The Air Force would be complete idiots to get rid of the A-10. Its triple redundancy flight control system has allowed many pilots to return to base, that would have otherwise ejected. This airframe should be updated, not disposed of.
Give it a FLIR, and the appropriate GPS hardware. The A-10A is getting some upgrades to what is referred to as the A-10C. It is highly survivable and performs well. The USAF will be lucky to 'ever' buy another bomber that has been as versatile as the B-52.
While some of its systems are dated (engines!), the airframe has life left in it. The avionics have undergone several upgrades over its life to date. It has proven itself to be a reliable bomb hauler and is now fitted with PGMs.
Its long range and load make it worth keeping. As for the B-52 there is talk of replacing the 8 engines with 4. The B-52 combat record shows how good it was and is. I don't think any aircraft has ever flown longer missions then those flown by buffs during desert storm 1. They flew from bars dale to bomb Bagdad.
The only other aircraft to come close to this were British Vulcan's in the Falklands conflict. What would the USAF replace them with? I think the idea of a dedicated ground attack aircraft is excellent. Despite the Warthog drivers who thought it was fun to buzz our camp in Iraq, they were a very comforting presence to have. There's something about having a big ugly aircraft that has a massive multi-barrel cannon that can take out a tank.
I did an article on the A-10A Warthawg. The USAF Warthawg pilots wanted a two seater N/AW A-10 version (i.e. three N/AWs for every 10 to 12 single seat A-10s). They really said 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 use NVG goggles like AH-64A pilots do. The make do of using Maverick IR seeker heads is like trying to find a star using a soad straw. Throw a couple of billion at upgrades for the BUFFs and you have a great bomber.
Maybe not needed for a nuke strike, but its payload makes it a formidable strike aircraft, especially if it's carrying a load of cruise missiles (in flight programmable) in rotary launchers, as well as in wing pods. Just because it's a "bomber" doesn't mean it has to carry nukes or iron bombs. As for the A-10, that's got to be one of the singular best designed aircraft for its purpose: to make things on the ground go away. Survivability is unbelievable. Until, and unless, Congress and the Air Force push through a procurement program similar to the one that produced the A-10, it's going to be the best bird in the world for what it does. The Air Force tried to retire the A-10 once before when they got the F-16, but had to pull them out again.
Fast jets are fine for air interdiction, but not for close air support. You need something slow that can linger overhead, identify friend from foe, and then tear them up. Helicopters help, but there has never been a better airplane for close air support than the A-10. (Although you could get a good argument for the AC-130.) Although A-10s are budgeted out through the 2020's, I am afraid that when the Air Force gets their new air-to-ground fighter, the F-35, they will try to shunt the A-10 again.
A-10 - awesome platform, very capable and survivable. Combination of decent speed, loiter time, resistance to being shot down, and payload give it an advantage over many other CAS performing aircraft The advantage A-10s have over AC-130s is daylight operations. AC-130s are able to operate during daylight, but because of the circular (and therefore dependably predictable) patterns they use for target acquisition/targeting and sustained engagement, they can't perform as safely during the day as they can at night. A-10s can vary their approaches and give smaller windows of opportunity to ground based aggressors because of their lower altitude (yes they gain other threats) and varied methods of destruction.
Also, the aircraft is staying here whether you like it or not. Its range, payload, and loiter time put it in the spotlight for testing for CAS work and an electronic platform. The only B-52 variant 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 on the KC-135E. Some 160 KC-135E are in service.
The KC-135 'R' and 'T' use the CFMI CFM56 turbofan engines, the engine type 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.
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