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    A-10 Warthog: The Controversial End of an Air Support Icon

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    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The venerable A-10 Warthog, a symbol of brute force and resilience, is heading towards retirement, a decision that’s ignited debate among military tech enthusiasts and political observers.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    As the U.S. Air Force sets in motion plans to phase out the A-10 gradually, questions surface about the future of close air support and the implications of shifting defense priorities.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The A-10, distinguished by its close air support prowess, has been a stalwart asset for the U.S. military since its introduction in the 1970s.

    Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (A-10 Warthog)” by Peer.Gynt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Developed during the Cold War to counter Soviet armored forces, the Warthog’s design philosophy, “Do one thing, do it well,” allowed it to excel in a role that seems now at risk of being orphaned. The Air Force’s recent budget request to retire 250 aircraft, 56 of them being A-10s, by 2025 marks a historic divestment from this iconic airframe.

    Four 190th FS A-10 Warthogs in Widescreen” by AvgeekJoe is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    In fiscal year 2023, Congress approved the retirement of 21 A-10s, the first such move this century, signaling a changing tide in military aviation policy. The Air Force also expressed intentions to retire all A-10s within five to six years, further underscoring this shift.

    A-10 Warthog aerial refueling” by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Gen. CQ Brown, Air Force Chief of Staff, commented on the necessity of multifunctional aircraft in contested environments, deeming the A-10’s capabilities too limited for future combat scenarios against adversaries like China. “The A-10 is a great airplane… in an uncontested environment,” Brown noted, explaining the need to adapt to more challenging conditions.

    AirExpo 2010: A-10 Thunderbolt II, a.k.a the A-10 ‘Warthog’” by pmarkham is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Yet, the A-10’s retirement is met with resistance, both from military circles and local communities. The aircraft’s storied past includes delivering punishing firepower and enduring significant damage while supporting troops in conflicts from the Middle East to Afghanistan. This legacy cements the A-10 as an aircraft troops on the ground trust implicitly for support.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The airframe’s planned obsolescence coincides with a reduction in the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) job field by about 44%, equating to 2,130 positions, over three fiscal years.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 ”Thunderbolt II” (”Warthog”)” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

    Troops-In-Contact, an advocacy group of A-10 veterans, warned against this move, stressing that such cuts could severely impair America’s close-air support capability and potentially cost lives.

    AirExpo 2010: A-10 Thunderbolt II, a.k.a the A-10 ‘Warthog’” by pmarkham is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The A-10 features a 30 x 173mm GAU-8/A Avenger autocannon, which is really just a Gatling gun. The GAU-8 is a hydraulically driven seven-barrel rotary cannon with a fascinatingly high rate of fire up to 4,200 rounds per minute, or 70 rounds per second.

    Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) 9” by Jack Snell – Thanks for over 26 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Critics of the retirement argue that the A-10’s unique design, which enables it to fly low and sustain heavy damage, has not been replicated by newer, more technologically advanced jets like the F-35, which has been considered as a replacement for the Warthog’s role.

    Four A-10 Warthogs in formation” by 666isMONEY ☮ ♥ & ☠ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Dan Grazier, from the Project on Government Oversight, emphasized the capability gap that will be left by the A-10’s absence, indicating that close-air support abilities would be diminished.

    A-10 Warthog of the Idaho ANG at Boise Airport” by Alaskan Dude is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    “The A-10 is a great plane,” said Del. Ryan Nawrocki, (R) Maryland, “Certainly, we would like to save the A-10. I think it has a role in the modern Air Force and in the modern Air National Guard, but there’s been some discussion we’re going to phase out the A-10.”

    CIAS 2011 :::THE A-10 WARTHOG comes to HOGTOWN” by Paul Cardin (Never Was An Arrow II) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    As the Air Force repositions its focus toward the Pacific, where the threat from China looms large, the beloved A-10 Warthog’s days are numbered, leaving enthusiasts of military history and technology reflecting on the end of an era.

    A-10 Warthog Thunderbolt II” by Tim Pohlhaus is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Fighters such as the F-35 and bombers are able to carry out close air support missions, Brown said, but in a future, highly contested combat environment, the Air Force will likely play less of a close air support role than it did in the Middle East.

    Relevant articles:
    The A-10 Warthog’s Retirement: Is It Too Soon?, The National Interest
    Air Force Wants to Send Historic Number of A-10s to the Boneyard in 2025, Continuing Shift Away from Warthogs, Military.com
    US Air Force wants to retire all A-10s by 2029, Defense News
    Push back on plans to retire A-10 ‘Warthogs’, WMAR 2 News

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