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The Air Force Has Been Trying to Kill the A-10 Warthog for 14 Years

A-10 Warthog
A front view of a 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft parked on the flight line during Exercise SOLID SHIELD '87.

Affectionately called the “A-10 Warthog” for its aggressive appearance, the A-10 Thunderbolt II is the U.S. Air Force’s go-to low-altitude close air support aircraft.

The beloved A-10 attack plane, best known for its GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling gun mounted on the nose. now appears to have a brand-new nemesis—but it isn’t another country, it’s the Air Force itself. According to Task & Purpose, the “service has been working behind the scenes to starve the aircraft of replacement parts over the past fourteen years.”

‘Not Worth Upkeep’

It continued: “The goal of this starvation campaign is to convince Congress that the A-10 is old, difficult to maintain, and not worth the upkeep. … This sabotage effort goes against the wishes of Congress, which aims to keep the extremely effective A-10 in business.”

A report by Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, stated that “Congress has included several provisions in federal law to prevent A-10 retirements. Yet sources have told the Project On Government Oversight that, despite these provisions, Air Force leaders have pursued a de facto retirement of the fleet through a starvation campaign.”

For one former A-10 pilot, retired Lt. Col. Gregg Montijo, the report was “spot-on,” according to he told Task & Purpose. He added that there are particular worries regarding gun maintenance and bad ammunition.

There have been four gear-up landings in the past four years “all caused by either gun maintenance issues or bad ammo,” Montijo said.

“Gun blows up while firing it, pilots go to lower the landing gear, the nose gear does not come down, and the procedure is to land it all gear up,” he added.

‘Starve the A-10’

The site went on to say that the “Air Force’s efforts to starve the A-10 … include allowing supplier contracts to lapse so that they can’t provide replacement parts; and reducing the Air Force maintenance depot’s capacity to conduct overhauls. But one of the most effective efforts to ground the plane is the Air Force’s move to delay the re-winging of the A-10, which has basically grounded many jets that can’t fly because their current wings are too old.”

According to the report, “without new wings, some of the aircraft face a kind of de facto retirement, grounded when inspections show signs of metal fatigue or when the current wings have too many flight hours.”

It continued: “Part shortages for the cannon are so acute that at one squadron there are anywhere between three and eight aircraft that can’t shoot at any given time. … Until the A-10 program receives the parts it needs in the right quantities, it will be difficult to entice the maintenance crews back.”

A-10 Warthog

Image: Creative Commons.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. HR

    September 16, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Rewing them all. We need every airframe that can be salvaged.

  2. Philip Spector

    September 16, 2021 at 1:26 pm

    I believe the Air Force never wanted this Aircraft.

  3. michael H

    September 16, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    The answer is simple. The Air Force hates this plane the Army loves it. Give the aircraft to the Army

  4. dgmat

    September 16, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Disappointing that they want so badly to retire this aircraft. Perhaps because it is relatively inexpensive to produce, is incredibly effective at close air support and has low cost per flying hour. We will rue the day we retire this aircraft!

  5. Ben

    September 16, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Michael H. is spot on. Get with your local Senate Congressional office and ask a Senator to try to work such a deal.

  6. Robert W. Ray

    September 16, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    I agree with each of you. Every A-10 needs to be rewinged. Sadly, the wings needed for this process were supposed to be available a decade or more ago. Can’t tell you what happened to them…

    The Air Force, or more accurately, the Fighter Mafia, never wanted the A-10. Despite its wheelhouse being stolen from the Army early on in the Air Force’s life, moving mud has never really been something that screams Air Force Pilot the way flying some Mach-two space needle with wings does. Nor does it do the type of high flying nuclear threat kind of job that the bombers and ballistic missiles have. Therefore, anything that deals with close air support is not considered worthy of being “Air Force”.

    As for giving them to the Army… we’ll, the Army would love that! It makes communication between boots on the ground and their guardian angels in the sky so much simpler! But the Air Force would never let a major fixed wing resource go to another branch, no matter how much sense it makes. It has a lot to do with the charter, for lack of a better term, that drafted the USAF back in 1947.

  7. Jay Hanig

    September 16, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    I don’t believe the people who actually fly these hate them. I know for a fact the people these planes protect don’t hate them either. So if anything needs replacement, it’s the folks who’re trying to get rid of the A-10s without a reasonable substitute available for anywhere near the money that the A-10s cost. These are a lot of bang for the buck; unlike the Air Force’s leadership these days.

  8. MARK RITTER

    September 16, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    I recall the reaction of Soldiers seeing an A-10 fly over during my 2009-2010 Iraq deployment at Joint Base Balad. The huge base wrapped itself around the airfield where aircraft operated 24/7. It was always the A-10 that service members stopped what they were doing and looked up, pointed, and said, “look, there it is”. It is the grunt’s aircraft that changes anyone’s gloom attitude to joyful gloom anticipation Yes, give the A-10 program to the Marines or the Army. The USAF will then understand.

  9. Richard Whistle

    September 17, 2021 at 6:56 am

    Wrong, since 1986 actually. I worked with an A-10 pilot in my infantry unit, he was the Air Liaison Officer or ALO. The USAF was transitioning him and other A-10 pilots into the F-16 program. Again, after their highly successful role in the first Gulf war the USAF tried to retire the platform. The Army said, “Oh heck no, we’ll take them and fly them with Warrant Officers like we do with Army helicopters.”

  10. Mike

    September 17, 2021 at 10:09 am

    The military will get there way. New aircraft to replace the warthog and more expense for a bloated military US budget.

  11. BILL

    September 25, 2021 at 5:34 pm

    Give half to the Marines & half to the Army that way they can split the costs of the aircraft and in reality it would be in the hands of the people that understand the need the most.

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