If someone tells Chief of Staff Mark Welsh one more time that the Air Force does not want to fly close-air support missions anymore, things could get ugly.
Slapped by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Air Force has tried to divest the famed A-10 in order to cut costs, but lawmakers have stopped the service from doing so because they feel the F-35 can't provide close-air support as well as the A-10.
Welsh was angry expressed his anger Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s 2015 national convention when he addressed speculation online that the Air Force wants to get rid of the A-10 because it doesn’t care about the close-air support mission.
"Really? I'm kind of tired of hearing it," he said.
Retired Lt. Col. Tony Carr has posted a video on his military blog John Q. Public that shows the A-10 in action in Afghanistan. Carr wrote that he believes that the video was shot by Combat Camera, but he claims the Air Force did not want to release it.
"As early 2015 arrived, General Mark Welsh and Secretary Deborah Lee James knew they had an uphill battle selling Congress on the idea of retiring the A-10 without a proven replacement" Carr wrote. "Having this video on the street before that sales pitch got started might have made it nigh on impossible to convincingly put across the proposition that other platforms could do the same job without a potentially disastrous spike in risk to ground troops."
Welsh said that when someone told him to his face that the Air Force does not care about close-air support, he pulled out his phone and showed a picture of his son Matt, who is in the Marine Corps.
"I don't care about close-air support? Luckily, I'm old and respectful now. I told him that and said, 'Look, you just better be glad that Matt isn't here because Matt is young and impetuous and he's tough as hell and he could kick your ass,'" Welsh said.
The Air Force has flown about 20,000 close-air support missions a year for the past seven years, Welsh said.
"At what point do we get a little bit of acknowledgment for that?" he asked.
To prove his point, Welsh showed a video of an Air Force officer who formerly flew A-10s and is now an F-35 test pilot who vowed the F-35 will be able to fly all missions, including close-air support.
Earlier in his speech, Welsh stressed the need for the Air Force to modernize its fleet of aging aircraft. He showed pictures of how far phones, computers and race cars have advanced over the past 60 years, and then he showed two pictures of a B-52. The first one said "1955" and the second one said "2015."
While he didn't mention the A-10 by name, he referenced the Air Force's decision to retire the Warthog when he said the service is having a hard time getting "the flexibility we need to the very hard decisions" to modernize.
"Holding on to things that made us great in the past is not the best way to make us great in the future," Welsh said. "In fact, I can only think of one reason for standing still, and that's if you want somebody to catch you. We have got modernize the Air Force."