The Air Force is indefinitely doing away with its plan to retire the A-10 jet, a move that seems both inevitable and shocking, given the aggressive steps leadership has taken to get rid of the aircraft and the fierce push back they received in response.
The remarkably high demand for A-10s from commanders is almost universally cited among critics of the A-10 decommissioning process. More details will be available when the Pentagon’s 2017 budget plan to keep the bird is sent over to Congress for consideration.
Members of Congress have long criticized the Air Force for refusing to acknowledge that the A-10 has provided incredibly useful in the fight against the Islamic State.
GOP Rep. Martha McSally, a long-time advocate of the A-10 and retired Air Force pilot, released a statement praising the Obama administration for making what she called the correct national security decision.
“It appears the Administration is finally coming to its senses and recognizing the importance of A-10s to our troops’ lives and national security,” McSally said. “Since before I took office and after, I’ve consistently highlighted the A-10’s irreplaceable capabilities and worked to expose the Administration’s flawed argument for wanting to retire it prematurely.”
A-10s are widely used in Europe as part of training exercises to deter Russian aggression, and have also formed a large percentage of the sorties deployed against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
“The Administration has been persistent in its efforts to send our best close air support asset to the boneyard without a replacement,” McSally added. “That’s unacceptable, and I’ll continue to lead the fight to ensure we keep these planes flying until we know without a doubt we can replace their capabilities.”
Part of the reason the Air Force has sought the A-10’s retirement is because the service has a limited amount of resources and manpower and holds that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is of far higher priority. The F-35 is supposed to replace the A-10 and F-16, though Department of Defense officials admitted in an April 2015 hearing that the F-35 does not have the same capabilities of survival as the A-10 does in close-air support environments.
The Government Accountability Office also stepped into the debate, releasing a report in June 2015 showing that the Air Force’s central justifications for removing the A-10 are deeply flawed. As GAO put it, retiring the A-10 without an adequate replacement aircraft would leave a huge gap in capabilities.
At this point, air attacks against ISIS have cost the U.S. a total of $5.5 billion, with the average daily cost amounting to $11.2 million a day, according to data from the Department of Defense. The Air Force constitutes $3.75 billion, or 70 percent, of that total.
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