The Air Force will remove 18 A-10s from its active flight lines as continues its push to retirebeginning the process of cutting back onthe Warthogs domestically, though it was authorized to cut more.

The service will also transition an F-16 squadron to the F-35 earlier than planned as it works to make the Joint Strike Fighter operational in 2016.

Both The moves are intended to free up maintainers to transition to the F-35 and meet the deadline to have the Joint Strike Fighter operational in 2016.

The service said Friday today the A-10s will move to "backup status" this year, meaning they will not actively fly but will be kept ready to serve as possible replacement aircraft should other A-10s become unserviceable. The fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act allows bill allowed the Air Force to move 36 A-10s off the flight line, but a move of that magnitude would have larger consequences.

"While we are authorized by Congress to put 36 aircraft into BAI status, doing that now would require taking down an entire squadron," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a news release announcing the move today. "Out of respect for the intent of Congress, we're placing 18 aircraft in BAI status."

The aircraft are: nine from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; six from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; and three from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. All of the aircraft are assigned to active-duty squadrons. The Air Force could still move the remaining 18 authorized later this year, but there are no current, public plans to do so. The Air Force has 283 A-10s in its total force fleet.

The deactivationmove will free up maintainers to transfer to the F-35 program, a move Air Force leadership has said is integral to getting the F-35 to initial operating capability by making the 2016 deadline for that aircraft's initial operating capability. The Defense Department's director of cost assessment and program evaluation completed a study earlier this year that said the limited number amount of experienced maintainers constrains both is constraining legacy fleet readiness and , as well as the fielding of the F-35. While it helps, the A-10this move is "far from sufficient" to counter maintainer shortfalls, according to the Air Force.

To further address help the shortfall, the Air Force will convert one F-16 squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to an F-35 squadron earlier than planned to free up maintainers. The service wanted to stand up the F-35 unit in addition to the F-16 units, but does not have enough maintainers to do so, according to the release. The Air Force plans to give the F-16s to some Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units when they lose their A-10 aircraft.

In addition, the service will contract maintenance for F-35s at the main operational training base, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. This move "helps ensure enough Air Force maintainers are trained and in place to support the F-35 at initial operational capability and beyond," James said in the release.

The reduction of A-10s will not impede impact coming A-10 deployments through 2018, according to the Air Force.