The A-10 is once again teaching the Islamic State that "death" is spelled "BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT!"
Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman, confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. has sent A-10s to Turkey after the French news agency Agence France Presse reported that 12 A-10s had arrived at Incirlik Air Base.
The A-10s and airmen are with the 75th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Smith told Air Force Times. They are replacing six F-16s that have been flying combat missions against the Islamic State from Incirlik since August.
"The planes are deploying as part of OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve] and will be available to be flown in either Iraq or Syria depending upon the need," Smith said in an email Tuesday.
Ground troops love the A-10 because its 30mm gun has often meant the difference between life and death, but the Air Force has tried to retire the aircraft to meet the deep spending cuts imposed by Congress. Retired Gen. Mike Hostage, the former head of Air Combat Command, told reporters in July 2014 that the A-10 could not survive combat missions in Syria, but A-10s went on to prove him wrong.
"A-10s have flown missions over Syria," Smith said.
Last November, several A-10s from the Indiana Air National Guard's 163rd Fighter Squadron deployed to southwest Asia to fly combat missions against the Islamic State.
Since 2011, Congress has required steep defense-spending cuts without giving the military services flexibility about how to save money or letting them close bases that are no longer required. The Air Force has argued that it needs to divest the A-10 to make save billions of dollars in such a short amount of time, but lawmakers have blocked the service from doing so because they feel no other aircraft can provide close air support as well as the A-10.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has championed keeping the A-10 flying.
"If there were any lingering doubts about the continued value and effectiveness of the A-10, one only need to look to Syria where the A-10 is taking the fight to ISIS, to Europe where the A-10 is assuring allies, or to the Korean peninsula where the A-10 is deterring aggression," Ayotte said in a statement to Air Force Times on Tuesday.
"Soldiers, special operators, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers consistently say that the A-10 is the Air Force's best CAS [close air support] aircraft, that it provides CAS capabilities that no other current aircraft can, and that its premature divestment will put our troops at risk. That is why Congress again has rejected—on a strong bipartisan basis—the Air Force's misguided plan to retire the A-10 prematurely before an equally or more capable replacement is fully operational."
Twelve A-10s with the 74th Fighter Squadron – also from Moody Air Force Base – arrived in Estonia In September as part of a theater security package in Europe.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz, has said the A-10 is perfectly suited for the training mission in Europe. A retired Air Force colonel and former A-10 squadron commander with 325 combat hours in the A-10 in Iraq and Afghanistan, McSally has been one of the A-10s most outspoken advocates. Her congressional district includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
"The importance of keeping this aircraft is being demonstrated in conflict zones across the world," McSally said in a statement Wednesday to Air Force Times. "A-10s are now deployed in the fight against ISIS, in Europe to deter Russian aggression, and along the border with North Korea. That's because the A-10 brings unmatched lethality, maneuverability, survivability, and loiter time and is the best capability we have for protecting our troops in harm's way."
The Air Force's effort to retire the A-10 have fueled longstanding suspicions that the Air Force wants to stop flying close air-support missions. In April, Maj. Gen. James Post was fired as vice commander of Air Combat Command after the Air Force Inspector General's Office concluded that he gave airmen the impression that they should not talk to members of Congress about keeping the A-10 by using the word "treason."
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in September that suspicions that the Air Force wants to stop flying close-air support missions are unfounded. Speaking at the Air Force Association's 2015 national convention, Welsh said that one person told him to his face that the Air Force does not care about flying close-air support. In response, he said, Welsh pulled out his phone and showed a picture of his son Matt, a Marine Corps officer.
"I don't care about close-air support?" Welsh said. "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.'"