WASHINGTON: Election fears ruled the day on Capitol Hill when the full House of Representatives voted to stop the Air Force from retiring the venerable and venerated A-10 aircraft in the chamber’s version of the defense appropriations bill.

While we heard little of the backroom chatter and didn’t see the emails that doubtless flew as the bill’s sponsors urged their colleagues to vote against the Air Force’s attempt to save $3.7 billion by retiring the A-10 fleet, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to ascertain why members voted as they did.

While the bill’s principal sponsor Rep. Candice Miller spoke warmly of the A-10 as the best Close Air Support plane on earth, all you had to do to find ground truth was look at the district she represents in Michigan. Miller didn’t exactly vote on the merits of the Air Force’s argument. Instead, as a statement on her website made clear, she’d done this before for what most of her colleague’s would regard as one of the most fundamental reasons to vote for anything — jobs in your district and protection of the role of the National Guard:

“In 2012, Rep. Miller successfully defeated the Administration’s attempt to eliminate and/or reduce the Air National Guard personnel and assets, including the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.”

Now there are actually very few jobs at stake across the country should the A-10 be retired, as we’ve reported. But a vote for retirement would give any canny opponent considerable ammunition during a campaign. You know: “Candice Miller voted to kill the A-10, the best close air support aircraft in the world and one that means X jobs here.”  But this vote was all about the November elections and the Guard.

A-10 retirement chart

It’s also a very interesting fact that the House overrode its own appropriators, who voted to retire the plane. That may not bode well for the chairman’s authority — or it may just be another indicator that no one wants to hurt a colleague’s chances for reelection.

So, now we’ve got both authorization committees voting against retirement as well as the whole House. It looks like our prediction that retirement won’t happen til next year is on track. The question that remains, as Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James noted at a Defense Writers Group breakfast earlier this week, where is Congress going to find the  money the Air Force must now replace.

As Rep. Pete Visclosky, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee put it simply during the HAC-D markup of the defense spending bill:  “We’ve got to pay for stuff… Staying the course and hoping for some fiscal relief next year is wishful thinking.”


  • SMSgt Mac

    The interesting thing here is what will be the operational fallout. Historically, the Appropriations Committee puts which systems get funded, while the Authorizers allow a system to be considered (overly simple somewhat but the details would bore us all) for funding. For decades, this process has allowed Senator Blusterbus to send fliers to his constituents bragging about his vote to authorize and avoid mentioning his vote to not fund a system and thus appear to be ‘strong on defense’ while being tepid. Funny to see the same process used this way.

  • James Freeborn

    I don’t really think the A10 will be retired next year either.

  • Uniform223

    What I find to be completely ironic and backwards about this whole “lets retire the A-10″ debate is when I look at the F-22. The A-10 provides job security for the states and districts that have them. The F-22 provided jobs in damn near 48 states but was still hacked. Then I hear the “arguments” against the A-10 to retire it. I hear and read things like…
    “Its out dated”
    “The A-10 only provides one capability”
    “The A-10 can’t survive in contested air space or during the first week of conflict”.
    All those same “arguments” are the reasons of why they want the F-35. Then regarding the F-22 those “arguments” are exactly the opposite.
    “Its too advanced”
    “There no reason to have it, no one else has an operational stealth fighter”
    “We’re fighting insurgents with RPGs and IEDs we don’t need a high performance stealth fighter aircraft”. ( just to name a few )
    Now planners and tacticians are looking at what Russia and China are doing and all they have left IS the F-35 because they ceased production of the F-22 too early. US air power will be ( IMO ) fighting with their foot in a bucket because literally we do not have enough F-22s. ( Just to clarify I believe the A-10 is still a relevant aircraft. To retire the A-10 without a suitable replacement is stupid. The F-35 is a step in the right direction but honestly we need more then just the current 185 F-22s… 250 would be enough. Use technologies from the F-22 and F-35 and build a new gen4.5++ aircraft to fill the enormous gap that will left behind as gen4 aircraft are retired. This would give US airpower a High-Medium-Low mixture of aircraft and greater flexibility )

    • Mike

      Imagine if we had had the A-10 at the Chosin or the Yalu…… Oh hell, imagine if we’d had the A-10 in Vietnam…. A lot of soldiers alive today in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the A-10…. Imagine how the dash of ISIS would have been stopped if a dozen A-10′s just happened to show up during their march to the South, or even say 10 miles into Iraq……

    • H. H. GAFFNEY

      Which war are all these aircraft for? The great nuclear war with Russia, or the great nuclear war with China?

    • Curtis Conway

      Amen. Lots of birds at Davis Monthan already, and more coming. The AESA radar, new technology weapons, the situational awareness combat systems and communications gear will buy a lot until 6th Gen comes on line. Thank G-d the US Navy is taking the lead on 6th Gen. The whole program will cost less than half of the procurement costs of new platforms. Don’t see the F-22 line coming back on line although it would be a good idea.

  • omegatalon

    It’s sort of insanity to retire the A-10 Warthog especially as they’ve just spent $Billions for new engines and wings to keep the jet flying for another 10+ years not to mention the jet has a new avionics suite.

  • daniel

    If American troops ever find themselves marching north from south Korea… They will thank God to see that ugly beast unleashed…

  • Pete

    Keeping the A-10 is the SMARTEST thing the money people have done this decade.

  • Pete

    Maybe the USAF should think about giving the A-10s to the Marines..

    • bobsomm

      Charlie, the Marines want them but with Obma’s cuts, Marines can’t fford the logistics til but yes, Marines DO NEED A-10s

    • shipfixr

      Too much common sense involved there….

    • ziggy1988

      And where are the Marines going to find the money in THEIR tiny budget to fly the Warthog?

      • Pete

        Maybe not buy 1 or 2 F-35s…umm…Common sense.

  • CharleyA

    The other reason why the A-10 was spared is because of the ludicrous arguments that the USAF and supporters of competing systems foisted on the Congress and the public. It is really not difficult to parse the USAF’s justifications, and get to the real issue: the current USAF leadership does not value the aircraft or its raison d’être. Trying to convince Congress that other platforms and crews can perform CAS with the same level of precision and expertise is simply laughable at face value, and tragically dangerous, as we saw a few weeks ago when five US service members were killed by an tragic B-1 support strike. Anyway, the House also threw the USAF and LM a bone by adding four F-35s to the PB request.

    • SMSgt Mac

      RE: “USAF leadership does not value the aircraft or its raison d’être.”

      Since the current AF Chief of Staff is a former A-10 driver who has expressed his own fondness for the plane, that statement falls flat on its face.

      Assuming you aren’t just in a permanent state of outrage, and if you want to know how all along the weak-sisters in the Army Command Chain have been dealing in bad faith with the AF on CAS, search up “Debunking Close Air Support Myths”. They’ve been playing the ‘Poor Army’ victim card for decades. If you doubt the ‘Debunking Series’ at all, do yourself a favor and go to the source documents. The common thread throughout is the Army never getting over the feeling it was being ‘left behind’ by the Air Force after the latter became a separate service, and the arrogance of an Army that believes it should control everything it touches, even when it has the least effective tools to do so.

      • CharleyA

        Naw, it doesn’t. I’m sure that you know that “leadership” in this context implies a number of people and staff providing inputs to influence the decision making process. GIGO.

  • bobsomm

    The services are wasting billions onF-22 and F-35. We need fighters, ground support, fighter-bombers etc. The efforts for the F-22 are a disgrace so far. It is cool but China abd Russia are pretty well negating their effectiveness … ok, F-22s in simulated and actual encounters is still awesome, but if we can only afford a couple dozen … ? Navy and Marines NEED STOL but USAF Couls do without the extra weight ang go dor a genuinely nimble HOT fighter … OR, get behind a Drone program to take our flesh and blood heros out of most life threatening situations. This is a cluster buck. A-10 is still the best for its purposes! ut back on the Caddilacs and build FIGHTERS not multi billion dollar planes we can’t afford, ae too complex, too heavy etc… aremember the F-5 before they decided to hang tons of bombs on it? That was a Hot-Nimble sucker…

    • Robert A. Little

      The F-15 had a kill ratio (in games) of about 8-1 against its predecessors. Against the F-22 it’s managed ZERO kills (although I understand there’s an F-16 with an F-22 symbol on it). In some ways, the F-35 is a big advancement, a revolutionary advancement, but I do wish we had 400 or so F-22′s. I also understand that the Eurofighter, if it could get in close, had a good chance against the F-22. Of course, both the ’22 and ’35 are built with the express purpose of avoiding having to actually get close to anything that hasn’t already released it’s smoke. (old technology joke – all electronics are built with smoke in them, and eventually they release it).

      • CharleyA

        An EA-18G has a F-22 kill…

  • Curtis Conway

    The Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to task. It is good at only one thing, “Close Air Support”. The pilot sits in a Titanium tub that keeps him safe. The GAU-8 30mm gun can destroy any ground target that our forces have ever come up against. The placement of the engines is high and behind the wing and in front of the tail surfaces to deprive MANPADS launch by any ground operator at a most optimal angle for intercept. The combat system has been perfected to the Nth degree. Some A-10s have absorbed enough damage where the landing gear could not be deployed, yet the wheels stick out the bottom of the fuselage to enable a safe landing. Everything being offered as a replacement is a FAST JET, which is unsuited for the task. The mere psychological effect of an A-10 showing up on-station causes a change in the battle before a shot has been fired. IF a replacement is designed using the same criteria . . . you could have your modern replacement. Every replacement to date has been a FAST JET unsuited for the task. The ONLY friends of the FAST JET solution are the USAF and the industrial military complex trying to capture the sale with something they already have, and not have to develop that NEW CAS AIRCRAFT.

    The A-10 is not used when we do not have Air Supremacy, and was never designed to do Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) although it carries AIM-9 missiles for self defense. Additionally, most USAF pilots do not want to fly A-10s. They want to be fighter pilots and go fast. There is a huge cadre of A-10 pilots in the Guard and Reserve who want to fly nothing but A-10s because it is fun to fly, and they have a higher probability of coming home if they take damage, and it is tremendously rewarding for them to help their Army and Marine brethren in trouble on the ground needing their help. The Law dictates that the USAF support our troops on the ground. These A-10 pilots fly into the teeth of the lion every time they provide support. The fighter pilots fly above the fray. I will leave it to you to determine which is the bravest and most gallant. The A-10 pilots are the only ones the USAF wants to get rid of. HHUMMMMMM?!!!!

    Just my 2₵

    • Robert A. Little

      I do think the AF wants the A-10, but it NEEDS the F-35, the KC-46 and thinks it needs a replacement for the B-2, which is already running up over 7000 hours on the airframe. The A-10 comes well down the list.

      • Curtis Conway

        The customer is always right. The day that we no longer have troops in the field, or boots on the ground, that require CAS, then I will support anything the USAF wants to field, because its tasking will be ancillary to the basic airframe capability. Until then, the troops get the consideration, and we need A-10s. How many is the question, and they will be Guard and Reserve aircraft whose heart is with their brethren-at-arms on the ground. If the USAF wants more budget, they should just open up the Black door/window and leap into space. We have a huge infrastructure that needs jobs and an expanding requirement to fill those jobs. Well . . . there you go.

  • ziggy1988

    There is a way to evade this prohibition: sell, rent, loan, or simply give these planes to ang interested allies.

  • Andy Wolf

    The F-35 is the biggest polished turd in recent history. Nothing can replace the Hog to date.