Congress wants the Air Force to prove the F-35 can take over for the A-10
Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, gets off an A-10 Warthog after his flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill that would stop the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon's weapons tester completes comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II.
The tests would compare the two aircraft's ability to conduct close air support, search and rescue missions, and forward air controller airborne missions DefenseNews reports.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee contend that the F-35 doesn't possess the capabilities of the A-10, and that removing the Warthog from service would create a notable capability gap, which would be felt by the soldiers on the ground.
An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth
In March of 2015, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh's claimed that F-16s and F-15s would take over the role of the A-10, Senator John McCain unleashed the following scathing criticism:
"It's really embarrassing to hear you say something like that when I talk to the people who are doing the flying, who are doing the combat who say that the A-10 is by far the best close-air support system we have."
Indeed the A-10, a Cold War-era legacy plane has gained itself a cult following with forward deployed troops in heavy combat zones.
The distinctive buzzing noise made by the Warthog's 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger has come to signal salvation to soldiers in need of close air support.
"Cutting back a one-of-a-kind capability with no clear replacement is an example of a budget-based strategy, not the strategy-based budget we need to meet our defense needs," a letter from the legislators stated last year.