WASHINGTON — The A-10 Warthog will not be one of the planes the U.S. Air Force requests to retire in its upcoming fiscal 2021 budget request, a senior service official confirmed.
During a speech at the Defense News Conference on Wednesday morning, acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan stoked speculation that the service will retire the A-10 after announcing that its FY21 budget request will include “controversial changes” such as the divestment of legacy aircraft.
But speaking at the conference later that day, Lt. Gen. Timothy Fay, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, confirmed that the A-10 is not one of the aircraft under consideration for divestment and will stay in service until the 2030s.
“Short answer: No,” Fay said, when asked whether the Warthog is on the cutting block. "I will tell you, I wish the response had been that the Air Force is actually bold enough to get after the threats that we’re facing.”
The decision to retain the A-10 likely prevents another major battle with Congress over the fate of the aircraft — one in which the Air Force found itself when proposing to mothball the fleet in FY15. After several unsuccessful requests to retire the plane, which lawmakers rebuffed, the Air Force decided to keep it in its FY18 budget.
It then restarted an effort to replace the wings on a portion of the A-10 fleet, awarding Boeing an initial $240 million in August to produce 27 wing sets. Under a previous contract, Boeing put new wings on 173 Warthogs, including one that crashed, and its latest contract could be worth as much as $999 million if the Air Force decides to re-wing the rest of the 109 A-10s that need replacements.
But Air Force leaders have not committed to replacing the wings on all 281 A-10s currently in service.
“We are not confident that we’re flying all of the A-10s that we currently possess through 2025 with our plan,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, during a House Armed Services Committee panel in 2018.
The Air Force is considering divesting aircraft as part of a Pentagon-wide review directed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. As the Army’s secretary, Esper oversaw a similar “night court” effort to divert funds from legacy programs into ones deemed necessary to combat Russia and China.
“We need to shift funding and allegiance from legacy programs we can no longer afford due to their incompatibility with future battlefields and into the capabilities and systems that the nation requires for victory. There’s no way around it,” Donovan said earlier at the conference.
Aaron Mehta in Washington contributed to this report.
Valerie Insinna was Defense News' air warfare reporter. Beforehand, she worked the Navy and congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.