It is midnight for the A-10, do you know where your representative is?

jeff flakeA last minute push has begun to secure co-sponsors for legislation that will protect the A-10 from the Air Force. Members of the public are being encouraged to call their representatives and ask them to sign on to a letter from New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, before noon on Thursday, May 1.

Military Legislative Assistants are circulating the letter in order to gather as much support as possible against was seems to be the Air Force’s determination to scrap the slow and low flying aircraft.

For residents of states like Arizona, the A-10’s demise would be an almost immediate $1.6 billion hit to their economy. To the boots on the ground, the loss is incalculable.

So far, in Arizona, only Senator John McCain and Representative Ron Barber have stepped up to fight for the plane. Supporters of the A-10 and Davis Monthan Air Force base have few remaining chances to protect the plane and this push is essential to preserve the aircraft for at least one more year.

Ayotte is sending her letter on Friday to Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran regarding the A-10.

In her letter, Ayotte points out the Air Force’s propaganda war against the A-10. She writes, “The Air Force asserts that other aircraft (such as the F-15, F-16, or B-1) can cover the CAS mission for the A-10—emphasizing that these aircraft conduct the majority of CAS missions. The Air Force leadership has said that 80% of CAS missions in Afghanistan have been conducted by other aircraft.”

Ayotte asserts that the “statistic is misleading. According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the 80% statistic includes aircraft that fly CAS missions but never attack targets on the ground and does not take into account how many passes are used. In other words, a B-1 flying at thousands of feet that never drops a bomb is counted the same as an A-10 that flies at low levels above the enemy position, conducts multiple gun passes within meters of friendly ground forces, and uses a 30 millimeter nose cannon to fire hundreds of rounds at enemy forces about to overrun a U.S. position. On April 10, in a SASC hearing, General Welsh confirmed that the 80% statistic counts CAS missions that never attack targets on the ground.”

Despite the fact that General Odierno, at April 3rd SASC Army Posture Hearing, said, “So the A-10 is a great close air support aircraft, as far as we’re concerned, the best close air support aircraft,” the Air Force brass is determined to scrap it for the more expensive F-35.

Gen. Odierno, admitted at April 8th SASC Hearing, that everyone prefers the A-10. “Soldiers like the A-10. They can see it, they can hear it, they have confidence in it. And that’s the one thing that we have to account for as we move forward,” said Odierno.

In prepared testimony for April 10th SASC Hearing, Sec. of the Air Force James and Gen. Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff said that “divesting the A-10 causes a loss of combat-tested aircraft optimized to conduct the close air support mission.”

General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, has said, “The A-10 is the best close air support platform we have today…it’s performed incredibly well in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers are very confident in the system.”

Air Force Master Sergeant (retired) Eric Brandenburg, an Afghanistan and Iraq combat veteran and former Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who earned a Silver Star and five Bronze Star medals for actions during combat related to close air support, said, “The A-10 is a uniquely capable close air support aircraft and the best in DoD’s inventory. I am—like many of my former colleagues—alive today because of the A-10. If the A-10 had been divested the last time the Air Force wanted to do so, I would likely have not returned home from combat to my family. When our troops are in danger of being overrun, we must send the best assets to help them. If the A-10 is not available in future conflicts when our ground troops call for help, Americans will needlessly be injured and killed.”

Despite this, citing budget pressures, the Air Force has said it wants to divest the entire A-10 fleet by fiscal year 2019—beginning in FY 2015. According to her staff, Senator Ayotte believes a decision to prematurely divest the A-10 would put our ground forces in serious additional danger in future conflicts.

Ayotte’s letter:

May 2, 2014

Dear Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran,

We are united in our belief that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation to ensure they have the very best support possible so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely. While we recognize that the Air Force confronts difficult budget decisions, we believe the decision to prematurely divest the A-10 would put our ground forces in serious additional danger in future conflicts. For that reason, we respectfully ask that you join us in opposing the Air Force’s proposal and instead provide the necessary funding in fiscal year (FY) 2015 to maintain the current A-10 fleet.

When it comes to close air support (CAS), there is no question which aircraft is best. In a November 7, 2013 Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, said, “The A-10 is the best close air support platform we have today…it’s performed incredibly well in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers are very confident in the system.” General Odierno repeated that assertion in an April 3, 2014, SASC hearing and again reiterated his confidence in the A-10 on April 8, 2014, “Obviously, we prefer the A-10.” On April 10, 2014, General Mark Welsh admitted in a SASC hearing that the A-10 is a “combat-tested aircraft optimized to conduct the close air support mission…” The unique and life-saving capabilities of the A-10 were on full display last summer in Afghanistan when—according to an Air Force report—the A-10 saved the lives of 60 Americans.

Countless soldiers, airmen, Marines, and special operators up and down the chain of command also echo this praise of the A-10’s capabilities. For example, Air Force Master Sergeant (retired) Eric Brandenburg—an Afghanistan and Iraq combat veteran and former Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who earned a Silver Star and five Bronze Star medals for actions during combat related to close air support—says, “The A-10 is a uniquely capable close air support aircraft and the best in DoD’s inventory. I am—like many of my former colleagues—alive today because of the A-10. If the A-10 had been divested the last time the Air Force wanted to do so, I would likely have not returned home from combat to my family. When our troops are in danger of being overrun, we must send the best assets to help them. If the A-10 is not available in future conflicts when our ground troops call for help, Americans will needlessly be injured and killed.”

In addition to being our nation’s best CAS aircraft, the A-10 is also the Air Force’s most cost-efficient CAS aircraft. According to the Air Force, the operational cost per flying hour for the A-10—which takes into account sustainment costs—is significantly below the F-15E, F-16, B-1, AC-130, or the B-52.

There is no doubt that the Air Force confronts difficult budget decisions. However, cutting the Air Force’s most combat-effective and cost-efficient CAS aircraft is not the best way to address those challenges.
The Air Force leadership has asserted that the A-10 is a single mission aircraft, and that the Air Force cannot afford to maintain aircraft that do not have more than one mission. However, the A-10 is not a single mission aircraft. It has other primary missions including forward air controller-airborne (FAC-A) and combat search and rescue (CSAR). Admittedly, it is true that the A-10 was designed with CAS in mind and A-10 pilots focus intensely on the CAS mission. As the 60 soldiers saved during the engagement in Afghanistan last summer undoubtedly would attest, CAS is a particularly important mission.

The Air Force asserts that other aircraft (such as the F-15, F-16, or B-1) can cover the CAS mission for the A-10—emphasizing that these aircraft conduct the majority of CAS missions. The Air Force leadership has said that 80% of CAS missions in Afghanistan have been conducted by other aircraft.

That statistic is misleading. According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the 80% statistic includes aircraft that fly CAS missions but never attack targets on the ground and does not take into account how many passes are used. In other words, a B-1 flying at thousands of feet that never drops a bomb is counted the same as an A-10 that flies at low levels above the enemy position, conducts multiple gun passes within meters of friendly ground forces, and uses a 30 millimeter nose cannon to fire hundreds of rounds at enemy forces about to overrun a U.S. position. On April 10, in a SASC hearing, General Welsh confirmed that the 80% statistic counts CAS missions that never attack targets on the ground.

There is no doubt that other aircraft have an important role to play in other missions and can perform some close air support missions. However, as our ground troops and A-10 pilots understand, not all CAS missions are the same. For example, dropping a precision munition from thousands of feet in the air on a stationary target looking at a video display is not the same as conducting low level strafing runs in bad weather or rough terrain against a moving target that is within a few dozen meters of friendly troops. The ability to operate low and loiter safely within eyesight of the ground engagement is part of the reason the A-10 has a faster re-attack time compared to other aircraft. It is also part of the reason why the A-10 is especially good at avoiding fratricide and civilian casualties.

It is important to recognize that the proposal to retire the A-10 fleet is, like other elements of the DoD proposed budget, based in part upon broader assumptions regarding the types of conflicts the nation may face in the future. While we certainly hope we will not have to fight wars in the future that require the CAS provided by the A-10, history suggests we would be wise to be prepared. For us, this is not about the A-10; it is about the uniquely capable protection the A-10 provides for our troops on the ground. We do not believe the A-10 can serve in the inventory forever—it will eventually be replaced. However, we should not divest the A-10 until a capable replacement reaches full operational capability. The Air Force believes the F-35A will assume the current roles of the F-16 and the A-10 as it replaces them in the fleet. Yet, the F-35A is not scheduled to achieve full operational capability before 2021—leaving at least a two year gap between the final divestment of the A-10 and its planned replacement achieving full operational capability.

We have a responsibility to ensure our ground troops receive the best possible CAS so that brave service members like MSG (retired) Brandenburg can return home to their families after future conflicts. When we fail to fulfill that responsibility, the cost is measured in the lives of our troops.

For these reasons, we respectfully request that you oppose the Air Force’s proposal to divest the A-10 and instead provide the necessary funding in FY 2015 to maintain the current A-10 fleet.

Thank you for your leadership and service in the United States Senate.

Committee Members:
1. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) [Chairman] 202-225-1956
2. Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-OH) 202-225-6465
3. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) [Ranking Member] 202-225-8901
4. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) 202-225-2965
5. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) 202-225-5672
6. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) 202-225-3711
7. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) 202-225-2271
8. Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL) 202-225-1002
9. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) 202-225-2211

In Arizona call:

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

Related articles:

Air Force brass taken to task for A-10 mothball plans

Army Vice Chief of Staff says A-10 is a “game changer”

A-10, D-M truth needs to be told, action needs to be taken

Air Force A-10 plans could cost Tucson up to $480 million annually

Flake drops A-10 bomb on constituents

7 Comments

  1. Call to action for today must be to call your representative and senator and demand that they stop this insane move to destroy the A-10 until a suitable replacement is in place and operational the protect the men and women fighting on the ground,

    it just takes a few minutes to call it is :9:05 am in Washington call now.

  2. it is time to stepup and Act. Today must be the day to call your representative and senator even the Flake, and demand that they stop this insane move to destroy the A-10 until a suitable replacement is in place and operational the protect the men and women fighting on the ground,

    it just takes a few minutes to call it is :9:05 am in Washington call now.

  3. this decision was made months if not years ago – this nation is ‘disjointed from its populace’ – they just don’t care.. the A-10 is but a symptom of the decay that this cancer has caused – God Bless America

  4. Why is Chuck Wooten the only candidate that cared enough to
    attend the full hearing in DC – at his own expense? Get educated
    folks and don’t except the candidates the Carolyn Cox and John’s
    McCain & Boehner are shoving down our throats – again. How many times
    does McSally have to lose before we give up on her? She won’t debate.
    She won’t answer questions. She doesn’t even acknowledge she is in a primary.
    Get to work folks. Chief Wooten stood up for us now it’s time for us to stand up
    for him. Go get ’em Chief.

  5. Do your own research. Go to Wooten2014.com
    This is the man we have been waiting for, McSally is a Rino and she has lost twice.
    We need new blood. We need Wooten!!

  6. Any general, admiral, colonel or naval captain within our armed forces who agrees that the A-10 should be divested at this time is speaking with his/her political tongue and not his/her military tongue. These “yes men” at the highest ranks are thinking more about their individual careers than they are about the entirety of our armed forces. Most likely these people will have retired themselves before the A-10 is to be fully retired. So what do they care? That’s called weak leadership. It’s a sad time for our armed forces.

  7. “To the boots on the ground, the loss is incalculable.” That sums it up, right there.

    Ron Barber spoke at the press conference following the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the A-10 but didn’t even bother to mention how much (if any) support he has for the A-10 in the House of Representatives. GOP primary candidates seeking to unseat Barber in November all claim to support the A-10, but–as Im stated–only Chuck Wooten walked the walk and attended the hearing (and the press conference)…and on his own dime at that. McSally couldn’t be bothered, nor could Kais; they were both out in the weeds campaigning somewhere when that crucial hearing was taking place.

    And as Huh says, We the People need to call all of the sitting Representatives and Senators we can, even including “the Flake”.

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