GOP lawmaker: 'Troops will die' if A-10 retired

GOP lawmaker: 'Troops will die' if A-10 retired
© Getty Images

Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyHispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' McSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' MORE (R-Ariz.) argued Monday in an op-ed that the A-10 attack jet, which supports ground troops in battle, should not be retired despite the Air Force's plans.  

"When American troops find themselves fighting for their lives, there is no better sound than an A-10, a plane officially nicknamed the Thunderbolt II but known affectionately by the troops as the Warthog, firing its enormous 30-millimeter gun at the enemy," she wrote in The New York Times on Monday. 

"It might not be pretty, but the A-10 is our most capable close air-support aircraft, and its arrival on the battlefield signals survival for our troops and annihilation for our enemies," she wrote. 


The op-ed comes as the House Armed Services Committee, of which McSally is a member, prepares to work on the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the military's activities and spending. It is also Congress's vehicle for preventing the A-10's retirement. 

The Air Force is for a third year planning to retire the attack jet in order to save $4 billion over five years. 

Air Force leaders argue that other plans can give troops the close air support provided by the A-10, and that the service must prepare for the wars of the future. Congress has prevented the service from retiring the plane, although it allowed for reduced flying hours and the shifting of some maintainers. 

McSally, a retired Air Force Colonel and former A-10 fighter pilot and squadron commander, wrote there is not yet an adequate replacement for the plane, and that they are critical in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

"True, other planes and drones can do close air support. But every close-air-support scenario is different, and every platform brings strengths and weaknesses to the fight. The A-10 has unique strengths for the most complex and dangerous such missions. 

"It can loiter over the battlefield for long periods without refueling. It can maneuver in difficult terrain at low altitudes, fly slowly enough to visually identify enemy and friendly forces and survive direct hits. And it’s one of our most lethal aircraft, especially against moving targets, with its 1,174 rounds of ammunition, missiles, rockets and bombs," she wrote.

"Not only is the A-10 best equipped for close air support, but it is crucial to leading combat search and rescue missions of downed pilots. After the barbaric murder of a captured Jordanian F-16 pilot by ISIS, these capabilities are more important than ever — indeed, A-10s are on round-the-clock alert during American missions against ISIS," she wrote. 

In addition, its cannon is the only one in the Air Force that can fire armor-piercing depleted-uranium 30-millimeter bullets, she wrote. 

"If we retire the A-10 before a replacement is developed, American troops will die," she wrote.

McSally, whose state has an Air Force base that hosts three A-10 squadrons, wrote although the last A-10 was delivered in 1984, the fleet isn't due to retire for 13 years and has recently received $1 billion in upgrades.  

"Age by itself isn’t a reason to retire the plane. And it’s far from the oldest plane in our fleet: Those same critics celebrate the B-52, the youngest of which is almost 53 years old and won’t be retired until 2040," she wrote. 

She also argued that the A-10 has the lowest per-flight-hour cost of any aircraft. 

"The A-10 remains in high demand: Warthogs are deployed to the Middle East, where they have been inciting fear in the ranks of Islamist terrorists since their deployment in September, and Romania, where 12 A-10s from the squadron I commanded train with our allies in the face of increased Russian aggression." 

McSally detailed how an A-10 saved the lives of six Marines who were ambushed by dozens of insurgents in Afghanistan. 

"Because of the poor weather, fast-moving fighters above the clouds were unable to identify the targets or get close enough to engage. Soon two Marines were seriously wounded, and the enemy was 50 feet away," she wrote. 

"Suddenly two A-10s descended below a heavy layer of clouds. The planes are extremely maneuverable and designed to fly close to the ground. Coming within 400 feet of the mountains, they made nearly a dozen gun passes each," which she wrote gave the Marines team time to run for safety.

"Without the A-10 and the exceptional training and bravery of its pilots, six Marines would have died that day," she wrote.