As the Air Force tries to kill the A-10 Warthog, it may have just run up against a force it cannot defeat: Chuck Norris.
Norris, the martial artist, action movie star and international icon of absurdly competent manliness, on Sunday posted a column on the website World Net Daily titled "Save the A-10 Thunderbolt!" In it, Norris argues that the massive firepower, reliability and ability to save troops' lives through close-air support means "the A-10's utility is needed now more than ever."
The Air Force says tight budgets leave it with no choice but to divest the service's 273 A-10s and save more than $4 billion over five years. The Air Force argues other aircraft such as the F-35 can get the CAS job done if the Warthog is scrapped. But critics point out the F-35 won't be able to provide CAS until 2023.
The argument is becoming increasingly heated in the military community. Leading lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have worked to block the Air Force's efforts to kill the plane. Troops have spoken up online about their love for the Warthog, adopting the signature "brrrrrtttt" sound of its massive 30mm cannon as something of a rallying cry. And A-10 supporters bristled earlier this year when Maj. Gen. James Post, vice commander of Air Combat Command, reportedly said that anyone telling Congress about the A-10's capabilities "is committing treason," seeing it as an effort to quash dissent.
Norris disputed ACC chief Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle's conclusion that the Warthog must be replaced because "those airplanes are gonna wear out."
"But that statement is true of every airplane in existence, and even the sun!" Norris said. "The question is: Is the fleet of A-10s ready for retirement? I just celebrated my 75th birthday, but I'm nowhere near ready to head to the scrapheap. Some things improve with age, and the A-10 has done just that, too."
Norris also argued upgrades to the A-10 over the last two decades should extend its life.
Norris noted that some online have referred to the Warthog as "the Chuck Norris of airplanes." He is selling "Save the A-10" T-shirts online, the proceeds from which will benefit his children's martial arts charity KickStart Kids.
The front of each shirt says "Save the A-10," with an image of the seven-chambered barrel of the A-10's gun. The back shows a drawing of the Warthog's shark-toothed nose art and cannon and says "Chuck Norris' first born son was a Warthog. He cried tears of BRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTT."
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.