A scrappy band of lawmakers has put up a fight that has started to yield some results in favor of the United States Air Force which has made multiple attempts to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II – military’s one of the most reliable airplane.
The Air Force fears that the already delayed induction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could face another setback in case the A-10 survives in its fleet and is not phased out.
At different occasions, the USAF has clearly stated that it can no longer afford its fleet of A-10s. The story goes back to budget cuts known as sequestration. Recently, the USAF has been forced to revisit its stance and as result of that the USAF is suggesting compromises that would slow down the aircraft’s retirement.
At the same time, it has also warned that if Congress does not support retirement of the old fleet, the Air Force won’t be able to transfer maintenance workers from old platform of the A-10 to the latest F-35. It is also to be noted that Lockheed Martin is ramping up production of the F-35.
The A-10 is an old slow-flying aircraft designed for bombing and to stay close enough to the ground so that pilots can distinguish friend from foe. The plane is often called the military’s ugliest aircraft. It has got a 30mm cannon which can destroy a tank, and a “titanium bathtub” belly designed to absorb ground fire.
The plane is loved by soldiers and airmen, who say that it saved countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. As per them, the ability of the plane to take out the enemy targets at close range is unparalleled.
A group of former service members wrote in a letter to senior Pentagon leaders that the elimination of the A-10 “will cost American lives.”
The USAF has a different take and says that the Warthog is aged and has only one mission providing close-air support to troops on the ground.
So far, the reaction from some powerful members of Congress has been a steadfast no.
Both the House and Senate have moved to prevent the Air Force from retiring the A-10 this fiscal year. And the aircraft has received strong support from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is poised to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Source: Washington Post