The A-10 has come a long way since its dark days of 2015.
About four years ago, the Warthog’s future was very much in doubt as the Air Force was trying to mothball the slow, deadly and grunt-beloved close-air support attack aircraft. At the time, the Air Force faced a budget crunch and an incoming F-35 fleet that required more people and resources.
Critics of the Air Force also said the service wanted to scrap the plane because it was disinterested in flying close-air support, which former Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh vehemently denied.
But in a sign of how passe the A-10 debate has become, full funding for Warthog upgrades next year — including re-winging them — just passed the House Armed Services Committee with nary an objection. The panel approved its proposed version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in a marathon session that concluded early Thursday morning.
Arizona Reps. Ruben Gallego and Ann Kirkpatrick applauded the A-10 funding in a statement.
“The A-10 Warthog has immeasurable value to our U.S. troops on the ground and plays a critical role in our military strategy in the Middle East and around the world,” Gallego said. “I’m glad that we were able to keep this fleet fully operational, and I will continue to fight to preserve this aircraft to ensure that the warfighter on the ground gets their air support.”
Gallego and Kirkpatrick noted that the Air Force said in 2017 that nearly half of its A-10 fleet, which consists of 283 aircraft, could be permanently grounded unless funding came through to restart production and re-wing them.
“The A-10 Warthog has been a vital fixture to Southern Arizona for over 40 years and is instrumental to our military operations around the globe,” Kirkpatrick said. “The Warthog is a primary mission at Davis-Monthan Air Base [which is in Kirkpatrick’s district], employing hundreds of airmen and it contributes millions of dollars to our local economy.”
When the debate over the plane’s fate raged, the A-10 had a wide array of boosters pushing back on the Air Force’s plans — everyone from online fans sharing BRRRTTTT memes, to former Arizona representative and now Senator Martha McSally, a former Air Force A-10 pilot, and even Chuck Norris.
The controversy got so heated that former Maj. Gen. James Post, who was vice commander of Air Combat Command, told a few hundred airmen in early 2015 that telling Congress the A-10 should be kept in service would be “committing treason." After an inspector general investigation, Post was reprimanded and removed from his vice commander position.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.