The 23rd Fighter Wing, which oversees the largest A-10 fighter group in the Air Force, put on a show of force with its Thunderbolts on Monday, staging an “elephant walk” at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia.
“The exercise was conducted in order to demonstrate the wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat ready forces across the globe,” Moody Air Force Base said on its Facebook page.
The Flying Tigers‘ “elephant walk” — a phrase that has been in use since at least World War II — was carried out by 30 A-10s, a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, and two HC-130J Combat King aircraft, the Air Force said, “for precision attack, personnel recovery and combat support worldwide.”
The Pave Hawk and the Combat Kings came from the 347th and 563rd Rescue Squadrons.
A day after the demonstration, the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget was released, revealing that there were no plans to mothball the A-10, which is nicknamed the Warthog.
While there has been a concerted push to keep the A-10 in the air, the demonstration on Monday doesn’t appear to have had anything to do with the decision announced on Tuesday.
“The world has changed, so we’re trying to maintain capacity and capability,” Air Force Maj. Gen. James Martin, the branch’s deputy assistant secretary for budget, said on Tuesday.
After Martin’s briefing, an Air Force spokeswoman confirmed to Defense News that the A-10’s retirement was off “indefinitely.” And overview documents for the budget indicated that the Air Force plans to fully fund all of its 283 A-10s.
The Thunderbolt has been widely praised across service branches.
Troops on the ground value its support and ability to linger over the battlefield while picking off small or tough targets.
“I have A-10s, and I will use them, because they’re fantastic airplanes,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, told Popular Mechanics in late 2015, when A-10s were deployed to Turkey to assist the fight against ISIS. “Their guys are incredibly well-trained and they do fantastic work in support of the joint warfight.”
The A-10 also got strong backing from lawmakers, particularly from Republican Rep. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who flew the A-10 before representing Arizona in Congress.
The Air Force also posted a time lapse of A-10s assembling at Moody Air Force Base, which you can see below.