A number have been shot down by IR SAMs, such as the SA-9 and SA-13.
And the US CENTAF, Chuck Horner pulled A-10's off the high end Iraqi targets because they were getting shot up way too much, and moved them onto the lower end Iraqi targets. He allocated F-16's to strike at the higher end Iraqi ground targets:
This confirms what I have been saying.
The SA-9 and SA-13 aren't MANPADS these larger systems would be mainly found in high threat environments. While the A-10 took hits from AAA and MANPAD they could often continue to perform their mission and return to base for repairs.
The F-35 and A-10 high/low combination would see the F-35 taking all highly defended ground targets in a high threat environment. Just like how the F-16 took the high threat ground forces in the Gulf War. The A-10 would be kept to low and medium threat environments. The A-10 would then free up a large number F-35 aircraft for high end threats. As the A-10 costs a fraction of the price of the F-35 to operate it results in a massive overall increase in capability.
The M346 would only be able to operate in a low threat environment where helicopters can also operate. This would not free up many F-35 aircraft.
When the A-10's took hits, it was for the most part, abort mission and try to nurse the aircraft back home for a crash landing. Many A-10's that got badly shot up actually never flew again; most were cannibalized for parts, then a pit was dug for the remains and the aircraft subsequently buried in the Saudi sand. A couple of birds that did crash land also got their pilots killed as well during the landing attempt.
I'm very interested in this.
What is the mechanism such that F-16s took fewer casualties than A-10s? Was it just the greater speed of an F-16? Because strafing infantry in a valley at 500mph sounds inaccurate. Was it different tactics (i.e. the A-10 was low/slow, the F-16 was higher/faster. The A-10 was more close gunnery, the F-16 was more missile)?
What's the mechanism such that F-16s are safer?
Greater speed meaning that they spend less time being engaged, and can get in and out of danger quicker. Plus, the F-16 has better sensors and stand off engagement capabilities, meaning that they can stay further away from threats. During the Gulf War, A-10's were initially permitted to initiate their attacks from 4,000 to 7,000ft, fairly close to the ground because the A-10 pilots were struggling to find and identify targets from higher altitudes as the Iraqi's were digging in their vehicles and camouflaging them. Flying at such low altitudes, close to the ground also meant that they were closer to ground fire as well, which allowed the Iraqi's to more accurately aim their weapons at the A-10's.
Chuck Homer had this to say as well regarding the pulling back of the A-10's:
We had a problem. Our most effective tank killer was being shot up at an alarming rate. In fact, before February 15, we had lost only one A-10 (on February 2 to an IR SAM), while suffering a little over twenty-five other aircraft shot down. Still, before February 15, the large number of battle-damaged A-10s was wearing on my mind. Thirty or forty had been hit, yet had survived and limped home for repairs—a tribute to their rugged design and safety features. But a lot of hits was a lot of hits. Too many hits.
On the fifteenth, when I walked into the TACC, I learned that two A-10s were down and three damaged, with one of these losing much of its tail. The airplanes were too valuable in a variety of roles, from Scud-hunting to close air support, to have them grounded by battle damage. There was a strong possibility that the Iraqis would run me out of airplanes before they ran out of SAMs. With a heavy heart, I told the battle staff we were going to pull the A-10s back and use them only against the Iraqi divisions near the border. The Republican Guard and other armored divisions being held in reserve would now be off-limits to the A-10s, until later in the war, when the Iraqis had run out of heat-seeking missiles. Though I was worried that my decision would sting the egos of the Warthog drivers (a fate they sure didn’t deserve, since they were excelling at everything they’d been tasked to do), I just couldn’t stand by and watch them take hits and now losses.
But Dave Sawyer wrote me the next day, the sixteenth, and (without really meaning to) relieved my worries. “Your guidance to limit A-10s to southern areas is appropriate and timely,” he wrote. (That’s military for “Thank you, boss. We were being given more than our share of pain and suffering.”) He went on to relate the specific procedures he and Sandy Sharpe had worked out:
“We have prohibited daytime strafe for the present, except in true close air support, search and rescue, or troops in contact situations. With the OA-10 forward air control spotters, flight leads using binoculars, or a high (relative) speed recce pass in the 4–7,000 foot range, we should be able to determine worthwhile armor targets, then stand off and kill them with Mavericks. We’ll save the gun (and our aircraft) for the ground offensive. The OA-10s and our two night A-10 squadrons have yet to receive battle damage. There’s safety in altitude and darkness. When the ground war starts, we’ll strafe up a storm and get in as close as we need to to get the job done. No A-10 pilot should ever have to buy a drink at any Army bar in the future. Until G day, request you task A-10s only in air interdiction kill boxes you’ve now limited us to. If you need us to go to deeper AI targets, we plan to impose a 10,000-foot above-the-ground minimum altitude there, and employ only free-fall ordnance and Mavericks. We’ll promptly exit any AI area in which we get an IR or radar SAM launch.”