My God! What a load of hooey. At this point in time there is no functional prupose in designating the aircraft itself a certain way when its capabilities overlap dramatically with lots of other aircraft classification. Guided munitions have rendered the old classification system and any new classification system for the aircraft themseleves obsolete. After all, most of these planes, regardless of their designations, are capable of carrying and deploying the same hyper accurate munitions. As an example, B-52’s performed CAS missions effectively in Afghanistan and soon may carry a host of air to air missiles. And fighters can carry out strategic bombing missions… even nuclear bombing missions and so on and so forth.
As the author pointed out, there is a danger in having an aircraft show up to a call without the appropriate munitions or capability, but there certainly is an equal and I would argue far greater risk associated with a ground commander calling for an overly specific capability, an A-10 for instance, when none are available or a long way off when any aircraft carrying an SBD or a JDAM will do.
Therefore the primary designation should not relate to the aircraft at all but the particular mission the ground commander needs to be performed or threat that needs to be countered freeing the aircraft from innaccurate charaterizations and allowing any aircraft that meets the minimum requirements to show up. Therefore the relevant factors are how many of which type of munition a plane is carrying (or capable of carrying), and how long the aircraft can stay on station, and which threat enviornments it is capable of operating in.
Therefore here is my stab at categorizing missions rather than planes:
Fighter- Air to air threats with a sub missions designation for the type of threat: F(fighters) requires the capability to adequately fight enemies fighters and carry up to 2 AMRAAMs, J (jets) capable of shooting down enemy aircraft, H (helicopter), D(drone), M(missile), .
CAS- Aircraft needs to be capable of staying on station for an extended period of time greater than 45 minutes (for instance) and capable of attacking up to 6 specific targets (vehicles, bunkers, positions, etc) in close proximity to troops. There should also be an AI (anti-infantry) sub mission if aerial guns to counter infantry and light vehicles in close proximity need to be deployed.
Attack- Some specific targets 2+ need to be destroyed requiring up to weapons in the 1000lbs class. Aircraft does not need to stay on station after the designated targets are eliminated.
Bomber- requires multiple weapons in the 2,000lbs class. L (for light) is capable of carrying two weapons in the class, M 4–6 in the 200lbs class, H designation requires more than 6 in the 2000lbs class. S requires stealth. HH requires the aircraft to be capable of deploying weapons greater than the 2,000lbs class (penetrators etc.)….
Under this system, a B-52 carrying the appropriate munition for instance could perform CAS, Attack and every non S Bombing mission. It can not perform fighter missions or CAS(AI) missions.
An apache helicopter may be able to perform CAS/ CAS (AI)/FD/or even FH missions but would not be able to perform any A, B, FJ or FM missions.
An F-35B can perform stealth Attack missions but not stealth bombing missions. An F-35A can perfrom LB mission in stealth or F/A mission. Both aircfraft can peform MB missions without stealth. And so on.