One of the most controversial proposals by the Air Force this year is its plan to divest the A-10 jet aircraft. The "warthog," as it is known, is a slow moving, low-flying, ear-piercingly loud jet airplane built around a giant "Avenger" Gatling gun, which has provided intimidating fire power for troops in contact on the ground for nearly 40 years. By divesting an entire fleet, instead of just a few airplanes, the Air Force saves "billions, not millions" across the board in production and maintenance.
That $3.5 billion can then be invested in "multi-mission" aircraft, like the F-35, which, like the F-16, F-15, B1, and other platforms can conduct close air support (CAS), in addition to their other missions. From an enterprise management perspective, they argue, it is just inefficient to maintain a "niche" airplane like the A-10, when so many other more survivable platforms can also do CAS, in addition to interdiction, air-to-air, and penetrating strike.
As a taxpayer, I get the Air Force's budget argument; but as the wife of a former infantry officer who claims the A-10 has saved real lives in combat, my belief that the A-10 can probably be retired is not really about the money. It's about my assessment that the Air Force can adequately perform the CAS mission without the A10. The lingering question is, will they?