Air Force Col. Robert Spalding, a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recently penned a defense of the service’s proposal to divest the A-10 fleet, charging critics with “missing the point” behind the retirement. “The US Air Force is the best in the world at close air support in a permissive environment like Afghanistan,” wrote Spalding, a former vice commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., for Defense One. In the future, the US will be able to rapidly respond to requests for CAS in similar environments using a range of aircraft, from B-1s to F-15Es and F-16s, all of which have demonstrated the ability to respond quickly, strafe, and put bombs on target, said Spalding. Calls for CAS are answered faster than at “any time in the history of air warfare.” Even if the A-10 is excluded, troops can get support when and where it’s needed. Congress, however, is increasingly skeptical of the Air Force’s plan. In response to such arguments, Spalding notes that sequestration has given USAF a jigsaw puzzle, and retiring the A-10 is a big piece of how to solve it. The other services are faced with similar issues, he adds. Still, the US needs to modernize its aircraft to ensure it can maintain air superiority in a future fight. Keeping $3.7 billion worth of A-10s “is not the answer,” he wrote.
New F-35s are coming off the production line with the TR-3 upgrade and going right into storage because testing is incomplete. Next lot negotiations are continuing, but talks over a performance-based logistics contract have stalled.