Boeing Vice President Chris Raymond confirmed that since the Air Force wants to rid itself of the A-10, Boeing is looking to sell the aircraft to U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at the Paris Air Show Tuesday.
The entire fleet is composed of 300 A-10 Warthogs, and despite recent use, the Air Force is desperately trying to shed itself of the aircraft. Congress has thwarted nearly every attempt, DOD Buzz reports.
The Air Force still relies on the A-10 to carry out strikes against Islamic State militants and to conduct training exercises in Europe. U.S. allies are more than happy to have A-10s in the region to counter possible threats from Russia.
Officials have justified retirement by saying the Air Force’s funding structure simply can’t accommodate both the A-10 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. As such, with the A-10 out of the way, mechanical crews can move over to the F-35, resulting in a savings of $4.2 billion dollars over five years.
While Fairchild-Republic initially developed the Warthog in the 1970s to take out Soviet tanks, Boeing has since effectively taken over the project. The company is working with the Air Force to deliver 173 A-10 wing sets, 105 of which have already been sent. If officials retire the aircraft before 2017, Boeing still doesn’t expect to lose the contract.
“There’s been talk about what the international opportunities might be,” Raymond said on Tuesday, according to DOD Buzz. “We’re going to stay close to the U.S. Air Force in this case. They have to make some decisions about what they actually have that they’re willing to declare as excess defense articles and so it’s really not our place to speculate on that.”
Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have expressed interest in picking up the affordable aircraft after seeing it in action against ISIS. Only the U.S. has deployed the A-10 up to this point.
When asked about a timeline for sales, Raymond responded, “I can’t really predict. I think we got to get through the FY2016 budget process.” If the defense budget continues to move through the legislative process untouched, the Air Force will be blocked from retiring the fleet yet again.
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