Peculiar combination of A-10C Warthogs and B-1B strategic bombers of US Air Force flexible muscles in China’s backyard

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The Air Force’s 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office recently released an exciting image of an A-10C Warthog ground-attack aircraft armed with miniature ADM-160 air-launched decoys sitting near a B-1B bomber.

The A-10C is one of several Warthogs sent to Guam early last month as part of a “routine dynamic force employment operation.” The exercise aims to introduce new expeditionary and distributed operational concepts that could be applied in a conflict.

The integration of the ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, or MALD, onto the A-10C was a critical aspect of the US military’s efforts to enhance the capabilities of the Thunderbolt in future high-level conflict.

Particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, a MALD-equipped A-10 could play a vital role in the fight against China, which has intensified its rhetoric on invading Taiwan.

The photos were accompanied by a caption that read: “These aircraft were brought to the Indo-Pacific region in conjunction with a dynamic force employment operation that provides training and increases the Pacific Air Force’s ability to remain strategically predictable, yet operationally unpredictable in an evolving – competitive and contested environment.

An A-10C Warthog ground-attack aircraft loaded with air-launched decoys sits next to a B-1B bomber at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam: USAF.

A contingent of A-10Cs from Georgia’s Moody Air Force Base operates from Andersen on Guam and Roman Tmetuchl International Airport in Palau, an island nation.

The Warthogs deployment is believed to be part of Exercise Iron Thunder.

Meanwhile, since October, a group of B-1Bs from the 28th Bomb Wing has also been deployed by a Bomber Task Force (BTF) to Guam.

The A-10C shown in the most recent photographs was equipped with two AGM-65K Maverick air-to-surface missiles, four DATM-160s, two AIM-9L/M Sidewinder short-range air-to-surface missiles as well inert. aerial missiles and a LITENING targeting pod.

An A-10C Warthog from the 74th Fighter Squadron, part of the 23rd Wing, in Guam Nov. 4, loaded with four DATM-160 trainer versions of the ADM-160 miniature air-launched decoy.

That being said, the service has been working to integrate the MALD on the A-10C to allow Warthogs to survive in high-risk environments.

127 Wing Public Affairs said in March 2022 that it was examining the A-10 Thunderbolt’s potential to become the next aircraft equipped with the miniature air-launched decoy MALD, also known as the ADM-160.

The MALD is a small unmanned aerial vehicle designed to mimic combat flight characteristics on enemy radar. The device can significantly eliminate even the most advanced integrated air defense of the enemy.

The ADM-160C MALD-J entered service in 2016 and included a modular electronic warfare capability known as CERBERUS in addition to the original signature augmentation subsystem, which can replicate radar returns from other aircraft.

CERBERUS has multiple interchangeable electronic warfare (EW) payloads that can be activated and deactivated in less than a minute, allowing custom EW attacks for various battlefield situations.

How will it improve the capabilities of the A-10?

The Air Force expects a single Warthog to carry up to 16 MALDs simultaneously. The service’s other option for using ADM-160s is the F-16C/D Viper fighter jet, which can accommodate only four MALDs.

According to Major Kraig Lohse, an A-10 pilot with the 107th Fighter Squadron, the A-10’s unique agility and storage capacity make it ideal for deploying the MALD. This deployment of the MALD would be a force multiplier, allowing the Warthog to contribute significantly to future conflict.

Experts believe the service could use a unit of A-10Cs to unleash volleys of MALDs to open up pathways for other aircraft in a future battle.

a-10-warthog
File Image: A-10 Warthog – Wikipedia

The Warthog was developed from the ground up to be an excellent choice for small footprint operations from remote and hostile locations. This allows them to be quickly set up in forward areas closer to the target region to perform these decoy launching missions.

With this in mind, the MALD and other air-launched electronic warfare systems, in particular, seem destined to play a greater role in future battles. This is especially true for rivals like China, which continues to develop and deploy technologically advanced air combat and air defense platforms.

Nevertheless, the role of the A-10s in any future high-end conflict in the Indo-Pacific or elsewhere is still undetermined. The service said it considers these jets obsolete for its long-range tactical aviation plans.

Congress also appears more inclined to allow at least a portion of the remaining 281 Warthogs to be retired in the next fiscal year. If that happens, it could signal the start of an effort to eliminate the plane from service.

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