The U.S. Air Force expects to have some of its A-10 Warthogs grounded through Fiscal Year 2025 as the lifespan of the aircrafts’ wings begins to run out.
Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the service’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that not all A-10s may be flying through FY 2025.
“We are not confident we are flying all of the airplanes we currently possess through 2025,” Harris said, Defense News reported this week. “So as we are looking at a CAF [Combat Air Force] road map and with our modernization program, our intent is not to have groundings that impact the fleet.”
“The new wing program will aim to avoid any further groundings beyond 2025 and will ensure a minimum of six combat squadrons remain in service until 2032. In addition to re-winging efforts, the Air Force is exploring ways to augment the A-10 fleet,” according to written testimony by Harris and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Jr.
In the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill, $103 million was allocated for the A-10 re-winging effort, of which four pairs will be made. The Fiscal Year 2019 request would pay for eight to 12 more pairs of A-10 wings.
“This year, the original A-10 re-winging program completes as the 173rd wing set will be installed later this summer,” according to the testimony. “Additionally, a new re-winging program will begin third quarter of FY18 with the release of a Request for Proposals for up to 109 additional wing replacement sets.”
During the hearing, Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, asked Harris how many A-10s will get wings and how many will be grounded before Fiscal Year 2025.
“Is there some other reason why you’re not asking for max capacity? Is it because we can’t have that many in the fleet that are out for that period of time, just operational requirements,” McNally asked.
“We will have to get back to you on the groundings per year, per airplanes,” he said, adding that the Defense Department is conducting studies comparing the A-10 and the F-35.
“As we are looking at our [Combat Air Force] road map and where we’re going with our modification program, our intent is not to have a grounding that impacts the fleet,” Harris said.
Currently, the Air Force has only committed to retaining six of the nine A-10 squadrons.
“With them being south of the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula], and deployed to Afghanistan and just coming back from schwacking ISIS and working with our NATO allies and all that we have on our plate, three active duty and then six Guard and Reserve squadrons for a total of nine — that’s already stretching it,” McSally said. “How would we provide that capability to the combatant commanders if we went down to six? I just don’t see it.”