The Air Force will try again this year to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, reigniting a battle that several lawmakers have vowed to fight.
The service has said the plan would save $3.5 billion over five years.
"It's not about not liking or not wanting the A-10," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said at a State of the Air Force briefing on Jan. 15. "It's about some very tough decisions that we have to make to recapitalize an Air Force for the threat 10 years from now."
Several key lawmakers have already promised to block any plans to retire the Warthog, even before the Air Force submitted its budget plans. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has repeatedly vowed to keep the A-10 flying.
"We all know this is the best platform [for close-air support]," McCain said. "There's no doubt about that. We're talking about the lives of men and women serving in harm's way."
"From my experience as an A-10 pilot and squadron commander, I know firsthand the unique capabilities of the A-10 in close air support, forward air control-airborne, and combat search and rescue missions," McSally wrote. "The Warthog is anything but a 'single mission aircraft' and there is simply no other asset that can match its lethality, loiter time, and survivability. The decision to retire it is reckless and will put American lives at risk."
The Air Force, in its fiscal 2016 budget proposal, is also looking at cutting other aircraft. The plan would reduce the service's F-15C/D fleet by 31 aircraft over five years, 10 in fiscal 2016. The fleet is more than 27 years old and "requires modernization to remain viable." The remaining aircraft would undergo radar and avionics upgrades, along with other service-life extension upgrades.
The budget proposal reverses course in the service's plan for high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The service would retain the U-2 Dragon Lady. Last year, the Air Force tried to retire the aging aircraft, but was blocked by Congress. The plan also sustains RQ-4 Global Hawks, including the Block 30 variant the service tried to mothball in previous budget plans.