House Rep and Former A-10 Squadron Commander Fights Efforts to Mothball the Warthog

'If we retire the A-10 before a replacement is developed, American troops will die'

A-10 Thunderbolt II / AP
April 20, 2015

A House Republican and retired Air Force colonel is fighting to save the A-10 Thunderbolt II from being mothballed.

Rep. Martha McSally (Ariz.), who has logged 325 combat hours with the A-10, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday detailing why the plane is so important.

When American troops find themselves fighting for their lives, there is no better sound than an A-10, a plane officially nicknamed the Thunderbolt II but known affectionately by the troops as the Warthog, firing its enormous 30-millimeter gun at the enemy. It might not be pretty, but the A-10 is our most capable close air-support aircraft, and its arrival on the battlefield signals survival for our troops and annihilation for our enemies.

Yet over the last two years, the Obama administration and the Air Force leadership have been working overtime to mothball our entire A-10 fleet, 13 years ahead of schedule. They claim that other, newer planes can do the same job, that it’s too slow and vulnerable and that it’s too expensive.

I appreciate the budget pressures that the Pentagon faces these days. But those arguments have serious flaws — and if we retire the A-10 before a replacement is developed, American troops will die.

Before running for office, I was an A-10 squadron commander with 325 combat hours. During my time in uniform and since coming to the House and taking up the fight to keep the plane, I have heard countless stories from American soldiers about how the A-10 saved their lives.

The A-10, McSally said in the op-ed, fills an important close air support role that cannot be fully replicated by any other plan in our arsenal. In addition, she said, it is the least expensive aircraft to operate. The "Warthog" has saved many American lives and won a great deal of support. McSally said she believes it will remain a valuable resource for years to come.

The A-10 remains in high demand: Warthogs are deployed to the Middle East, where they have been inciting fear in the ranks of Islamist terrorists since their deployment in September, and Romania, where 12 A-10s from the squadron I commanded train with our allies in the face of increased Russian aggression.

Yet the administration and the Pentagon persist. Recently, Air Force leaders said the fight to save the A-10 was "emotional." Of course it is. Just ask the families of Master Sergeant Wells and his men. The A-10 has supporters because we know it works — and that the American military can’t afford to retire it.

Published under: Air Force , Military