Earlier this week, I reported on CSAF’s recent All-Call remarks during a visit to Hill Air Force Base, where he stated that:
“Seventy percent of the A-10s we used during the first Gulf War suffered battle damage. It’s a rugged airplane, but it’s not hard to hit.”
I contended that his statement was inaccurate — grossly exaggerating the number of A-10s damaged by enemy fire during Operation Desert Storm (the number was closer to 13% according to the officially authoritative Gulf War Air Power Survey).
The analysis generated spirited debates, online and around Air Force water coolers, about the accuracy of various studies and reports from the Gulf War and about the relative survivability of the A-10 Warthog and other airframes in various tactical situations. What it did not immediately generate was an official response or correction from the Air Force. At least not until today.
Reached earlier via email, Maj. Christopher Moore, a spokesman for Gen. Welsh, stipulated on his behalf that CSAF “misspoke concerning the number of A-10s” damaged by enemy fire during Desert Storm. “The Chief acknowledges his error and attributes it to incorrectly recalling information from a briefing,” Moore said.
I argued in the previous coverage that Gen. Welsh had been inaccurate either because he was ill-informed or because he had made a knowing misrepresentation. Today’s correction indicates it was a version of the former and not the latter. Welsh’s provision of a clarifying comment to extinguish this particular brush fire helps limit the damage to an already divisive debate about the future of the A-10 and Close Air Support.
Less encouraging is the fact that 75th Airbase Wing Public Affairs published CSAF’s remarks without giving him the benefit of a fact-check, and has not issued a correction to its online report of his speech. But this additional layer to the story does provide an additional learning opportunity.
This is a modest step forward in what has been an at times excruciatingly dishonest discussion about the best Close Air Support weapon ever known to airpower. Let’s hope it shifts the tone.
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