No Apologies For A-10 Plans

The Air Force wants to retire the A-10 fleet to pay sequestration bills, but today the aircraft is not only still in the inventory due to Congressional intervention, but is also deployed to the Middle East and conducting missions against ISIS extremist forces, which occupy large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. When asked during a press briefing in the Pentagon on Thursday if the Air Force was having second thoughts about its plans, Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh held firm. James said there are a number of strike platforms flying sorties against ISIS, including F-16s and F-15Es, and while the A-10 is a “great contributor,” it now flies only 11 percent of these missions. Even if the Air Force’s adjusted plan was approved, which would retire the A-10s over five years, they would still be in the inventory today, James said, and it “makes good sense to use them.” Welsh said the debate remains an “emotional issue,” and he expects it to be. But he emphasized that budget sequestration is still driving decisions. “Although we were not allowed to move forward with our retirement plan, … we were funded to keep operating” the A-10 fleet, said Welsh. “if we have a conflict that we can use it in, we should use it,” he said. (James-Welsh transcript)