counter point Mark is you are using a COIN scenario to justify the use of the Reaper and Hellfire and assuming that a Reaper is available.

I do not disagree with you on the situational awarness and loiter time of the Reaper beats the A10 but like I said you cannot have your cake and eat it in every situation. If it was a high value target that had eluded you for months and you had the opportunity would you use the Maverick?

January 25, 2015 6:05 pm


This thread has talked about afghan Iraq, Pakistan and the last post was on Africa there all coin operations there unlikely to go away anytime soon.

I would also say if it was a peer enemy they would likely have an air defence system with them and a10 gun attacks may not be as preferred as a standoff capability which is either unmanned or hidden.

i don’t know is the answer to your maverick question.

January 25, 2015 6:14 pm

Regarding scariness:

(1) Scaring the enemy is an effect that wears off. It’s best to exploit this if your effort comes to a quick conclusion, such as a decisive battle lasting days or weeks.

(2) Training can counter scary effects. MRLs were known to have a huge morale impact on poorly trained or low morale forces (WW2, Africa, Iran/Iraq), yet very little moral effect against good troops.

(3) There are shiploads of propaganda involved when it comes to OUR perception of what the enemies fear. Remember all those fancy names the Japanese gave American planes, like “whispering death” etc?
The Japanese learned about these nicknames only after the war.
You may be told that the Taliban fear Apaches, that Mujaheddin feared Frogfoots, that IS fears JDAM etc – and there’s little reason to pay attention to these claims. More often than not, “fear” is merely a hyped-up word for “respect”. Enemies respect firepower, and adapt when given enough time.


I myself wrote about the utility of scaring the enemy, not the least in regard to the Jericho sirens and flamethrowers. Yet the applicability is limited, and you never ought to spend big bucks for being scarier. Whenever someone wants to justify big budgets (such as operating A-10s, which costs millions per plane and year) with unquantifiable scariness, it’s a tell-tale sign that scariness is being misused to support something that’s not justified with its actual merits.

January 25, 2015 6:19 pm


I am not an A10 fan personally, I’m just saying that every situation is not standard and not all assets are available 24/7.

Phil is right in that the best COIN air support platform is the Apache but if your PB is getting close to being overrun then what would you prefer a Reaper or FJ with all the extra ordnance and fire power it brings?

January 25, 2015 6:20 pm

Respect or fear SO, when the Ugly call-sign turned up and made itself visible, the TiC would stop.

January 25, 2015 6:25 pm


Whilst I agree about spending big bucks for scaring people Is daft.

Not sure about dismissing it out of hand. Afterall war Is about a contest between men, sometime you play the man not the ball. BTW the frogfoot thing does apear to be true one account is that the Afghans caled it ‘the German Aircraft’ Because they did not think anything Russian could be that good……

The A10 was developed for a different role in a different war for a different time.

It is now doing what a lot of old aircraft do, spending its twilight years dropping bombs.

If you get rid of it then other aircraft will do the job Other aircraft that have to be paid for; And will be unlikely to be as cheap to run.

January 25, 2015 6:46 pm

I accept not ever situation is standard but I’m not sure there is a big difference anymore in what a reaper would deliver over a fastjet DN. A reaper carries 2x500lb bombs and 4x hellfire, to for example a tornado with 2x500lb bombs 3xbrimstone and a gun. The fast-jet advantage (not as applicable to a warthog) is their speed of response over considerable distance which is much greater than a uav.

January 25, 2015 7:02 pm

The advantage FJ has over Reaper at the moment is numbers and AAR. How many Reapers does the RAF operate and can we refuel them in the air?

January 25, 2015 7:40 pm


At the end I think the raf had 10 reaper air vehicles deployed to afghan. With aar a fastjet will stay up for 6-8hrs Max. Reapers are 14-28hrs depended on a number off things.

Reaper has issues like any uav in “civil” airspace for transits which is limiting for basing options out side of country the sooner that’s sorted the better, also some weather issues. Aar isn’t really an issue, numbers is harder to say as personnel requirements tend to be quite high on uavs but our ability to sustain deployed double digit fastjet numbers is limited.

January 25, 2015 8:30 pm

Would it be worth approaching problem from a different angle and using something along the lines of a sophisticated psy-ops (think thats the correct term) campaign to help spread rumours and create an impression amongst the enemy that such and such an aircraft/weapons system was absolutely deadly and once you saw it appear above the battlefield you were gonna die and likely in a possibly painful/horrible manner? Obviously you’d have to be careful it didn’t backfire and end up as a weapon for the enemy/human rights brigade. But imagine if you could create the impression amongst the enemy that the thing appearing above you could see you and kill you horribly without you being able to do much back. Against poorly trained/not so well educated forces any system could then become much more effective. Surely it would also be easier than having a dedicated system for such roles too. I tend to agree that nowadays we don’t necessarily need something like an A10 and its role can be carried out by other aircraft, more capable in full on p2p warfare. I do take the point about having a cheaper to operate, like a few hawks converted to ground attack roles for killing idiots with an AK and a dirty beard!
Unfortunately I’m approaching this from a totally amateur only background so i don’t actually know how true stories like the argies giving up to Scots in droves in Falklands after hearing they had bands of ‘wild’ gurkhas in the area or iraqis waving the white flag the moment they saw an apache in GW1 are. If they are correct could this sort of effect not be used to our advantage on aircraft/weapons system of our choosing through the use of things like disinformation and propaganda rather than more expensive new bits of kit from BAE or whoever when the enemy only has low tech at their disposal?

January 25, 2015 9:37 pm

It all depends who’s perception of events your trying to manipulate and what psychological effects yoru trying to have really doesn’t it.

1. Taliban fighters, scared of A10 because of it’s gun – awesome
2. Pakistani villagers, scared of Predator because they cant see or hear it = awesome or not (depending who you are)
3. Iranian cyber-ops, scared to death of Stuxnet ???
4. Chinese / Russian producers of integrated air defence systems, not so scared of the A10, maybe more worried about a JASSM with a non-nuclear EMP warhead, or a EA18 Growler ?

A10 against near peer IADS, not a chance. A10 in the ongoing COIN / small wars, for sure, and they are idiots if the retire them all (especially if the only reason is more money for the F35 boondoggle)

The Ginge
The Ginge
January 25, 2015 9:53 pm

Just read the article and comments. Just put in my thoughts.

1. Reaper can not operate in any anti air environment beyond Mapads that it just flies over. Just as F35/F16/F15/Tornado do, but crucially they have been upgraded with various anti missile technology that the A10 has not. So to compare an A10 survivability it needs equipping with those aids.
2. If the A10 is susceptible to ground fire then although I accept more manoeuvrable whilst in low level operations the Apache must be as well ?
3. Expertise. If you have time Google the A10 support video and the similar F16, think its on Reddit but the fact is the difference in outlook. The A10 Pilots talk the language of the troops on the ground, can see from their vantage point and normally that close to the ground it literally is. Whilst the F16 Pilots talk about professionalism, delivering weapons on site, off their primary role being anti air but being glad to help the guy on the ground and only then about being glad to have helped out. They never check the guy on the grounds figures (look up A10 and UK Marines extraction.) it is a whole ethos of being part of the ground battle. That is why the Army Air Core was formed and why RAF Squadrons where designated as Army Liaison Squadrons. As an outsider it is the difference between knowing something as an expert and having it as a nice add on.
4. Cost. Here the A10 wins hands down, it is to an order of 10 times cheaper than an F35, it is cheaper than any other aircraft other than the Reaper which can only operate in a very permissive environment. Even a Hawk or equivalent armed with a couple of sidewinders takes out your Reaper. The fact is the USA is making the same mistake it made in the late 1950’s when it retired all the old slow support planes. They then proceeded to have million dollar planes dropping millions of Dollars worth of bombs on top of Viet Cong using Bicycles. In this instance the US will be using F35’s at £150m a pop launching missiles ranging from £500k to £2m at a guy armed with a Technical worth £150, an AK47 bought for £50 and a Manpad that cost £5,000. The only reason the USAF want to can the A10 is to save enough to buy 10 extra F35’s but crucially to make the F35 the only game in town, however effectively or non-effective it might be.
The fact is the decision makers of the modern US Military has not remembered the lessons learnt the hard way in the run of the last set of COIN wars. And to cap it all with an upgrade with designation pods and defensive weapons the A10 can sit at 35,000 feet and drop missiles like anything else. The fact is the US has 230 which are already bought and paid for.
As to the original question, yes the A10 along with the 105mm Gun the UK set up on a hill in Afghan scares the crap out of the Taliban and any insurgency because in reality Manpads etc have been around for years, yet the US has not lost 100’s of planes to them. Anything that the opposition does not have a weapon to counteract or have any hope of getting scares the Crap out of them, and helps your troops. Ask any patrol leader and he will say he’d like a two ship Apache cover sitting over them, but at the cost of buying and owning them it’s not possible, but having 50 reactively mobile A10’s sitting around and it don’t half help, all for 10 F35’s.

January 25, 2015 10:46 pm


Reapers are currently operating over Syria, by there very nature of being unmanned they are expendable. Like the Apache attack that started the first gulf war they fly much lower and operate very differently to an a10 at low level though an Apache doesn’t like taking ground fire anymore that any other aircraft.

Would you replace an a10 with a f35 I dont think so, if your looking for something that closes that gap which you mitagte for now with Apache/uav combo it would something of the s-97 raider variety.

As for shows of force reminiscent of hearing a lot about patrolling in berets as opposed to helmets. Perhaps the target audience for those broadcasts wasn’t in afghan but a sceptical public back home that got weekly reports of bombing wedding parties ect. Strategic media operations are a very signifcant part of future wars that we don’t appear to be very gd at.

January 26, 2015 4:15 am

People tend to oversell UAVs. Reapers are very light, so while you hear things like 14 hour endurance, it goes down very fast the more bombs and missiles you load it with. Think Viking vs Warthog. Any additional payload for the heavier vehicle is a smaller fraction of the total mass, which means that it is less affected by the extra weight.

January 26, 2015 5:24 am

I think psychological benefits might be worth while when facing large conventional forces. But I don’t think they have much effect when facing radical extremists.

That being said for instances like the recent battle against ISIS in Syria maybe the effect is more to bolster allied forces. Especially when its not professional ground forces we are using but local volunteers. Having Tornados at 30,000 ft is not as visible a support to them as A10’s flying low over head.

That being said I don’t think the A10 is worth keeping. Its not survivable enough in a high threat area and its job could be done by a number of lighter and cheaper aircraft in a low threat environment.

January 26, 2015 7:21 am

“That being said I don’t think the A10 is worth keeping. Its not survivable enough in a high threat area and its job could be done by a number of lighter and cheaper aircraft in a low threat environment”
I am assuming you mean the A10 in a high threat environment versus another ‘lighter and cheaper’ aircraft in a low threat environment in the SAME geographical area being altitude changing the threat level. I agree I don’t see the point of a high end high expense military jet being needed to carry a payload to 30,000′ and then dispense it as requested. The use of F22 , F18D , F15E ,F16D, Tornado etc is pointless when the OPFOR has no fighter jets of its own just ground based SAM . We use them as they are cleared for the weapons and have the sensors and designators required combined with the required data links. Nothing that cannot be fitted to much much cheaper airframes fitted with a self powering pod.
. If the need is to get Mk1 eyeball on target then some dedicated ground attack aircraft is required be it Apache, A10 or whatever if you like the pilot .

January 26, 2015 8:16 am

What Mark says about” something of the Raider variety” is appealing, as it includes the ability to insert and recover FAC teams (remember how their number went up exponentially with the Afghanistan years?), and thus bring the fast jets to bear as and when needed, in addition to the surveillance and engaging targets of opportunity by UAVs/ helos.

This one is just from the army media centre: ” The Firestorm equipment suite was procured under Urgent Operational Requirement, providing a precision call for fire capability to the company level and below. The Army Equipment Directorate has produced a Firestorm fielding plan, which will see the equipment placed into units according to the Future Force 2020 order of battle requirements. Another key consideration is the recent shift of delivery by ‘exclusively’ precision weapons, with variable yields, that allows the Air component to provide a Close Air Support capability to the lowest Land-component tactical level with unerring accuracy. What was, until relatively recently, a fairly indiscreet and destructive bludgeon is now a surgically precise method allowing more flexible Rules of Engagement”

Rocket Banana
January 26, 2015 8:52 am

I’m not scared of any air platform… only the smart bombs and missiles they carry.

Just about any aircraft can be “downed” if it is seen nowadays. It’s the idea of never seeing the thing that launched a Brimstone/Hellfire at you from over the hill that scares me.

You can also add stratospheric blanket bombing to the list of things that scares me… again, not the aircraft, but the 108 laser guided bombs.

January 26, 2015 1:14 pm


That is sort of what i was trying to get at with my earlier post. Could we concentrate on creating an impression in the minds of the enemy that a certain system was something to be feared above all else? The question in my mind is do we go for something that could be there but you can’t see it and it will kill you before you even know its there or something they do see but would struggle to stop and that scares them shitless when they realise its definitely there.
Perhaps some of the pros can weigh in here but as an armchair enthusiast i get the distinct impression some weapons do have a greater fear factor than their actual performance merits. Could this be built on some how to make certain weapons more effective through their psychological effect on the enemy? If so would this be something that would be militarily effective and worth spending time/resources on?

The Other Chris
January 26, 2015 1:15 pm

Several misperceptions identified on skimming the debate using the Reaper/A-10 example.

Not enough time to pass on references, but some statements on the following are incorrect and easily corrected by skimming appropriate sources:

– Iraq/Syria classed as “permissive” air space
– Inability of RPAS to operate in “non-permissive” air space
– Costs of platforms, in particular A-10 being the cheapest
– Employment of fleets e.g. RPAS “Orbits” vs aircraft required to maintain CAS aircraft aloft
– Endurance of a loaded MQ-9 (e.g. capable of up to 42 hours aloft in a surveillance only style role…)
– Destruction of aircraft being necessary to ground a fleet
– Skillsets and “language” of crew operating the platform (e.g. Who can you fit in a GCS vs a Cockpit?)

January 27, 2015 6:20 am

The enemies fear can help your troops in many ways.

I remember hearing about how the SASR got their US air support to fly low and break the sound barrier above their objective and thinking they were under bombardment everyone came running out with their hands up.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 29, 2015 5:13 pm

The A-10 was pulled from making gun attacks during the ’91 gulf war when numbers were lost or mission killed by a heavily degraded 1970s era largely Soviet IADS. They went over to using Maverick as a standoff weapon vs armour and other groudn targets. BRIMSTONE and DMB are far superior to Maverick in this role – with legacy Brimstone you can engage 12 armoured vehicles in a single pass from over 8km away. DMB is a far superior system for selective engagement of moving targets.

The idea that you have to get down in the weeds to get good situational awareness is the opposite of the truth. Hurtling around and having a limited engagement window in each pass, you are bound to make mistakes – something to which the British Army can attest. If you’re going to sit up at medium altitude and use a targeting pod with powerful optics and laser/GPS guided ordance to pick off targets on the ground, you don’t need all that armour or the gun.

January 29, 2015 9:27 pm

“Carry On Up The Khyber”

I shall say no more…

May 12, 2015 3:31 pm
Reply to  Red Trousers

@ Red Trousers.

Everybody say’s that, until they actually need one. There was a story, a few years back about a British News Media crew. Tagging alone with a British Army Unit that somehow got surrounded by the Taliban. Thing were looking very bad for your Intrepid Hero’s. Unit a British Corporal heard the Engines of a Flight of A-10’s echoing in the mountains. And started laughing, all the other’s looked at him in dismay trying to understand his laughter in the situation they were in. He look at the Other’s and said “There’s a SHIT STORM coming”, referring to the A-10’s. I’m not sure weather or not the Tale Actually Happened, because I can’t find any reference too he story, anywhere…