The Air Force Times has once again confirmed the fears of fans of the A-10. The Air Force is considering scrapping its entire fleet of A-10 attack jets and KC-10 tankers, according to multiple military and defense sources. The cuts would not only devastate localities such as Tucson, the home of the Davis Monthan Air Force Base, but also those “boots on the ground that rely on the close air cover provided by the aircraft.”
According to the Air Force Times, the F-15C fighters and a planned $6.8 billion purchase of new combat search-and-rescue helicopters, are also on the chopping block.
Yesterday, Senator Kelly Ayotte a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned the 2015 POM, which divests the A-10. Air Force officials admitted that the A-10’s complete divestiture is on the table.
Arizona Senator John McCain sits on the same committee and his office has not returned calls.
The Air Force has long desired to eliminate the less than glamorous A-10, and sequestration provides the perfect excuse to do so.
Each service is developing two budgets for 2015, according to the Air Force Times – one that includes sequestration spending cuts, and another that builds on the Pentagon’s 2014 budget proposal, which is $52 billion above the sequestration cap.
According to sources, the A-10 is the only plane in the Air Force Times article that is mentioned in the 2015 POM (budget). Sources say they believe the Air Force is creating a smoke screen to pull attention away from those most concerned with the A-10’s demise. Sources say that A-10 pilots have had future training schedules cancelled – a clear indication that its future is at risk.
While many in the Tucson community hoped that the Davis Monthan Air Force Base would survive the A-10’s demise due to its massive aircraft “boneyard” of mothballed planes, Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller told a local radio show host that she was told the mothballed planes are now being sent to Utah.
“You only gain major savings if you cut an entire fleet,” Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff, said in a Sept. 10 interview with the Air Force Times. “You can cut aircraft from a fleet, but you save a lot more money if you cut all the infrastructure that supports the fleet.”
When directly asked about phasing out the A-10 fleet by the Air Force Times, Welsh declined to comment on specific aircraft.
“We are looking at every platform we have, every one of those five core missions and trying to decide where must we recapitalize versus where can we modernize,” Welsh said.
The proposed aircraft cuts, particularly the fleet of 340 A-10s, are sure to face scrutiny in Congress according to the Air Force Times. This is because the A-10 is a sturdy, multi-purpose plane that has saved countless lives of service members on the ground. Its maneuverability and durability are truly unique in the Pentagon’s airplane portfolio.
Supporters of the A-10 are hoping that the plane will not be scrapped completely and the Army will take over its operation. That will not help the residents of towns like Tucson, who have relied on the over $16 million annually the base brings to their economy. Tucson residents live in the nation’s 5th poorest metropolitan area in the country. With a business un-friendly City Council, the residents of Tucson have few options for employment other than those provided by government.
Over the Congressional summer break, Tucsonans first learned of the A-10’s possible fate when Arizona Senator Jeff Flake dropped the A-10 news bomb his Tucson constituents. In a radio interview, Flake inadvertently confirmed that the A-10’s demise was planned but attempted to reassure listeners that the A-10 would be replaced with the F-35. Stunned residents flooded the phone lines due to the fact that Tucson had just lost the F-35 to its northern neighbors, and Flake’s reassurances were a slap in the face.
According to staff for Congressman Ron Barber, there is a hearing this week in the House Armed Services Committee on which Congressman Barber serves. The topic is sequestration; therefore, the A-10 may be brought up in the hearing. The congressman promised to keep the public advised.
The Air Force Times reported that about half of the A-10 fleet resides in the Air National Guard. An Air Force proposal to cut five A-10 squadrons last year faced stiff opposition in Congress and from state governors.