Newly-elected Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz) is prepared to offer an amendment that would keep the A-10 Warthog in Air Force fleets for another year, should funding not be present in the defense authorization bill when it is released by the House Armed Services Committee on Monday.
A group of lawmakers led by McSally, a former Air Force colonel who piloted the A-10 attack plane and later commanded a Warthog-equipped squadron during the war in Afghanistan, authored a letter asking HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to fund the A-10 in his chairman’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act. That’s the best way to keep the A-10 in service because an amendment would require the committee to publicly debate where it would pull funding to offset the costs of keeping the Warthog, she said.
However, McSally is ready to present an amendment if needed, she said in an interview with Defense Daily on April 24.
“I am going to do absolutely everything that is in my power to make sure we keep the A-10 flying, and so as a member of Congress, as a member on the committee and as an A-10 pilot veteran … I’m going to be advocating with every ability that I have,” she said. Based on her conversations with Air Force officials, the service would need about $500 million to sustain the Warthog fleet, she said. McSally would not disclose what programs or accounts she would cut funding from to keep the A-10 flying.
Air Force officials have said retiring the A-10 would free up money and manpower desperately needed for other platforms such as the Joint Strike Fighter. However, Congress and other A-10 advocates have maintained that the Warthog, which was specifically designed for close air support, brings unique capabilities to the battlefield that cannot be replaced by other aircraft such as the F-15, F-16 or F-35.
“The A-10 provides unmatched CAS capability, delivering firepower to save American lives when they are under fire in close proximity to enemy forces,” stated the letter written by McSally and other lawmakers released April 22. “The A-10 offers a combination of long loiter time, lethality, survivability, and the ability to strike moving targets in a complex visual fight. No other aircraft, existing or in development, matches these capabilities.”
Legislative language or funding for the A-10 was conspicuously absent in the markups passed by HASC subcommittees this week. House staffers told reporters it was a “full committee issue.”
McSally said has been in constant contact with Thornberry and is hopeful his mark will contain funding for the aircraft, “but the mark isn’t done until the mark is done, and they’re dealing with a lot of competing priorities and lot of concerns and considerations and requests,” she said.