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F-35 vs. A-10 Matchup Isn’t ‘Silly’ After All

by Gillian Rich     •     Investor’s Business Daily

A matchup between Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE:LMT) F-35 vs. the older A-10 Warthog isn’t so “silly” after all. The Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation said late Thursday that it would run tests to evaluate how the F-35 stacks up in close-air support vs. the A-10, according to Defense News. The tests will use the latest upgrade of the 3F software for the F-35 and take place in 2018.

Lockheed shares fell 0.9% to 203.61 in late-afternoon trade in the stock market today.

The announcement comes after Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the press Monday that he wasn’t aware of any tests between the two planes and said a matchup “would be a silly exercise.”

He said the planes were expected to perform different functions: The F-35 can survive in high-threat, close-air support environments with its advanced stealth and other high-tech features, while the A-10 can’t.

But Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, said the tests would help the Pentagon understand the differences between the close-air support provided by the two planes and identify any gaps in the F-35’s abilities.

The F-35 hasn’t done well against older jets in prior tests. According to a report earlier this year in the military blog War Is Boring, an older General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) F-16 outmaneuvered the expensive F-35 in an air combat test in January.

But the F-35 Joint Program Office has said the report was misleading and didn’t use the F-35’s updated software.

The Air Force is looking to retire the A-10 fleet to save money and meet constricted budget requirements. But if the F-35 can’t provide the close-air support needed, the Air Force might need to invest in a follow-on jet.