The Air Force is entertaining the idea of getting rid of the A-10 Thunderbolt 2 as if it were a lump of financial cancer in the service’s fiscal body.
The idea is that the ageing bird is a tool with only one major use — close air support of ground units — in a time of budget cuts when the military is increasingly looking for multi-purpose tools, Brian Everstine of the Air Force Times reports.
Several Air Force officials have confirmed the A-10 is a likely target for eliminating an aircraft fleet under continued budget pressure. Removing the entire fleet instead of continuing to retire squadrons, called a “vertical cut” is more likely to save money in the long term because it also removes the infrastructure behind the jet.
“You only gain major savings if you cut an entire fleet,” [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark] Welsh said. “You can cut an aircraft from a fleet, but you save a lot more money if you cut all the infrastructure that supports the fleet.”
Richard Sisk of Military.com reported that old Warthog pilot, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III spoke of the aircraft in “near woeful tones.”
Sisk reported that Clark said the Air Force “has to have a fifth generation force out there” of stealthy, fast and manoeuvrable aircraft, and the low and slow A-10 just didn’t fit in.
Fifth generation fighters are notoriously expensive, but, aside from potential dogfights, bombing runs, and area denial, can also serve as close air-support to infantry on the ground — in tandem with a number of already existing helicopter systems.
Still, if it goes through, the bird’s retirement will be a nostalgic one.
“The A-10, developed by Fairchild-Republic in the 1970s, was credited with destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks in the first Gulf War and has been a close air support mainstay in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” wrote Sisk.
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