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Warning from Congress. Lawmakers say Air Force's A-10 arguments hurt its reputation on Capitol Hill.

Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee vowed to follow the House committee's lead and block the Air Force's move to retire the A-10 Warthog fleet.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said at a Capitol Hill news conference that she will work with the committee to not only block the retirement, but block any move to put some of the its fleet in backup inventory, as was allowed like that in last year's bill that let the service put some of its fleet into back up inventory.

"I want to make sure as we look at putting the language together on the Senate end that we preserve the A-10 and we preserve the capability," Ayotte said at the Tuesday conference. "It can't be that the Air Force is allowed again to diminish its maintenance capability or do a de facto retirement. I will make sure that the language is strong."

The House Armed Services Committee, in its markup of the defense bill last week, both provided about $682 million to keep the fleet flying and passed an amendment to block any changes to the A-10 fleet.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the Air Force's arguments to retire the A-10 -- that other aircraft can pick up the close air support mission and that the service needs money and people freed up to bring the F-35 online -- do not make sense when to retire an aircraft that is important in close air support , and is flying today in Iraq and Syria.

"It's bewildering almost to me to see that the Air Force continues to advocate for the elimination of the most important single instrument in protecting our troops on the ground," he said.

The Ayotte-led news conference also included multiple retired Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, including retired Master Sgt. Charlie Keebaugh, the head of the Tactical Air Control Party Association.

The A-10's role is not only important on the battlefield, but it's also extremely important for training airmen, Keebaugh said. A-10s, depending on the command, take part in up 25 percent to 50 percent of training missions for joint terminal attack controllers, he Keebaugh said.

"The A-10 cannot be replaced by any other aircraft," Keebaugh said. "It disgusts me that we are even having this conversation. I'm not sure what they're coming for next, if they are going to take our radios, or our body armor or our boots. It makes no sense."

The Air Force argues that other aircraft can pick up the A-10's close air support mission and that the service needs money and people freed up to bring the F-35 online.

This is the Air Force's second attempt at retiring the A-10 in recent years, and it has not gone over well with most of Congress. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said that the service leadership keeps "making claims that do not bear out" and it is having an impact on the service's standing with Congress.

"If you don't watch it, you are going to ruin what's left of your reputation on Capitol Hill," Graham said.

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