House panel silent on A-10 retirement

 

The most notable aspect of legislation unveiled on Wednesday by the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee might be something it lacks: a single mention of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

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The Air Force proposal to retire the fleet of the close air support platform, often referred to as the “Warthog,” has proven to be one of the biggest sticking points for lawmakers in the budget for fiscal 2015.

Several House members, including subcommittee chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio), have expressed dismay over the idea, even though the Air Force maintains that other aircraft can assume the Warthog’s mission.

The subcommittee's draft of the 2015 defense authorization bill doesn’t mean the fight is over.

Language to preserve the venerable A-10 could still be introduced later Wednesday when the Readiness subcommittee releases its markup, or when Turner’s subpanel convenes Thursday morning. Opponents of the retirement plan might also be waiting until the full House Armed Services panel meets on May 7 to make their arguments.

Besides the A-10, the legislation supports 34 new aircraft for the often-troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and endorses the Marine Corps’ aviation recapitalization plan that calls for 19 V-22 Ospreys, 26 news H-1 series helicopters and continued development of the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter.

The legislation requests a roadmap for future F-16 fighter upgrades and backs the development of several unmanned aircraft, such as the Gray Eagle for the Army and the Reaper for the Air Force.

On the ground, the subcommittee endorsed the president’s request to fund the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and calls on the Army to come up with a plan to keep the Abrams tanks production line viable, possibly through “consolidation of production capabilities.”