A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flies during a “theater security package” deployment at Campia Turzii, Romania, April 1, 2015. The Air Force has discovered it needs the A-10 still, thanks to F-35 delays. (credit: US Air Force)
Last week, the joint commander in charge of operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria reported that Syrian Arab Coalition fighters had beaten back the group, taking the town of Al-Hawl and 250 square kilometers of territory around it in an offensive supported from the air by US Air Force A-10s and AC-130s flying from a Turkish air base. Now, the Air Force is apparently reconsidering the timeline it has set for retiring the A-10, as the demand for the venerable assault plane’s close air support capabilities rises yet again.
According to a Defense One report, US Air Combat Command chief General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said at a Defense Writer’s Group breakfast this morning that the Air Force “would probably move the retirement slightly to the right” because of the greater demands being placed on the Air Force’s operational capacity in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. “Eventually we will have to get there, we will have to retire airplanes,” Carlisle added, “but I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and maybe keeping the airplane around a little bit longer is something that’s being considered based on things as they are today and that we see them in the future.”
The Air Force has pushed Congress to retire the A-10 over the past two years as budget sequestration strained the service’s ability to continue to pay for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Air Force leaders said they need to free maintenance crews to train on servicing and supporting the F-35 as well.
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