The United State Air Force is moving quickly to mothball the A-10. The System Program Office’s A-10 grounding projection shows that nearly a quarter of the small fleet will be sent to the boneyard by 2025.
Currently 109 Warthogs are expected to be moved to the boneyard due to Congress’ failure to heed warnings that the contract with Boeing for new wings would expire.
The United State Air Force (USAF) had a contract with Boeing to provide 173 Enhanced Wing Assemblies (EWA) with the option to purchase enough new wings for the entire 281 aircraft in the A-10 fleet. “Congress was asleep at the wheel, we told them the USAF was going to allow the Boeing contract to expire long before it happened. Now any new wing contract has to be re-competed IAW the FAR,” a source told the ADI.
For months the Air Force’s publicity releases and congressional testimony have led the public to believe that the A-10 is not in danger of grounding. It appears that the public has been deliberately misled as to the A-10’s fate.
In March, in response to questions from Rep. Martha McSally during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, USAF Secretary Heather Wilson testified that the USAF “expects the A-10 to continue flying at least until 2030.”
McSally later touted the testimony as proof that she “saved the A-10.” “This is the first time that any Air Force Secretary has gone on the record publically to support keeping the A-10 fleet operational into the 2030’s,” McSally said in a press release.
In that press release titled, “McSally Gets Air Force Secretary On Public Record For First Time On Keeping The A-10 Fleet “At Least Until 2030,” McSally “thanked the Secretary for Air Force’s commitments to re-wing the remaining A-10s.”
Washington, D.C.—In a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Representative McSally questioned Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on details of the Air Force’s plan to keep the A-10 in the operational fleet for the next decade or more.
“Two years ago, we sat in a similar hearing with previous Air Force leadership arguing strongly about the need to keep the A-10 Warthog. We won. Since then, the A-10 has been pivotal ‘schwacking’ ISIS, deployed to the European defense, been ready south of the DMZ, and have now been sent back to Afghanistan,” said Congresswoman McSally.
Congresswoman McSally thanked the Secretary for Air Force’s commitments to re-wing the remaining A-10s but expressed concern regarding conflicting statements by certain Air Force officials on the status of the A-10’s future. “There’ve been some reports that divestment will still commence in a few years, and other public statements saying it will fly well into the 2030’s and beyond. So can you state for the record how long you plan to have the A-10 in the inventory?”
In response to Rep. McSally’s question, Secretary Wilson stated that the Air Forces “expect[s] the A-10 to continue flying at least until 2030.” This is the first time that any Air Force Secretary has gone on the record publically to support keeping the A-10 fleet operational into the 2030’s.
Left out of McSally’s press release is the complete exchange between her and Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris. According to Defense News, Harris, responded to McSally “that the service opted to keep production of wings at a lower level until the Defense Department completes a number of studies of its combat aircraft inventory, to include the much-hyped comparative tests between the A-10 and F-35 that will measure both planes’ close air support bona fides.”
“We’re not going to make a further commitment until we know where we’re going with both the A-10 and the F-35,” said Harris.
Another point of contention between McSally and Harris was the number of A-10s slated to move through the rewinging process. The Air Force has only committed to retaining six of the nine currently existing Warthog squadrons to 2030.
While McSally is correct that the “A-10 has been pivotal” in “schwacking” ISIS, Congress’ inattention has been pivotal in schwacking the A-10.
According to Pierre Sprey, one of the designers of the A-10, “It will take six years to rewing the first operational A-10, according to the leisurely schedule laid out in the Air Force’s RFI for the new wing contract.” “Another indicator the USAF is slow rolling the entire process,” said one source.
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Had the USAF kept the Boeing production line open, it would have saved the taxpayers most of the $103 million dollars now in the FY18 budget to reopen the line. Once Boeing closed the manufacturing plant down and disassembled all the tooling, it was virtually game over for the Warthog. Sprey says “this was just part of the USAF’s longstanding strategy to back door divest themselves of the Close Air Support aircraft they never wanted.”
The A-10 System Program Office’s A-10 grounding projection (current as of December 2017) shows the total A-10s grounded
FY19 – 17
FY20 – 29
FY21 – 36
FY22 – 43
FY23 – 51
FY24 – 52
FY25 – 53
In the opinion of experts, these numbers do not support McSally’s “I saved the A-10 from the Boneyard.”
Supporters of the A-10 say that McSally’s effort to cover her failure in oversight–and the failure of both the House and Senate Armed Services committees to oversee the A-10 rewinging program–has prevented the public’s oversight and any coordinated fight to save the Warthog. McSally’s insistence that she was winning the fight prompted others to leave it in what they believed were her capable hands.
McSally isn’t the only one who misled the public. Over and over again, as seen in the testimony of Wilson and the various generals who have testified before Congress, the USAF has carefully parsed words to appease Congress while destroying the Warthog.
According to Sprey, ever since he and dedicated supporters of the close support mission rolled out the nearly indestructible aircraft, the USAF has sought to mothball it. Not only has the USAF resisted every attempt to save the Warthog and the Close Support Mission, it has even taken dramatic steps to silence its critics.
Dan Grazier, Jack Shanahan Military Fellow, with the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) stated, “This entire episode shows to what lengths Air Force leaders will go to rid themselves of an aircraft and a mission they have always viewed with contempt. Their actions here hurt not only the taxpayers, but more importantly put the lives of our men and women on the ground at risk.”