Air Force secretary: 'No regrets' on retiring A-10

Air Force Secretary Deborah James said she has no regrets about attempting to retire the A-10 fighter jet, despite its current use in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

"No. I do not [regret it]," she said Thursday at a Pentagon briefing on the state of the Air Force. "The A-10 is a great contributor, but so are the other aircraft."

James said the A-10s are contributing about 11 percent of sorties against ISIS.

The Air Force wants to retire the A-10, a Cold War-era jet that has provided close air support for ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, to save $4 billion over five years.

ADVERTISEMENT

Air Force officials argue existing platforms can provide the same close air support function and want to shift more resources toward the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 

Supporters of keeping the A-10 flying, including influential lawmakers, say no other platform could provide close air support as well as the aircraft. 

James said the plan to retire the A-10s would go into practice over five years, so the planes are still in the inventory for now, and it makes sense to use them. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III said he understood why it was an emotional issue for those who flew and trained with the plane, but that defense budget cuts necessitated the decision.

"They love their airplane. They should love their airplane. I would expect that," said Welsh, a former A-10 pilot.

"For the Air Force, it's not an emotional issue. It's a sequestration-driven decision," he said. "We don't have enough money last year or this coming year to fund all of the things that we currently have in our force structure. 

"It's not about not liking or not wanting the A-10,” he added. “It's about some very tough decisions that we have to make to recapitalize an Air Force for the threat 10 years from now," he added.