Too soon?

The Pentagon’s decision to retire the entire U.S. fleet of popular A-10 “Warthog” aircraft is painful but necessary as the military is forced to save money now to develop tomorrow’s weapons, Air Force leaders said on Friday.

General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told a panel in the House of Representatives that eliminating the 283 tank-killer jets would save $3.7 billion over the next five years plus another $500 million in planned aircraft upgrades.

The money saved would in turn be used to bolster current Air Force readiness, which has slipped in recent years because of budget cuts, and to focus on priorities for the future, such as the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range bomber.

The planes are a fixture at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, which is my hometown. They have been on the bureaucratic chopping block before but have always survived because they’re very popular with the people who actually fight wars.