Former Pilot: It’s Pretty Simple, No A-10 Means More Dead Troops
Retired Air Force Colonel and Republican Rep. Martha McSally wrote an op-ed Monday in the New York Times arguing that the Air Force’s plan to kill the A-10 will satisfy leadership but result in dead American troops.
The Air Force continues to fluctuate on the arguments used against the A-10, but a consistent theme has been the use of budgetary arguments. Officials say that $4 billion dollars of crucial savings would be generated over five years by sidelining the plane. In other instances, officials cited a shortage of staff and the need to move A-10 maintenance crews over the to the F-35 joint strike fighter program.
Those reasons don’t pass muster with McSally. As she argued, if the A-10 is prematurely sidelined without a ready replacement in the wings, American troops will die, making budgetary arguments awfully hollow. McSally knows the capabilities of the A-10 all too well. During her service, she operated as an A-10 squadron commander and logged 325 combat hours.
According to McSally, the Obama administration has worked closely with the Air Force to end the A-10—13 years ahead of schedule. For a plane that is most capable in the entire fleet of providing solid close-air support, such an aggressive stance seems strange. This urge to rid the A-10 from the Air Force’s arsenal was brought into sharp relief by Air Force Maj. Gen. James Post III, who told airmen that if they testified to Congress on the positive capabilities of the A-10, it would be little different from treason. After major outcry and an ensuing investigation, the Air Force removed Post from his position. (RELATED: Air Force Removes General Who Intimidated Airmen Into Keeping Silent About The A-10)
Still, Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh has mostly brushed off concerns about the strength of the A-10, labeling them as emotional, given the fact that other aircraft in the arsenal can do the job. (RELATED: Air Force Chief Of Staff Has ‘Always Loved’ The A-10, But It’s Got To Go)
Some have pointed to the first round of F-35s, the F-35B, as a potential substitute. However, Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing at the DOD, put the idea to rest just last week in a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. As Gilmore argued, “The A-10 can take hits that an F-35 couldn’t.” (RELATED: First F-35s Get Bashed In Hearing For Failing To Match The A-10)
Moreover, the F-35B is strictly limited in how long it can hover over an area and how long it can fly at night.
In contrast, McSally praised the capabilities of the A-10, noting that it can “loiter over the battlefield for long periods without refueling. It can maneuver in difficult terrain at low altitudes, fly slowly enough to visually identify enemy and friendly forces and survive direct hits. And it’s one of our most lethal aircraft, especially against moving targets, with its 1,174 rounds of ammunition, missiles, rockets and bombs.”
McSally’s arguments seem to have convinced many airmen, but the Pentagon and Air Force aren’t budging.
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