As part of its fiscal year 2019 budget request, the Air Force will be ordering more A-10 Thunderbolt II wings, according to Defense News.
Last year, the Air Force confirmed that it needs to order wings for about 109 new A-10s.
If they are unable to get wings for the aircraft, then the Air Force may need to retire up to three of their nine A-10 squadrons. The cost to buy the new A-10 wings is estimated to be around $103 million and it has yet to be approved.
“In the ’19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings, and so we move forward to address the wings of the A-10,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, who is the head of Air Combat Command.
“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure. That will depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress, but we plan to maintain the A-10 into the 2030s at least,” he continued.
With its ability to fly close to the battlefield and its unique Gatling gun that delivers tank-piercing rounds, the A-10 is popular with troops. Air Force leadership has argued in the past that it’s best to retire the A-10 to save money, but there are a lot of proponents in Congress who want to keep it around.
The Warthog has support from both Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Due to budget limitations, they have considered a variety of options that could impact the aircraft’s future.
A total of 281 A-10s are in operation, with 172 of them due to get new wings from Boeing, since they’re under contract with the firm.
The increasingly expensive cost of producing new wings means that the service may need to look into competing bids from other companies to satisfy their replacement needs.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” Holmes explained.
“It was a contract that was no longer really cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure that we were going to go [do], so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract,” he continued.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been in production since 1972 and more than 700 units have been built. It is commonly referred to as the “Warthog.”