On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee stepped up and countered the Air Force’s plan to retire the venerable Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Language in their proposed National Defense Authorization Action (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 prevents the Air Force from mothballing the A-10 and provides more than $680 million to keep the current nine squadrons of Warthogs flying for another year.
One of the leading proponents of the keeping the A-10 in the active inventory is former U.S. Air Force Colonel and current U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ). A former A-10 squadron commander and combat veteran, Rep. McSally has locked horns with Department of Defense brass on more than one occasion over their controversial plan to adios one of the best close air support assets in U.S. military.
Last week she wrote a New York Times editorial called ‘Saving the Plane that Saves Lives,’ outlining why our country needs to keep the A-10 operational. While others in congress proposed keeping as few as 100 Hogs flying, the House Armed Services Committee ultimately went with Rep. McSally’s proposal to fund the entire A-10 fleet.
In response to the proposed NDAA, the Air Force commented that if they are prevented from retiring the A-10, they will be forced to send 48 F-16 Block 40 aircraft, currently scheduled to replace A-10s in the Air National Guard, to the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center until such time that the transfer to the ANG can be completed. They also suggested that keeping the A-10 will continue to delay the operational readiness of the Air Force’s news fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II.
I’ve been very vocal in my support for keeping the A-10 in our inventory. In my most recent article on the Hog, I illustrated the ways that this aircraft is uniquely qualified to fulfill the critical CAS and armed escort missions. In my opinion, Air Force leadership is suffering from “target fixation” when it comes to benching the A-10.
They disregard a lot of valid input and real world combat experience from airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines who have seen the A-10 in action and know exactly how capable the aircraft really is. Instead of finding alternate funding solutions to keep the Hogs flying, the Air Force Staff at the Pentagon seems hell bent on getting the the A-10 fleet in the boneyard as soon as possible.