Maryland Guard to Trade A-10s for Cyber, and Hope for Future Flying Mission

Warfield Air National Guard Base in Maryland will transition from A-10s to a cyber mission, the Air Force announced March 7, leaving Maryland as the only state “that doesn’t fly,” officials said.  

The 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard will become a cyberspace wing, pending an environmental impact analysis expected to be completed by the fall of 2025, following in the footsteps of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing, which was redubbed the 179th Cyberspace Wing last September.  

The 175th has had a Cyberspace Operations Group at Warfield since 2016, but giving up its jets is a major change: The 175th has flown A-10 “Warthogs” since 1979. The Air Force is gradually divesting its entire A-10 fleet, and the Maryland A-10s will start their phase out later this year.  

Warfield will not be “precluded from being considered for other potential missions in the future,” the Air Force said. The number of personnel assigned to the 175th is not expected to change.  

Maryland National Guard officials first shared plans with local media in January. “The Air Force, in 2025, will divest the aircraft, take them away from us and turn [the 175th] into a cyber wing,” Brig. Gen. Drew Dougherty, assistant adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, told WBAL at the time. “We would be the only state in the nation that doesn’t fly.” 

“We are not trying to fight the fact that the A-10 is an aging piece of equipment and there may be other options out there. We want to look at options to keep a fighter or flying mission in Maryland,” Maj. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, adjutant general of Maryland, added.

In a statement after the Air Force’s announcement, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) praised the expansion of the Maryland ANG’s cyber mission but bemoaned the loss of a flying mission. 

“In partnership with our congressional delegation, we are advocating vigorously to maintain Maryland’s flying mission, both in the interest of national security and the hundreds of jobs and families that will be affected by this transition,” Moore said. “We are disappointed to learn of the Air Force’s decision to hurriedly retire the A-10 mission across the nation, including the mission at [Warfield], without a plan to retain experienced pilots and maintainers or to replace older systems with advanced aircraft. We are committed to working with our federal partners at the White House and the Pentagon to acquire another flying mission in Maryland this year.” 

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Congress in May 2023 that his approach in retiring the A-10 is to try and replace it with a flying mission when possible.

“If we can’t do that, there are a number of other missions that are very important to the Department,” he said. “We talked about electronic warfare here; cyber is another one; ISR; intelligence; all of those things matter. So, in every case where we’re taking aircraft out, we’re trying to make sure that a viable long-term mission replaces that mission.” 

In its release, the department noted that the new cyber wing “will create a natural synergy” with Fort Meade, Md., which is located around 35 miles away and hosts the headquarters for U.S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, and the Air Force’s 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing.