Congress Moves to Save A-10 Warthog from Scrapheap

A-10 Warthog
U.S. Air Force file photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman

Efforts in Congress to save the Air Force’s A-10 Warthog from the scrapyard and move it to the frontlines of the war against the Islamic State bring together an unusual pairing of support.

The Warthog, a close air support aircraft, has proven highly effective in protecting friendly ground troops, while decimating enemy ground forces and equipment, during the wars of the past decade.

U.S. Representative Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly combat missions and command a combat squadron, allies with Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill in her efforts to save the aircraft. The pairing affirms the adage that politics makes strange bedfellows. The A-10 is officially known as the Thunderbolt II, but it’s pilots and ground support teams have affectionately dubbed the aircraft the Warthog.

The representative and senator are joined by others in a bipartisan coalition in their efforts to save the Warthog, according to an article by James Rosen that appeared in the Times-Record. The renewed effort to save the aircraft comes after the Department of Defense announced A-10s would be deployed to support the war against the Islamic State.

“It’s showing its unique capabilities in the fight against ISIS,” McSally said in Rosen’s article. “You need to fly low. You need to have a big weapons load because if there’s a significant fight going on and you run out of ammo in the middle of it, people are going to die. And you need to be survivable in that kind of environment.”

McCaskill joined with McSally in supporting the aircraft and the unique mission it plays in military force structure. “As the United States and our coalition partners take the fight to ISIL, the A-10’s ability to provide air support is very important,” McCaskill told reporters. “Its pilots are making an invaluable contribution to our multipronged campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.”

In November, Jed Babbin defended the aircraft that first entered service in 1975 at Breitbart National Security, calling Close Air Support (CAS) the “dominant air war task of the Air Force, Navy and Marines” during the types of wars that have been fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Air Force proposes to scrap the Warthog to make room for the F-35 multipurpose fighter.

“There is no substitute for an Air Force-owned CAS mission,” Babbin wrote. “The Army can’t perform it with helicopters, which can be shot down with MANPADs, the shoulder-fired missiles which are common on too many battlefields. Even after the Marine Corps fields its version of the F-35, there will be no other service that can do what the Air Force can with its A-10s and AC-130s.”

James Rosen detailed McSally’s personal experience at flying the Warthog in combat missions supporting endangered American troops on the ground. He wrote:

Air Force Col. Martha McSally was leading a squadron of A-10 attack jets over Afghanistan when they encountered U.S. forces engaged in a desperate fight against Islamist insurgents.

One of the embattled troops signaled his unit’s location with a small mirror that reflected sunlight upward. McSally, the first American woman to fly in combat, and the other pilots flew to the light and opened fire with the seven-barrel Gatling cannons nestled in the A-10s’ noses. The fire, at 65 rounds per second, devastated the enemy. The surrounded Americans lived.

‘They didn’t have time to figure out the eight-digit coordinates of the enemy or to put a laser spot on the target because they were on the run with their lives in danger,’ McSally recalled in a recent interview. ‘The other (jet) fighters were above the weather, so they could not get down to save these guys. They were not going to live, but we went down and saved their asses. We were able to get below the weather in the mountains because the A-10 is slow and maneuverable.’

Stratfor, a Texas based group that sells geopolitical intelligence to government agencies and corporations, believes Obama’s dispatch of 50 “special operations troops” to help Syria and the Kurds fight the Islamic State terrorists came after the deployment of the A-10s to Incirlik, Turkey. “These would be exactly the type of guys who would be able to make full use of the A-10s by providing (targeting) coordination from the ground,” Tack told Rosen. “And the A-10 would be a very capable aircraft to provide them with close air support as they are operating inside Syria.”

Texas Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also weighed in on the deployment of the Warthog to Turkey. “The president proposed to retire the A-10 aircraft,” Thornberry told the Brookings Institution in Washington on the day the Pentagon made its announcement. “Well, it turns out they are sending A-10s into the Middle East today and relying on them.”

Talking about the warbird threatened with extinction, McSally said, “The plane was built to show up on the battlefield, loiter, take hits and survive. It’s amazing. We can lose a lot of our hydraulics, all of our electronics, lose one engine and have flight-control damage, yet still fly back to friendly territory.”

The battle to save the Warthog continues, but for now the aircraft does what it does best, protecting the lives of American and allied armed forces on the ground while eating the enemy’s armored equipment and troops for breakfast.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.