The Air Force could delay retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II by a few years to meet demand for close-air support missions, Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, said Tuesday.
"I think we would probably move the retirement slightly to the right," he said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast Nov. 10. "Eventually we will have to get there. We have to retire airplanes. But I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and keeping the airplane a bit longer is something to consider, based on things as they are today and what we see in the future."
The service needs more close-support craft to meet demand for missions in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the possibility of missions in trouble spots like Libya or Yemen, Carlisle said.
The possible retirement of the Warthog has been a point of contention between Congress and the Air Force, with the service hoping to decommission the planes and move crews over to the F-35 Lightning II.
But capacity is a concern at the Air Force right now, Carlisle said, and noted that although the service has superior airplanes, they "can only be in one place at a time," Carlisle said.
The service needs more close-support craft to meet demand for missions in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, plus the possibility of missions in trouble spots like Libya or Yemen, Carlisle said.
"If you look at the demand signal that's place[d] on the United States Air Force across all of our mission areas, the demand signal has gone up," he said.
While the decision ultimately lies with Pentagon leadership, Carlisle said that he believes the retirement of the A-10 could be delayed by a few years to make sure the Air Force has the number of planes it needs. — Eespecially, the general added, since top brass is re-evaluating the number of F-35’s (planes designed to replace the A-10) that the U.S. will purchase. – the plane designed to replace the A-10.
"If I have them, I'm going to use them because they're a fantastic airplane, and I'm going to take advantage of them," Carlisle said. "The pilots are incredibly well-trained and they do incredible work in support of the joint war fight."