The plane that’s been responsible for more ISIS nightmares than any weapon in the vast American military arsenal, the A-10, has been on the chopping block seemingly forever. Air Force brass–aka the people who spend too much time in Washington–have been trying to push the fighter jet out the door for a very long time so they can spend taxpayer money on a newer, shinier plane that makes lobbyists, contractors, and the members of Congress who are hooking up those lobbyists and contractors happy.
The problem (as far as the brass see it) is that every time the Warthog gets its weapon-laden nose out of that door it kills a bunch of terrorists and saves American lives. So it is quite beloved by the people who are actually fighting these things that we’re still not calling wars.
The plane’s “death date” keeps getting pushed back, but it still exists in theory. In reality?
On paper, the Air Force plans to start mothballing the A-10 in 2018, with the last Warthogs sent to the boneyard by 2021. But last month Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said that the retirement of the A-10 would likely have to be delayed further as the military continues to rely on the low-and-slow attack plane for close-air support (CAS) missions flown against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Even more telling, the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) is bringing the depot line for A-10 maintenance and repair back up to full capacity, according to Aviation Week.
The Hawg isn’t going anywhere.
“They have re-geared up, we’ve turned on the depot line, we’re building it back up in capacity and supply chain,” AFMC chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski recently told Aviation Week. “Our command, anyway, is approaching this as another airplane that we are sustaining indefinitely.”
Air Force maintainers are also preparing to replace the wings of the A-10 fleet, tapping a $2 billion contract originally awarded to Boeing in 2007, which was intended at the time to keep the fleet flying until 2028. Some corrosion of the planes has been seen at the depots, but Pawlikowski says this is to be expected, especially on an aircraft that has been in service since 1977.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is your federal government at work.
They can’t just admit that a) the A-10 is the most effective plane in this protracted desert war, and that b) this protracted desert war is going to remain protracted for a long time.
But hey, when you’ve already settled on a plan of action that doesn’t call a war a war, it’s really easy to pretend after that.
Even when the government does something right, like keeping this fleet flying, it’s so unfamiliar with the feeling that it can’t be completely honest about it.
However the sausage gets made, I guess.
Thankfully, the thing our ground troops love seeing overhead will still be there.