USAF Plans A-10 Thunderbolt II Retirement: Report

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  • 10:14 AM, December 12, 2013
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USAF Plans A-10 Thunderbolt II Retirement: Report

The US Air Force is considering retiring A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jet, called "Warthog" – first designed as a tank buster to target Soviet armored vehicles in the early 1970s, due to budget constraints.

The Defense Department faces $1 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade, half of them due to automatic reductions in spending known as sequestration.

The US Air Force alone needs to save $12 billion in 2014, according to the service's Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.

By 2015, the USAF is planning to part ways with its entire A-10 fleet, total of 326 aircrafts, hoping to save $3.7 billion in the process.

Although the twin-engine aircraft is slow, it is incredibly efficient to provide close air support of ground forces, making it an appreciated asset for the US Army.

But the US Air Force "never had a whole lot of interest in a subsonic close-air support plane," Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with consulting firm Teal Group was quoted as saying by AFP. "This is a plane for large land combat engagements and for the foreseeable future, you probably won't face too many of those and there's also the budget pressure."

The US Air Force had tried several times since the end of the Cold War to scrap a large part of its A-10 fleet but then gave up in the face of a series of unexpected deployments, such as the Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The A-10, which sports heavy rotary cannon, has been limited to its only capacity to support ground missions, a big drawback compared to multi-mission aircraft such as the F-15 or F-16, according to the report.

The A-10 also only makes less than 30 percent of sorties for close air support missions. The F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters currently contribute to such missions and the F-35 -- the Pentagon's main armament program -- is due to participate in the future.

Many US senators and lawmakers have written to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month stating their "deep concern" over plans to scrap the A-10 in their respective states, by proposed an amendment to the 2014 budget law seeking to delay A-10 fleet's retirement until 2022.  

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