Defense

McCain: Defense bill will halt A-10 retirements

The head of the Senate Armed Services Committee is promising to scrap an Air Force plan that would move 18 A-10 attack aircraft toward retirement by moving them to backup status.

“We will be working hard and most likely reverse that decision in the defense authorization bill,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday, according to The Arizona Daily Star.

{mosads}He derided the plan as a “compromise that was made last year in response to the Air Force’s misguided attempt to retire all the A-10s.”

The Air Force has attempted to retire its A-10 “Warthog” fleet in recent years to save around $4 billion.

Lawmakers in both chambers rejected the proposal when they drafted their annual defense policy bill last year but they did allow the service to move up to 36 of the service’s nearly 300 attack jets into inventory status, pending a review by the Pentagon and the Defense secretary.

The bill also permitted the Air Force to move maintenance personnel from the A-10 program to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The service began implementing its plan last month, shifting 18 attack jets into backup status, including nine from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“It’s not a huge deal in terms of the number of A-10s there at Davis-Monthan — just standing down nine (planes) into non-maintenance status is not what we wanted, but it certainly is a small item as compared to the desire to retire all of them,” McCain said.

“We’ve made it clear to the Air Force that we will not authorize further reductions in the A-10’s status until such time as the Air Force has an adequate replacement for the A-10, which they do not have,” he added. “I can assure you, it’s a very high priority for the committee.”

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who has chastised the service’s moves at Davis-Monthan, told the newspaper that she was “frustrated because these were compromises agreed to before I got into office.”

McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and A-10 fighter pilot who now sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers “have limited options to stop” the service’s plan “but I do want to provide tight oversight to the process.”

 

Last month, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a fierce A-10 advocate, led a group of eight Republican senators in a letter to new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asking him to halt the Air Force’s moves until he and Congress can “fully scrutinize” the plan.

In addition to the nine planes shifted into backup at Davis-Monthan, six were grounded at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia and three at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Tags John McCain Kelly Ayotte
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