The Air Force plans to stand down three Guard, one Reserve and one active A-10 squadrons as the Pentagon tries to trim nearly $500 billion in spending. (Staff Sgt. Dayton Mitchell / Air Force)
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The Air Force move in the proposed fiscal 2013 budget to stand down five A-10 squadrons over time will still leave it with a large number of Thunderbolts at its disposal.
The Air Force plans to stand down three Guard, one Reserve and one active A-10 squadrons. An F-16 tactical squadron and an F-15 training squadron would also be cut as part of a wider Defense Department effort to trim nearly $500 billion in spending over the next decade.
The Air Force currently has 348 A-10s across the active component, Guard and Reserve, said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. The proposed budget cuts would retire 102 aircraft, or about 29 percent of the current A-10 inventory, according to an Air Force white paper.
The proposed budget cuts also call for retiring 21 older F-16s, the white paper says.
The Air Force decided which aircraft it could cut after an analysis revealed the service had too many fighters, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said at a Jan. 27 news conference.
"The mix of this was - again, had to do with emphasizing multirole over those kinds of aircraft with more niche or less versatility, because in a smaller force I think you can appreciate the mandate, the necessity for maximum versatility," Schwartz told reporters.
The Air Force and the other services want to gravitate toward the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will be able to conduct a number of missions including close air support and air-to-air combat, but the expensive aircraft has already been plagued by a litany of problems and will remain in development for a number of more years, according to program officials.
Still, the Air Force needs aircraft that can do more than one mission, said Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke with Military Times reporters and editors on Jan. 26.
"Is the F-35 going to be as good a close-air support platform as an A-10? I don't think anybody believes that," Winnefeld said, "But is the A-10 going to be the air-to-air platform that the F-35 is going to be? So again, the Air Force is trying to get as much multimission capability into the limited number of platforms it's going to have."