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Air Force Will Cut A-10 Warthogs, F-22 Raptor Safe (For Now)

A-10 Warthog. Image: Creative Commons

A major defense policy bill with updates to the Air Force’s efforts to retire some airplanes is close to passing in Congress. The Air Force wanted to remove two critical warplanes from its fleet before lawmakers made their decision on the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House of Representatives has already approved. 

Time for Some Warthogs to Bid Adieu

Now, 21 A-10 Warthogs will be ending their service next year, but the House said no to retiring the F-22 Raptor. The Air Force was slated to cut 33 of the oldest F-22s. The Senate is expected to pass the NDAA in its current form in a vote that would save the F-22 from the chopping block.

Cuts Will Be for the Reserve Component

The A-10s will be removed from the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base in Indiana and F-16s will take their place. Congress and the Air Force have been sparring about the future of the A-10 for years as some legislators have fought to preserve it, while other Air Force leaders have wanted to move on from the ground strike airplane. 

F-22 Numbers Are Unchanged

The F-22 lives to fight another day as the service branch wanted to nix a batch of the oldest F-22 Block 20 Raptors. Some members of Congress felt that both airplanes are expensive to fly and maintain. For example, the F-22 will cost around $1.8 billion to keep in the air over the next eight years.

Language in the Bill Prohibits F-22 Cuts   

The NDAA codifies that the F-22 will be provided funds for maintenance and support personnel. The policy bill specifically forbids reducing the numbers of the F-22. The legislation also calls for a study on how the older Block 20 Raptors can be upgraded to the current Block 30/35 variants.

Down to 1,800 Total Airplanes for the Air Force 

Other airplanes such as the F-16 C/Ds and F-15 C/Ds will be eventually retired from the active component of the Air Force. The final number of airplanes in the fleet will fall from 1,970 to 1,800. The Air Force will again report to Congress on how these future cuts will impact the force’s posture and readiness.

Pros and Cons About the A-10 

The A-10 has its pluses and minuses. It served its country well during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing close air support to pinned-down soldiers. Its dangerous 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger cannon brought death and destruction to enemy combatants. But some Air Force leaders and lawmakers have reservations about how effective the airplane would be against modern air defenses. The airplane flies low and slow. It is not seen as something that could evade a bevy of surface-to-air missiles in contested air space.

“The A-10 is a great platform for a [permissive] environment,” Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown told Congress in April. “I don’t see very many [permissive] environments that we’re going to roll into in the future.”

China Is Building More Stealth Fighters

As China prepares to produce its own stealth fighter – the J-20 Mighty Dragon – in higher amounts, some lawmakers believe that now is not the time to reduce the numbers of American stealth fighters, despite the expensive flight costs per hour.

Other Programs Are Competing for Funding    

The main idea behind the reduction in force is the savings from airplane retirements that could be re-invested into buying additional platforms such as the F-35. The NDAA calls for only 38 new F-35s for the Air Force which would not keep pace with the new J-20 that China is making rapidly. The branch also needs funding for the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter and the new F-15EX Eagle II.

The compromise between Congress and the Air Force should not hurt the overall force posture that much. The A-10s were in the reserve component and the F-22s could eventually be upgraded. But China continues to produce new airplanes and the U.S. military must keep up. Many members of Congress have agreed with this assessment that removing F-22s is not appropriate in FY23.

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Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 9, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    The fact is “stealth” divides combat aircraft into 2 groups, strategic weakness or strategic strength. As long as the Air Force has weakness to cut (A-10, etc.) it should do so. Only when it runs out of weakness to cut, should it start cost cutting stealthy combat aircraft (F-22, etc.). Combat Power/Dollar is the measure Generals must use to manage military forces.

  2. GhostTomahawk

    December 9, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    I don’t see very many [permissive] environments that we’re going to roll into in the future.”

    What a shortsighted idiot. A10s are not I filtration airplanes. They are close sir support aircraft used for when air superiority has been achieved.

    These generals all want supersonic stealth aircraft. These are very expensive planes that feed the military contractors and themselves in the end when these generals go sit in the board of these companies.

    A10s are paid off planes that do exactly what we need. F35s do not. They are Swiss army knives.

  3. NOYB

    December 9, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Shilling for LM. The AF could easily afford both, simply by redirecting funds towards training more maintainers for their new toys (the original reason for retiring the A-10, _3 years ago_).

    Fact: The F-35 is not more survivable than the A-10, in daylight, in an optical threat environment. GBU-39/53 are too slow and expensive. GBU-12 requires you to get too close. MANPADS and EOCG SAMS like SA-8/15/19/22 and even AAA will kill the Battle Penguin, stealth or no. Shoot a Penguin and it burns like a blow torch. Nineteen thousand pounds of interdictor fuel.

    Fact 2: The A-10 with X12 Brimstone (or JAGM) and an LDP can standoff 10-15nm from the optical threat environment, at low level and kill threats beyond the reach of the optical threat. The missiles external carriage requirement (rail forward launch) destroys F-35 Stealth and its lolo stealth speed restriction (480 knots) makes it vulnerable to threat air. See: MiG-31s and Ukrainian Su-25s. A-10s cannot survive without air supremacy. F-35s cannot survive the GBAD or the air.

    Fact 3: War is ugly at the front. You _will lose_ jets, sometimes at horrific rates. WWII Schlactgeschwaderen (literally slaughter wings = CAS squadrons) on the Eastern Front had 400% casualty rates in the first year, to the point the Luftwaffe brought the Stuka back into production, even though the FW-190 was 10X better at BAI. You don’t risk 100 million dollar national assets by chucking them into gator pits of concentrated trash fire. Stealth is too valuable. You conserve them to do war-winner, deep strike, missions. Where their ‘both bombs today’ DMPI hits actually count. DEAD, Bridges, BMC2, Ammo Dumps and Airbases.

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