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Congress Strikes Back Against Air Force’s Decision To Sideline 18 A-10s

Congress voted against retiring the A-10s for 2015, but a subtle move from the Air Force to place the A-10s in “backup status” has legislators up in arms, who are now asking Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to step in and halt the decision.

In a rare showing of bipartisan politics, Republicans and Democrats prevented the Air Force from divesting A-10s during fiscal year 2015. According to Air Force Secretary Deborah James, the recently passed 2015 National Defense Authorization Act means that the Air Force has the authority to shelve up to 36 A-10s, but decided to only move 18 A-10s out of respect for Congress, The Washington Post reports.

A group of Republicans in Congress, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, sent Carter a letter urging him not to allow the decision to place the 18 aircraft on backup aircraft inventory (BAI) status.

“Absent your intervention, the Air Force will proceed with a plan that will result in the loss of close air support capability at a time when the need for it is only growing,” the letter stated.

The senators want a temporary suspension until Congress can further examine the Air Force’s latest attempt to sideline the A-10s to ensure that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has sufficient funding. James wants all A-10s removed from the service by 2019.

“The A-10 is the Air Force’s most combat-effective and cost-efficient close air support aircraft,” the senators continued. “Close air support experts believe that the A-10 provides capabilities that no other aircraft can replicate. This is not just another fight over a Department of Defense weapons program; this is about what kind of help we will provide our ground troops when they are pinned down by enemy fire and call for help.”

Soldiers tend to prefer the A-10 to the F-35 because, while the latter focuses on plane-to-plane combat, the A-10 Warthog’s primary function is to provide close air support.

Out of the 18 being placed in backup status, nine aircraft will come from the Davis-Monthan Air Force base located in Tucson, Ariz., which Republican Rep. and retired Air Force colonel Martha McSally said was “overkill.” The base holds a third of the total A-10 force. Six other A-10s came from the Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, and the last three to be placed in backup status were from the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Arizona Public Media reported.

In the immediate future, the Air Force seems dead set against reversing the decision, although Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh confirmed that there will be a review of the backup status sometime later this year. However, this review may result in an additional 18 being placed in BAI status.

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