The Air Force is looking to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The problem is, one of the planes that they're pitching as a primary replacement, the F-35, is not seen as a close-air support bird. In an effort to explore other options, there's the OA-X competition. So far, attention has been primarily focused on three of the four competitors: The AT-6 Wolverine, the AT-29 Super Tucano, and the Textron AirLand Scorpion.
There was a fourth plane that hadn't been originally considered, but the Air Force brought it along. That fourth option is the AirTractor AT-802U Longsword. The makers of this plane, which is based on a widely-used cropduster, seem to think that it is the best choice to replace what's considered the best close-air support plane to have ever flown. Let's take a look, shall we?
The AT-802U Longsword packs two .50-caliber Gatling guns and up to 9,000 pounds of bombs and weapons. (Wikimedia Commons photo by PvK)
MilitaryFactory.com notes that this plane has been around since 1990. It has a top speed of 221 miles per hour and a maximum range of 802 miles. The military versions can carry about 9,000 pounds of payload. So, it carries roughly what the Textron Scorpion can, but it's slower and can't fly as far.
The AT-802U does have the ability to operate from dirt roads and improvised airstrips, according to a brochure provided by AirTractor. The plane is capable of firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. It also packs two .50-caliber Gatling guns with a total of 2,900 rounds of ammo. On its own, that looks like some impressive firepower, but it pales in comparison to the A-10, which packs 1,174 rounds of 30mm ammo that can kill a tank.
Among the weapons the AT-802U packs are bombs, rockets, and two .50-caliber Gatling guns. (Photo from 802u.com)
The fact is, as WATM has noted before, none of these planes really bring everything to the table like the A-10. The A-10 may be one of those planes, like the C-130, that can only be replaced by a newer, more lethal version of itself.
Learn more about the cropduster that has delusions of replacing the A-10 by watching the video below.