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The A-10 will likely see its last flight sooner than planned if sequestration continues, the chief of Air Combat Command said today.
The Air Force will be forced to look at cutting single-mission aircraft under continuing budget cuts because more savings will be realized by ending the full weapon system, including infrastructure and training, as opposed to cutting just squadrons. With the F-35 coming online to take over the close-air support role, the venerable Thunderbolt II will be a likely target, Gen. Mike Hostage told reporters at the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference.
“This is not something I want to do,” Hostage said, explaining that no decisions had been made.
Hostage said he had already talked to Army officials about losing the A-10 and using other jets to take over the close-air support role. The Army was “not happy” about the possibility, Hostage said.
“I will not lose what we have gained in how we learned to support the Army,” Hostage said. “I had to make sure the Army understood that I am not backing away from the mission.”
Hostage said the service can do the close-air support role with the F-35, but it would be more expensive and “not as impressive” without the famous GAU-8 Avenger 30 millimeter gun.
“In a perfect world, I would have 1,000 A-10s,” Hostage said. “I can’t afford it. I can’t afford the fleet I have now. If I cut the fleet in half, do I save enough to get through this problem?
“My view is, while I don’t want to do it, I would rather lose the entire fleet and save everything I do in the infrastructure.”
Hostage’s comments follow similar statements from both acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh that single-mission aircraft would need to be cut if budgets continue to decrease.
“If we go into [fiscal year 2014] with sequestration still in effect, and we need to achieve those savings, you have to look at cuts,” Fanning said Monday. “You can’t get your money out of installations because they won’t support [base realignment and closure]. You can’t get money out of people fast enough. It takes about a year to get savings out of people."