The USAF has put America’s cheapest, most reliable, mission survivable attack jets on the chopping block. The A-10 Thunderbolt, most known for its 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling cannon, has been in service for over 30 years and is on the brink of retirement, thanks to budget cuts. It was a key player in the Gulf War taking out 900+ Iraqi tanks, 1,355 combat vehicles, and 929 artillery pieces. The A-10, which costs approximately $13 million each, is being replaced by the overpriced under performing F-35 fighter program. A single F-35 is expected to cost between $120 to $150 million when all is said and done, and that’s not including the cost of the weapons system which could cost another $184 million per unit. This doesn’t even take into account the operational cost per hour for the F-35.
The Air Force will be forced to look at cutting single-mission aircraft under continuing budget cuts because more savings will be realized by ending the full weapon system, including infrastructure and training, as opposed to cutting just squadrons. With the F-35 coming online to take over the close-air support role, the venerable Thunderbolt II will be a likely target, Gen. Mike Hostage told reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference.
“This is not something I want to do,” Hostage said, explaining that no decisions had been made.
Hostage said he had already talked to Army officials about losing the A-10 and using other jets to take over the close-air support role. The Army was “not happy” about the possibility, Hostage said.
“I will not lose what we have gained in how we learned to support the Army,” Hostage said. “I had to make sure the Army understood that I am not backing away from the mission.”
Hostage said the service can do the close-air support role with the F-35, but it would be more expensive and “not as impressive” without the famous GAU-8 Avenger 30 millimeter gun.
“In a perfect world, I would have 1,000 A-10s,” Hostage said. “I can’t afford it. I can’t afford the fleet I have now. If I cut the fleet in half, do I save enough to get through this problem?
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