GOP senators praise House vote to save A-10

Republican senators on Thursday praised the House Armed Services Committee for voting to preserve the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft despite the Air Force’s push to retire the fleet.

Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) John McCainJohn Sidney McCainConservative group cuts ties with Michelle Malkin Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters Donald Trump's 2020 election economic gamble MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran MORE (R-S.C.) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE (R-Ga.) called the panel’s “overwhelming” bipartisan vote to delay the fleet’s retirement a “significant interim victory for our ground troops.”

“We applaud the committee members for honoring our commitment to provide our troops the best possible close air support so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely,” they said in a statement.

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Defense Department officials have argued for mothballing the A-10, fondly referred to as the “Warthog” by troops, in order to save $3.5 billion over the next five years. They say the aircraft’s close air support mission could be fulfilled by other platforms like the F-16 fighter.

Many lawmakers, though, question whether other aircraft can fill the A-10’s role and often note its popularity with ground troops.

In its marathon markup of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday the Armed Services panel voted 41-20 to incorporate a measure that would delay the A-10 fleet’s retirement for at least a year and require a Pentagon study on whether other planes could provide troops with adequate close air support.

The four senators have been staunch defenders of the A-10, rejecting a compromise proposal from committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) earlier this week that would have put the aircraft into "Type-100" storage. McKeon’s plan would have allowed the 283-plane fleet to be reactivated easily if and when the government’s fiscal outlook improved.

“We look forward to addressing this issue in the Senate Armed Services Committee and working with members of both parties and both chambers to ensure the A-10 can continue to protect our ground forces,” the GOP senators said Thursday.