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Air Force defends 'Warthog' stats

Air Force defends 'Warthog' stats
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The Air Force defended negative statistics on the A-10 "Warthog" attack jet on Tuesday, after a watchdog accused the service of doctoring data to bolster its case to retire the aircraft. 

The Air Force recently declassified data showing that the A-10 had killed more U.S. troops in friendly fire incidents and more civilians than any other aircraft flown by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. 

However, a watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), said the Air Force had "cherry picked" and "doctored the data that it released in an attempt to build a false narrative against the A-10." 

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POGO said the data excluded an event in 2009 in which a B-1 bomber killed 147 civilians and wounded many more. 

The Air Force said it did not purposely exclude the 2009 incident, but said it used information between 2010 through 2014 because the statistics were collected in a uniform and consistent way across all services after 2010. 

"The incidents captured were entered into a data base, validated and met a common definition applied across all the services," Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told The Hill. 
 
However, he said, "When considering civilian casualty incidents, percentages and instances when a weapon was actually employed, the A-10, the F-16, the F-15E and the B-1 all have very comparable and low incident rates." 
 
He added that the "incident-free rate" of the A-10, B-1, F-15E and F-16 "are almost equal." He also said that since 2001, the incident rate for friendly fire for all planes and services is 0.0003 percent. 

"Each platform is effective in its own right, it's important to understand these incidents are extremely rare," he said. 

The Air Force is arguing it needs to retire the A-10, which performs the close air support mission, to save money for multi-role aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 

Retiring the aircraft would save $4.7 billion over five years, and free up badly needed maintainers to work on the F-35. 

Officials also argue that other planes could perform the close air support mission, but supporters of the A-10 aircraft say no other aircraft provides better close air support of ground troops in battle, and that the Air Force is wrong to try to retire the plane without an adequate alternative. 

Karns noted the "passion that a lot of people have" for the A-10, and said the Air Force would continue to employ it as long as it is in the Air Force inventory. 

But, he added, "from an Air Force vantage point, this is about the budget, and the need to make tough, fiscally informed and responsible decisions based on the threat environment and the need for an affordable Air Force."  

This story was updated at 6:33 p.m.