Time to save the A-10’s ass, after years of it saving ours

a-10-warthog-fullThe A-10 has been spared until December 31, 2014, due to the efforts of the public, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Congressman Ron Barber. Despite the tremendous out-pouring of support for the plane, its reprieve is short-lived if the Air Force gets its way.

In a piece for Harper’s, Andrew Cockburn writes, “The characteristics that enable the A-10 to observe the battleground with such precision, and safely to target enemy forces a stone’s throw away from friendly troops, should ensure it a long life — at least until a superior replacement is developed. But the Air Force has other plans. Assuming the leadership gets its way, all A-10 units will be disbanded in 2015, and the aircraft itself will be junked. Close support will be assigned to the B-1 bomber fleet, along with various jet fighters, including the F-35, which has yet to undergo operational testing and is estimated to cost $200 million per plane.”

To be more specific, the Air Force is proposing that all active duty A-10 units be divested in FY 2015-2016, including the Air National Guard unit in Boise. All Guard and Reserve A-10 units will be divested in FY 2017-2019.

As a result, two pieces of legislation are being forwarded to ensure that the A-10 does not go away until there is legitimately something in place to replace it. In the Senate, current sponsors/cosponsors of S.1764 are Senators Ayotte, Blunt, Crapo, McCaskill, Graham, Isakson, and Baldwin. In the House, current sponsors/cosponsors of HR.3657 are representatives Barber, Bishop, Hartzler, Kingston, Miller, Scott, and Shea-Porter.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake says he cannot support the A-10 and the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act because passing the funding would have only “hindered the Pentagon’s ability to make the tough choices that will be necessary in the wake of budget cuts, sequestration, and the drawdown in Afghanistan.”

Flake’s response clearly demonstrates that the Air Force’s propaganda campaign, which promotes the idea that we will no longer fight wars on the ground, is taking hold of the simpler minds in the U.S. Senate.

It is those simple minds and their inability to challenge the experts that has allowed the Air Force to even consider abandoning the A-10. Fortunately for the troops on the ground, Ayotte has not been willing to blindly accept the death verdicts for the plane and many of the troops it protects.

Those “experts” in the Air Force have resented the A-10 since it came into being. According to Cockburn, “The Air Force had to live with the instrument of its victory, an aircraft that represented everything that it had fought so hard to escape. From early on, the A-10 was treated as the poor relation, unwelcome at the feast. During the Reagan years, a golden age for the military-industrial complex, the Air Force showered money on such cherished programs as the B-1 bomber and the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. Meanwhile, the generals shut down the A-10 production line in 1984 (thirty-seven of the original 750 were still to be built) and firmly nipped in the bud any initiative to develop a replacement. In 1988, General Robert Russ, head of Tactical Air Command, announced in the semi-official pages of Air Force Magazine that the A-10 had been far outclassed by such favorites as the F-16. “Slow ducks,” Russ told his readers, “will be dead ducks.”

Cockburn notes that no A-10s were included in the initial air deployment for the Gulf War. Cockburn writes:

Legend has it that General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander-in-chief of the expedition, was well aware of the plane’s potency against enemy armor, so he demanded of his air commander, General Charles Horner: Where was the A-10?

“Oh,” replied Horner, “the F-16s can do the job.”

“Don’t give me that Air Force political bullshit,” snapped Schwarzkopf. “Bring me the A-10!”

It was a wise decision. While precision-guided bombs and missiles captured the imagination of the media and the public, thanks to the new CNN-funneled video footage they provided, these weapons turned out to be less useful at destroying targets — especially if the targets were moving. It was left to 144 grudgingly deployed A-10s to dispatch the bulk of the Iraqi armor, along with truck convoys, radar sites, and other crucial targets. Some A-10s even flew off “hasty bases,” rough strips secretly laid deep inside Iraq’s western desert, the better to hunt for elusive Scud missile launchers. So useful did they prove that Horner, by all accounts an emotional character, was inspired at the war’s end to send a signal back to Washington stating, “The A-10 saved my ass.”

Few know that in Desert Storm, Brigadier General Gloson, who worked for General Horner, grounded the USAF F-16s in the theatre for the last two weeks of Desert Storm because they could not hit anything. The pilots were dropping bombs near transonic because the aircraft is extremely vulnerable, and the pilots were concerned about getting shot down. Transonic, meaning faster than intended, caused all ballistics assumptions to go out the window.

Also Read A-10: The most terrifying yet beautiful sound I have ever heard

Also, God in His infinite wisdom and apparent penchant for irony, blessed Horner with a son who turned out to be an A-10 pilot.

But we digress.

Now, it is time for the public to save the A-10’s ass. A-10 pilots and the boots on the ground are asking the public to contact every single one of their senators and representatives and demand that they support S.1764 and HR.3657. The Air Force has divulged their plan to use F-35, but everyone knows it cannot replace the A-10.

If the Air Force refuses to accept that reality, our representatives must see that they do not have a choice.

Senate contact numbers:

Alexander, Lamar (TN)(202) 224-4944

Ayotte, Kelly (NH)(202) 224-3324

Baldwin, Tammy (WI)(202) 224-5653

Barrasso, John (WY)(202) 224-6441

Baucus, Max (MT)(202) 224-2651

Begich, Mark (AK)(202) 224-3004

Bennet, Michael F. (CO)(202) 224-5852

Blumenthal, Richard (CT)(202) 224-2823

Blunt, Roy (MO)(202) 224-5721

Booker, Cory A. (NJ)(202) 224-3224

Boozman, John (AR)(202) 224-4843

Boxer, Barbara (CA)(202) 224-3553

Brown, Sherrod (OH)(202) 224-2315

Burr, Richard (NC)(202) 224-3154

Cantwell, Maria (WA)(202) 224-3441

Cardin, Benjamin L. (MD)(202) 224-4524

Carper, Thomas R. (DE)(202) 224-2441

Casey, Robert P., Jr. (PA)(202) 224-6324

Chambliss, Saxby (GA)(202) 224-3521

Coats, Daniel (IN)(202) 224-5623

Coburn, Tom (OK)(202) 224-5754

Cochran, Thad (MS) (202) 224-5054

Collins, Susan M. (ME) (202) 224-2523

Coons, Christopher A. (DE) (202) 224-5042

Corker, Bob (TN) (202) 224-3344

Cornyn, John (TX)(202) 224-2934

Crapo, Mike (ID)(202) 224-6142

Cruz, Ted (TX)(202) 224-5922

Donnelly, Joe (IN)(202) 224-4814

Durbin, Richard J. (IL)(202) 224-2152

Enzi, Michael B. (WY)(202) 224-3424

Feinstein, Dianne (CA)(202) 224-3841

Fischer, Deb (NE)(202) 224-6551

Flake, Jeff (AZ)(202) 224-4521

Franken, Al (MN)(202) 224-5641

Gillibrand, Kirsten E. (NY)(202) 224-4451

Graham, Lindsey (SC)(202) 224-5972

Grassley, Chuck (IA)(202) 224-3744

Hagan, Kay R. (NC)(202) 224-6342

Harkin, Tom (IA)(202) 224-3254

Hatch, Orrin G. (UT)(202) 224-5251

Heinrich, Martin (NM)(202) 224-5521

Heitkamp, Heidi (ND)(202) 224-2043

Heller, Dean (NV)(202) 224-6244

Hirono, Mazie K. (HI)(202) 224-6361

Hoeven, John (ND)(202) 224-2551

Inhofe, James M. (OK)(202) 224-4721

Isakson, Johnny (GA)(202) 224-3643

Johanns, Mike (NE)(202) 224-4224

Johnson, Ron (WI)(202) 224-5323

Johnson, Tim (SD)(202) 224-5842

Kaine, Tim (VA)(202) 224-4024

King, Angus S., Jr. (ME)(202) 224-5344

Kirk, Mark (IL)(202) 224-2854

Klobuchar, Amy (MN)(202) 224-3244

Landrieu, Mary L. (LA)(202) 224-5824

Leahy, Patrick J. (VT)(202) 224-4242

Lee, Mike (UT)(202) 224-5444

Levin, Carl (MI)(202) 224-6221

Manchin, Joe, (WV)(202) 224-3954

Markey, Edward J. (MA)(202) 224-2742

McCain, John (AZ)(202) 224-2235

McCaskill, Claire (MO)(202) 224-6154

McConnell, Mitch (KY)(202) 224-2541

Menendez, Robert (NJ)(202) 224-4744

Merkley, Jeff (OR)(202) 224-3753

Mikulski, Barbara A. (MD)(202) 224-4654

Moran, Jerry (KS)(202) 224-6521

Murkowski, Lisa (AK)(202) 224-6665

Murphy, Christopher (CT)(202) 224-4041

Murray, Patty (WA)(202) 224-2621

Nelson, Bill (FL)(202) 224-5274

Paul, Rand (KY)(202) 224-4343

Portman, Rob (OH)(202) 224-3353

Pryor, Mark L. (AR)(202) 224-2353

Reed, Jack (RI)(202) 224-4642

Reid, Harry (NV)(202) 224-3542

Risch, James E. (ID)(202) 224-2752

Roberts, Pat (KS)(202) 224-4774

Rockefeller, John D., IV (WV)(202) 224-6472

Rubio, Marco (FL)(202) 224-3041

Sanders, Bernard (VT)(202) 224-5141

Schatz, Brian (HI)(202) 224-3934

Schumer, Charles E. (NY)(202) 224-6542

Scott, Tim (SC)(202) 224-6121

Sessions, Jeff (AL)(202) 224-4124

Shaheen, Jeanne (NH)(202) 224-2841

Shelby, Richard C. (AL)(202) 224-5744

Stabenow, Debbie (MI)(202) 224-4822

Tester, Jon (MT)(202) 224-2644

Thune, John (SD)(202) 224-2321

Toomey, Patrick J. (PA)(202) 224-4254

Udall, Mark (CO)(202) 224-5941

Udall, Tom (NM)(202) 224-6621

Vitter, David (LA)(202) 224-4623

Warner, Mark R. (VA)(202) 224-2023

Warren, Elizabeth (MA)(202) 224-4543

Whitehouse, Sheldon (RI)(202) 224-2921

Wicker, Roger F. (MS)(202) 224-6253

Wyden, Ron (OR)(202) 224-5244

In Arizona call:

Senator John McCain202-224-2235602-952-2410www.mccain.senate.gov/
Senator Jeff Flake202-224-4521602-840-1891www.flake.senate.gov/
Rep Ann Kirkpatrick(D1)202-225-3361520-316-0839www.kirkpatrick.house.gov/
Rep Ron Barber(D2)202-225-2542520-881-3588www.barber.house.gov/
Rep Raul M. Grijalva(D3)202-225-2435520-622-6788www.grijalva.house.gov/
Rep Paul A. Gosar(R4)202-225-2315480-882-2697www.gosar.house.gov/
Rep Matt Salmon(R5)202-225-2635480-699-8239www.salmon.house.gov/
Rep David Schweikert(R6)202-225-2190480-946-2411www.schweikert.house.gov/
Rep Ed Pastor (D7)202-225-4065602-256-0551www.pastor.house.gov/
Rep Trent Franks (R8)202-225-4576202-225-4576www.franks.house.gov/
Rep Kyrsten Sinema (D9)202-225-9888602-956-2285www.sinema.house.gov/