Retiring the A-10 Warthog attack jet will have to happen, but perhaps not as fast as the Air Force wanted, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Carlisle said he’ll use the A-10 as long as it’s in the inventory—hence the deployment to Incirlik AB, Turkey, for the anti-ISIS fight—but delays in getting the F-35 may cause the Air Force to hold onto the A-10s a little longer. “We have to retire [the A-10],” Carlisle said, “but I think moving it to the right,” and starting the full retirement “a bit later, and maybe keeping the … airplane a bit longer is something that’s being considered, based on things as they are today and what we see in the future.” The “majority” of A-10 retirements would move “two to three years to the right,” but USAF would want to do some retirements “early,” as now planned, because the service wants to retain the F-16s coming out of Hill AFB, Utah, to make room for the F-35. Some A-10 units would have to go to free up room for those F-16s. Carlisle told reporters afterwards that finding sufficient maintainers for the F-35 remains a “critical problem.” USAF has looked at “contract maintenance” as a way to address “some” of the issue, as well as ways to improve retention, but there are “additive squadrons” with the F-35 buy that add up to a maintainer deficit. “We have to find a place to get that maintenance manpower … to field those systems,” said Carlisle.
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.