Lawmakers Preserve A-10, Call for Study on F-35 CAS

While lawmakers are unsurprisingly prohibiting the Air Force from retiring any A-10s, the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act also pushes the Pentagon to further study any shortfalls in the F-35’s close air support capability. The compromise on the authorization bill, announced Wednesday, calls on the Air Force to keep a minimum of 171 operational A-10s and to not make any reductions in manning of A-10 squadrons. Defense Department and Air Force leadership this year have said the service is delaying the final retirement of the A-10 until 2022, with squadrons beginning to draw down in 2018. At the same time, the bill requires the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation to submit a report on F-35 testing, including a comparison of that aircraft’s and the A-10’s capabilities in combat search and rescue and forward air control missions. Following that report, the Air Force needs to submit its own evaluation of the comparison and a plan to address any deficiencies, according to the bill.