Dogfight Erupts Over Attack Jet Friendly Fire Record
Advocates of keeping the A-10 warplane in the Air Force lineup have received some disappointing news. According to declassified data obtained by USA Today, since 2010, the A-10 attack jet has inadvertently engaged in more friendly fire than any other aircraft in the arsenal in Afghanistan.
Based on the data, the A-10 has killed 10 U.S. troops and 35 civilians in Afghanistan. However, 99 percent of air-support missions have concluded without incident, leading Dustin Walker, a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, to issue a counter, saying that “While any loss of life is a great tragedy, in the context of tens of thousands of Air Force combat missions, this data is inconclusive and statistically insignificant to determining which weapon system is most effective in its primary mission, or at avoiding civilian casualties or friendly-fire incidents.”
As the F-35 makes its entrance onto the scene, Air Force officials have set 2019 as the date to finally retire the A-10, but some lawmakers, themselves former servicemembers in the military, have pushed back against the Pentagon’s plans to rid the Air Force of old technology. During Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for incoming Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, an ardent supporter of the A-10, managed to secure Carter’s agreement to later hear out arguments from a group of A-10 supporters.
Pilots have used the A-10 for 14 percent of missions flown in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS and has been in play for 40 years. But Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has been quick to point out the contributions of other aircraft.
“There are a number of strike platforms, of course, that are engaged in it,” she said. “[The] A-10 is one, but there’s also F-16s, F-15s, and so forth. They’re each contributing.” But while Secretary James’ comments surrounding the A-10 have been relatively moderate, other defense officials like Maj. Gen James Post told officers that testifying in support of the A-10 before Congress is tantamount to treason.
“If anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it…anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason,” Post told his officers at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, according to The New York Times. Now, a dozen non-profit organizations have banded together to request that Secretary James take action against Post for his remarks, which reflect the increasing struggle between supporters and opponents of the A-10.
Defense officials have said that one of the reasons for retiring the A-10 is that it’s impossible to keep simultaneous maintenance crews, owing to a shortage of qualified personnel and the pressures of sequestration.
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