GOP Rep. Martha McSally has successfully forwarded an amendment to allocate $100 million for A-10 wing upgrades, in direct opposition to the Air Force’s campaign to sideline the aircraft.
A total of 110 out of 283 A-10s in the fleet need wing upgrades. These upgrades would bring the aircraft past a life-span of 2028. The amendment passed en bloc by voice Wednesday and is now part of defense funding legislation.
“This amendment sends another strong signal that Congress backs the A-10 and supports keeping them flying,” McSally told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Without these upgrades, 13 A-10s would begin to be grounded in FY2018, 28 by FY2019, and nearly 50 by FY2021.”
“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons over recent years, leaving us with barely enough aircraft to meet current threats,” she added. “With A-10s deployed to four theaters around the world, we not only need to prevent the premature retiring of anymore A-10s, but we need to ensure the aircraft we have are able to continue flying until a tested, proven replacement is developed – and that’s what this amendment does.”
McSally served in the Air Force for 26 years before retiring in 2010 and running for Congress and winning a seat in Arizona in 2014. She was the first female fighter pilot in addition to flying the A-10.
In 2015, McSally advocated for complete funding for the A-10 fleet and also this year pushed for a new amendment that would mandate a fly-off test between the A-10 and the F-35 before any decision is made to retire the A-10 platform. The fly-off amendment passed the House Committee on Armed Services 60-2 and also passed a House vote.
In an op-ed for Air Force Times, McSally laid out all the conditions the test should include to come up with an accurate comparison.
“For example, the testing must demonstrate how the two aircraft can perform missions in realistic combat settings, such as when pilots are required to visually identify enemy and friendly forces in close proximity, both during the day and at night,” she wrote. “It must include armored targets, scenarios requiring continuous weapons delivery, comparisons of extended time over target, survivability from simulated direct hits, and low-altitude employment, including “shows of force” and strafe.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said recently the successor platform to the A-10 should ideally cost only $4-5,000 per flying hour, as opposed to the A-10’s $20,000 per flying hour. The new platform, Welsh said, should be incredibly flexible.
“Imagine the … flying Coke machine and just having a Coke machine overhead, and you put your quarter in and you get whatever kind of firepower you want when you want it,” Welsh said. “In the perfect world, that’s close-air support of the future.”
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