WASHINGTON – Congress waded back into the debate over the Air Force’s A-10 retirement plans today, unveiling House legislation that would restrict funds for the service to move ahead with sunsetting the attack plane.
In his markup of the defense policy bill, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry prohibits the Air Force for using FY17 funds to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage any A-10 aircraft, which primarily conduct close-air support. The legislation would also mandate the Air Force maintain a minimum of of 171 A-10s designated as primary mission aircraft inventory.
Thornberry’s language also forbids the Air Force from making any significant reductions to A-10 manning levels until the service and the Pentagon’s weapons tester complete comparative tests pitting the legacy Warthog against the fifth-generation F-35, and brief the Congress on the results.
The mandated testing, first reported last summer, includes evaluation of both aircraft’ ‘ability to conduct close-air support, combat search and rescue, and forward air controller airborne missions, according to the legislation.
Drawing down the manpower associated with operating the A-10s is also contingent on Congress’ receipt of a report from the Air Force and the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation on the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation, currently planned to start in 2017.
The Air Force and Congress have been at odds for years over the service’s wish to sunset the legacy Warthog, beloved by soldiers for the roar of its Gatling gun signalling safety. The Air Force’s latest retirement schedule, unveiled in its latest budget request for FY17, begins divesting the A-10s in FY18. The last A-10 would be sent to the boneyard in FY22.
But Congress is clearly still not satisfied, with several key lawmakers recently criticizing the Air Force’s plan to replace the A-10 with the multi-role F-35 joint strike fighter.
See related post:
A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog)
The A-10 Thunderbolt is also known as the Warthog, the ‘flying gun’ and the Tankbuster.
The A-10 is a high-survivability and versatile aircraft, popular with pilots for the ‘get home’ effectiveness.
The mission of the aircraft is ground attack against tanks, armoured vehicles and installations, and close air support of ground forces.
The A-10 is suitable for operation from forward air bases, with short take-off and landing capability. The aircraft has a long range (800 miles), high endurance and can loiter in the battle area.
The manoeuvrability at low speed and low altitude (below 1,000ft) allows accurate and effective targeting and weapon delivery over all types of terrain.
The single-seat cockpit is protected by all-round armour, with a titanium ‘bathtub’ structure to protect the pilot that is up to 3.8cm thick. The cockpit has a large bulletproof bubble canopy, which gives good all-round vision.
The cockpit is equipped with a head-up display, which is used for targeting and weapon aiming, a Have-Quick secure radio communications system, inertial navigation and a tactical air navigation (TACAN) system.
Lockheed Martin embedded global positioning system / inertial navigation system (EGI), which pinpoints the exact location of the aircraft. The aircraft are also to be fitted with BAE Systems terrain profile matching systems (TERPROM).
The pilot is equipped with night-vision goggles and also the infrared imaging display of the Maverick AGM-65.
Raytheon Technical Services 5in×5in multifunction cockpit displays, situational awareness datalinks (SADL), digital stores management system, integrated flight and fire control computer (IFFCC) from BAE Systems Platform Solutions for automated continuously computed weapons delivery, Sniper XR or Litening targeting pods for precision-guided weapons and helmet-mounted sighting system.
The aircraft is armed with a General Dynamics GAU-8/A Avenger 30mm cannon, mounted in the nose of the aircraft.
Using the cannon, the A-10 is capable of disabling a main battle tank from a range of over 6,500m. The cannon can fire a range of ammunition, including armour-piercing incendiary rounds (API) weighing up to 0.75kg, or uranium-depleted 0.43kg API rounds.
The magazine can hold 1,350 rounds of ammunition. The pilot can select a firing rate of 2,100 or 4,200 rounds a minute.
The two non-afterburning turbo fan engines, TF34-GE-100, supplied by General Electric, each supply 9,065lb thrust. The location of the engines, high on the fuselage, allows the pilot to fly the aircraft fairly easily with one engine inoperable.