The Air Force could be forced to adjust its latest plan for retiring its fleet of A-10 close air support aircraft, under the House version of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill.
Earlier this year, the service proposed to gradually retire the fleet beginning in FY 2018 and ending by Oct. 1, 2021.
The chairman’s mark, unveiled Monday, would require the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 171 A-10 aircraft designated as primary mission aircraft. The bill also would prohibit the service from making any significant reductions to manning levels of the beloved attack plan until the DOD office responsible for testing weapons systems and the Air Force complete reports on the results of the initial operational test and evaluation of the F-35 aircraft program as well as a test comparing the capabilities of the F-35A and A-10C.
The comparative test needs to evaluate both aircraft’s ability to conduct close air support, combat search and rescue, and forward air controller airborne missions, reported Defense News.
The Air Force has been trying to retire the jet for several years in response to the statutory budget caps, but has been blocked by lawmakers. It plans to replace the A-10 with the multi-role F-35, although officials have said the fifth-generation fighter cannot match the A-10 as a single-mission close air support aircraft.
The Air Force needs to begin divesting A-10 squadrons in FY 2018 to free up the necessary manpower to field the F-35 when it reaches full operational capability in FY 2021. The service is experiencing shortages in maintenance personnel, including crew chiefs and avionics specialists.
The chairman’s mark is available on the committee website.