Despite the fact that many, including top military experts and members of the US Congress, have giant doubts about the ground support fight-ability of the US Air Force without the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II, the military top brass seems eager to push forward with its retirement.
The first two A-10 squadrons will be decommissioned in 2018, followed by another two in 2019, sources within the US Air Force have confirmed. This means the loss of 49 aircraft a year. Speeding up thereafter 2020 will see the disbandment of three squadrons (64 A-10s) and 2021 four squadrons (96 Thunderbolts).
Putting money aside for the new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II is the main reason why the US Air Force top generals push on with their decision, amid fears especially among US Army personnel as well as those concerned for their health and their unit’s survive chances. The F-35 will never be a close-air support (CAS) asset up to the task, they feel.
Even some of the USAF high-ranking officers have expressed their concern, hoping that US Congress will give the armed service more money to keep the A-10s flying, as well as additional cash to keep enough manpower in place to service and pilot them.
Jousting, F-35 vs A-10
There is, however, a slight glimmer of hope. The US Department of Defence has announced a CAS “jousting” for the F-35 versus the A-10 in 2018. Rather late, but probably due to the fact that the Pentagon needs more time to prep the far from ready-developed new stealthy multi-role fighter. Advocators for the A-10 – including former high-ranking Air Force officers – are now strongly suggesting the Air Force to not “boneyard” any A-10 until the CAS tests of the F-35 are done.
The US Air Force has given up its campaign for retirement of the feared and famous A-10 Thunderbolt, according to various reports. The Pentagon is indefinitely freezing all plans to retire the aircraft, a wish that saw strong opposition from US congress and a number of senators in particular.
The tank killing A-10 is currently actively involved in the fight against Daesh forces in Iraq and Syria. Over the past decades, it delivered its valuable contribution and deadly payload to virtually all military conflicts the US was involved in. Orginally designed to kill Soviet tanks on potential Cold War battle grounds in Europe, the type was already up for retirement after the Cold War ended, but its successful deployment in the 1991 Gulf War gave new life to the aircraft.
A major upgrade gave the A-10 new capabilities, along with a new set of wings. The US Air Force had eyes for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II as a replacement for the A-10, but the fifth generation fighter aircraft has yet to reach its full potential.
Only last year, the US sent two squadrons of A-10s to Europe as a show of force to Russia; the same opponent it’s designers had in mind when they shaped the aircraft in the seventies.
An informative infographic released on Wednesday 6 January by US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) gives more details about the three Theater Security Packages that deployed from the US to Europe in 2015. Most impressive number: 26 nations saw ‘support’ from those packages.
The Pentagon announced the first Theater Security Package (TSP) to Europe early last year as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The move of sending fighter aircraft to Europe was a clear reponse to Russia’s attitude over the Baltics and Ukraine in particular.
The first TSP consisted of twelve A-10C Thunderbolts from Davis Monthan Air Force Base and arrive at Spangdahlem airbase in Germany on 13 February. See Airheadsfly.com’s report on their arrival here. The attack aircraft and their crews visited numerous European countries during their six month stay.
A new flock of A-10C Thunderbolts is heading to Europe in the not too distant future as part of US Operation Atlantic Resolve. The announcement comes just after the first Theater Security Package (TSP) of A-10s left Europe. This time, the Thunderbolts belong to the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, nicknamed ‘Flying Tigers’.
It is unknown exactly when the tanker killers will deploy to Europe, other than in the fall. Moreover, another package of A-10s should deploy to Estonia for a shorter period of time in August and September. These aircraft belong to the 442d Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
The A-10s from Moody will likely use Spangdahlem in Germany as their main base in Europe, similar to the first TSP that arrived last February. Aircraft and aircrew of that deployment were seen during many military exercises and airshows in Europe throughout their stay.
After six months over European skies, they left for the US again earlier this month, arriving back at their home at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, AZ, on 4 August.
Spring and summer 2015 also saw US Air Force F-15s deploying to Europe, as seen here and here.
In an attempt to boost Europe’s defenses in an attempt to scare of Russia, the US Air Force now sent a so-called Theater Security Package of 12 Republic Fairchild A-10 thunderbolt II attack jets to Romania on 30 March 2015. The A-10s arrived from Germany, where they were previously deployed.
The dozen Warthogs – as the nickname for the planes go – landed at Câmpia Turzii, where six USAF F-16C Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Airbase last month had been training with the Romanian Air Force’s 71st Air Base’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s as well, the Lancers of A, B (ground attack) and C (interceptor) versions that call Campia Turzii home. The A-10s will be their guests for three months and are from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan AFB, and immediately came in action a day later by “taking out” a car that served as training target on the ground.
Many of the joint training missions flown have been labeled Dacian Thunder 2015. According to Romanian Air Force sources they will involve 11 of the 12 American A-10s, but only four of the officially 36 Romanian MiG-21s, plus six license-built IAR-330 Puma helicopters in both SOCAT (assault) and medevac configuration.