There is a chance that the U.S. Air Force may miss target it had set for August 2016 to start operating the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet in combat if Congress blocks the service’s plan to retire its A-10 tank-killer aircraft which is also known as Thunderbolt.
USAF Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan who also happens to be the Pentagon’s F-35 program chief, told media the Air Force was counting on training experienced A-10 mechanics to help reach the total 1,100 mechanics needed to declare that the F-35 had reached initial operational capability (IOC).
On the other hand, Congress is stalling the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10 aircraft. That also means that those mechanics will be needed to maintain the older A-10 fleet in parallel. Training new mechanics would not be an easy task as it would take 9 to 12 months to service the F-35 than retraining an already experienced mechanic.
George Flynn, a retired senior Marine Corps general who had the honor of heading the Pentagon’s joint directorate in charge of concepts, doctrine and training, said the potential impact of a shortage of mechanics underscored budget-related strains in the military.
Flynn was concerned that mandatory budget cuts were already having a negative effect on the military’s “readiness” and that impact could worsen given the high number of other missions now under way.