Air Force Delays A-10 Retirement

A 10 Thunderbolt II Warthog Not Retiring Yet

The plans and details of retiring the A-10 Thunderbolt II (affectionately known as the "Warthog") has been discussed for quite some time. An article written back in 2013 on Killing the Warthog, even claimed that "hardly a day goes by without some rumor surfacing about the A-10 being marked for retirement. In fact, as recently as October [2013], the Air Force mused publicly that if it were allowed to remove its 326 A-10s from service, it could save $3.5 billion in maintenance costs over the course of five years". However despite this push for retirement from the U.S. Air Force and the cost cutting benefits that it would bring to the national defense budget, the aircraft has since remained in service. 

In November 2015, the head of the United States Air Force's Air Combat Command, General Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle reportedly told the Air Force Times that he believed the Air Force "would probably move the retirement slightly to the right". Carlisle explained that, "eventually we will have to get there. We have to retire airplanes. But I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and keeping the airplane a bit longer is something to consider, based on things as they are today and what we see in the future." Still, he gave no concrete answer to the final fate of the A-10.

Then in January last year, the Air Force Times reported that "the Air Force is indefinitely freezing all plans to retire the A-10 Warthog". Without a real claim on how long the freeze would last, the article did speculate that "the retirement of the A-10 could be delayed by a few years to make sure the Air Force has the number of planes it needs — especially since top brass is re-evaluating the number of F-35’s (planes intended to replace the A-10) that the U.S. will purchase." 

Finally, last Wednesday a Military.com article citing the Stars and Stripes reported:

The Air Force has reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II to 2021, the service's top general said Tuesday.

Then we're going to have a dialogue within the department of what the long-term plan is," Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters during a breakfast in Washington, D.C. "As a mission, we're fully committed to close-air support."

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the aircraft's retirement would be delayed until 2022 after officials opined the Air Force was ridding the U.S. military of a "valuable and effective" close-air-support aircraft.

However, fiscal 2017 budget documents revealed the service still hoped to remove A-10 squadrons in increments between 2018 and 2022 in order to make room for F-35A Lightning II squadrons coming online.

"We're going to keep them through 2021. Then, as a result of a discussion we'll have with [Defense] Secretary Mattis and the department, and review all of our budgets -- that's when we'll determine the way ahead," Goldfein said.

So there you have it. The A-10 lives to literally fight another day, at least for the next five years. And while the A-10 has a special place in my heart, having personally seen it perform it's Close Air Support (CAS) role from the ground, I also understand the Air Force's need to maintain the advancement of military air power. With the F-35 on it's way, it seems the room will eventually be made. Until then, I'm happy to know that the A-10 is still up there covering the boots on the ground.

"Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart." - Howard Tayler
Air Force Delays A-10 Retirement Air Force Delays A-10 Retirement Reviewed by Joe Burlas on February 11, 2017 Rating: 5