USAF quietly admits F-35 can’t beat the A-10, extends service life indefinitely

A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft prepare for flight March 21, 2017 at the 124th Fighter Wing, Boise, Idaho. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is designed for close air support of ground forces.

While some aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory seem to come and go as quickly as they were put in, one in particular seems to resist multiple attempts to kill it: the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the “Warthog,” or simply “‘Hog.”

Pretty much doomed to be targeted by Air Force brass since it first took flight (due to the unpopularity of the Close Air Support role in Air Force doctrine), the A-10 has been threatened with replacement by a multitude of planes, from the nimble F-16 to the fancy new F-35.

On Tuesday, an Air Force spokeswoman confirmed that the ‘Hog will not be replaced by the F-35 and that its retirement has been pushed off indefinitely.

The comments were made following a release of the president’s FY2018 budget request, as well as statement by USAF deputy assistant budget secretary Major General James Martin.

“The world has changed, so we’re trying to maintain capacity and capability,” Martin said.

The A-10 was slated to have a showdown with the F-35 to see which aircraft could provide better CAS. While the USAF did not publicly announce a winner, recent statements seem to indicate that no matter how fancy your jet, you still “can’t bog the ‘Hog.”

According to Defense News, the U-2 spy planes will also see their service lives extended, while the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet designed to replace them receive upgrades as well.

Budget documents show that the USAF intends to fully fund the 283-aircraft fleet of A-10s, a far cry from previous budgets that saw A-10s and their crews getting the short end of the monetary stick.

The A-10 has been kept afloat by conflict over the past few decades- plans to kill it began gaining fever pitch in the late 1980s. When the Persian Gulf War kicked of in 1991, the plane showed its worth. The cycle repeated itself until the War on Terror, when ‘Hogs fighting valiantly for the man on the ground on multiple fronts found their way into the hearts of both the US grunt and the American public.

In February, USAF Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said that the USAF had abandoned their original 2018 plans to mothball the ‘Hogs.

“We’re going to keep them until 2021, and then as a discussion that we’ll have with [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and the department and the review over all of our budgets, that is what will determine the way ahead,” he said then.

Better push that calendar date back, General. For now, the ‘Hog is here to stay- and we love it.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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