A U.S. Force pilot sits in an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron on the flight line at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb.13, 2015. The A-10s deployed as part of a theater security package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe's continued commitment to the collective security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim/Released)
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FB: Welsh: Show me the money. The Air Force would love a new attack jet, but the budget situation does not allow it.
The Air Force wants a less costly next-generation aircraft for , cheapclose air support airplaneto replace the A-10, but there is no not thefunding available for it and there likely will not be in the future, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday the top Air Force uniformed official said today.
Given a better budget environment, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the service would want a new aircraft that could primarily focus on providing close support for ground troops, carry a lot of ordnance and do so more cheaply cheaper than other aircraft in the service's fleet, Welsh said. But it is not a realistic proposal today, he said. in the current budget environment.
"We need a low-threat CAS platform in the near future, if the money will allow it," Welsh said today at an event sponsored by Defense One in Washington, D.C. "It doesn't today, but we would certainly like to have something like that, that operates more efficiently than what we have today, that carries more firepower and does so in a low-threat environment."
This is the mission of the A-10, which the Air Force is targeting again for retirement. The service has said it would like to keep the aircraft around for the end of its planned service life, which is until about 2030. However, it does not have enough money to support the aircraft and its infrastructure. Other aircraft for now can pick up the slack in the mission of close air support until the F-35 comes on line.
The service has said it would save more than $4 billion over five years by cutting the A-10, and is making its pitch to a critical Congress that the move is purely a budget decision. Several key lawmakers aren't buying it and have vowed to block the move.
Welsh's comments Wednesday today mirror those of Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, who told reporters in February that a follow-on to the A-10 could be possible.
"I think it's something that has to be in the discussion," Carlisle said at an Air Force Association conference in February. "Another weapons system program may be something we need to consider as we look at the gaps and seams in the future and what we're doing. We're looking at all of that."
Carlisle followed up his announcement in March, saying a possible "A-X" system would address gaps in the low-end close air support mission area. There are iInitiatives out there for a possible aircraft, including Textron's new Scorpion jet, are out there but said any discussions are very preliminary, he said.
"That's not something that's outside the realm," Carlisle told reporters March 6 at the Pentagon. "It may be. We have gone out and looked at other platforms to see if they could meet the low-end CAS capacity at a reasonable cost per flying hour, and we've looked at it and done some research. We're keeping our eyes open."