President Trump on Sunday told airmen in South Korea that he wants the Air Force to hold on to the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.
During his visit to Osan Air Base after his visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Trump cheered plans in the Pentagon’s budget to buy 78 more F-35s, 24 new F/A-18s and eight F-15X fighter jets, before pivoting to the Warthog.
“By the way, the Warthog right behind me is not so bad,” Trump said. “I’ve got more people asking us to keep the Warthog. They say it’s sort of running out, but we’re fixing up — you know, we’re going to keep them as long as we can."
“But people love them. Are they that good?” Trump said to applause.
Trump also gave a hat tip to Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who flew A-10s in the Air Force and has consistently advocated for keeping the airplane.
“Every time I see her, she said, ‘Please don’t let the Warthog go,’” Trump said. “It’s just a very great machine, and we’re looking at ways that maybe we can keep it around a little bit longer.”
During the Obama administration, the cash-strapped Air Force repeatedly sought to mothball the A-10 as it brought on board an F-35 fleet that required more people and resources. The Pentagon ran into resistance on Capitol Hill, however, and the A-10s stayed.
Last month, the House Armed Services Committee advanced an authorization bill that would continue to provide full funding for Warthog upgrades, including re-winging them. The Air Force said in 2017 that nearly half of its 283 A-10s could be permanently grounded unless the service received money to restart production and re-wing them.
During his remarks at Osan, Trump also praised the F-35 for its stealth capabilities.
“They say they’re hard to beat because you can’t see them, literally,” Trump said. “I’ve gone to some of the great pilots; I say, ‘What do you think of the F-35? How does the enemy do?’ ‘Well, they have a problem: They can’t see it, sir.’ I mean, that’s pretty much it, right? We’ve got a lot of them."
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.