Share this on Facebook
download .zip with all pictures
Against anything less than a modern gen 4.5 fighter, an A-10 is still a serious threat.
The A-10 lives in the dirt, flying at altitudes that make fighter pilots uncomfortable. The low altitude means heavy ground clutter which makes radar guided missiles, especially older ones, unreliable. They generally carry an ECM pod further increasing the problems of radar guided missiles. This means that to reliably kill an A-10, an attacking fighter will generally need to get low and slow just to get a shot off.
While they’re not fighters, they A-10 still has teeth, generally carrying a pair of all-aspect sidewinders. Coupled with its incredible low speed maneuverability and the need for an attacker to get close, the A-10 is a target not to be underestimated.
A careful attacker who isn’t worrying about escorting aircraft can still likely take down an A-10 with reasonable safety, but it leaves no room for mistakes. When the A-10 has escorting fighters nearby, it doesn’t have to kill its attacker, it merely has to be enough of a problem that the attacker needs to take his time, during which time help can arrive.
With a drone, it’s likely the drone pilot won’t even know it’s under attack until it’s been shot down.
Edit: There’s also more at stake than the life of the pilot. Losing the air support is a bigger loss than just an aircraft/pilot, it’s risking the lives of the soldiers on the ground. Those soldiers are the only reason you have a pilot overhead anyways. A pilot is better at keeping track of the situation, better at continuing to provide support even in hostile airspace. Yes the pilot is at risk, but he is not alone.
Drones are great when you want to take potshots at people who can’t reasonably shoot back. Manned aircraft are still necessary when you have lives at risk on the ground. One day this will change, but it’s still a long way off.