AFIT alum Lt Col Steven Fino, PhD, USAF (MS Operations Analysis, 2009, Distinguished Graduate), is the author of the article The Coming Close Air Support Fly-Off: Lessons from AIMVAL-ACEVAL in the Summer 2017, Vol 31, No 2 edition of the Air and Space Power Journal.
In the summer of 2016, Congress introduced legislation directing the Pentagon to conduct an A-10/F-35 close air support (CAS) fly-off. For several years, the Air Force has tried to retire its fleet of A-10s, arguing that its other platforms, including its newly-acquired F-35s, could perform the CAS mission. Without wading into the rancorous A-10 versus F-35 debate, it&rsquo s still worth evaluating the potential merits and pitfalls of the forthcoming CAS fly-off. To do so, I suggest we first explore the notion of military testing from a social constructivist perspective before we turn our attention to a pair of congressionally-mandated tests completed by the Air Force and Navy 40 years ago&mdash the Air Intercept Missile Evaluation and Air Combat Evaluation. Upon reflection, the pair of air combat tests offer four critical lessons that should inform preparation, execution, and expectations of the coming CAS fly-off: 1) the test will likely be unable to quell the public A-10/F-35 debate, 2) its design must facilitate excursion testing and robust analysis, 3) it should encourage tactical creativity among its participants, and 4) the Air Force must be receptive to any potentially disruptive implications that might emerge from the test.