A-10 Warthog No Longer Suitable for Middle East Combat, Air Force Leader Says

By Stew Magnuson

The possibility of sequestration returning in 2016 leaves the Air Force with hard decisions to make on budget cuts and how to maintain fighting capability, Gen. Michael Hostage, Air Combat Command commander, said July 29.

A tighter budget means letting go of resources that impact the ability to produce maximum combat power. Such plans include cutting the A-10 Warthog and U2 spy aircraft and closing Air Force bases. Politics is a challenge for the Air Force, said Hostage. All three proposals have met resistance on Capitol Hill.

The A-10 no longer meets the requirements for combat in the Middle East, he said at an Air Force Association breakfast in Arlington, Virginia.

The Air Force needs to make room for aircraft that are newer, more capable and survivable, he added.

“I can’t send an A-10 to Syria. It would never come back,” he said.

The Air Force needs a new base closure and realignment commission to do away with excess capacity, he said.   

“We don’t have the latitude anymore to hang on to the amount of infrastructure that we have,” said Hostage.

“We are bringing our force down to the size that it needs to be in order to be sized for the sequestration budget,” he said.

In light of these budget limitations, there is still a bright future for the Air Force, Hostage said. The challenge now is how to develop and deploy new platforms, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter. What makes the F-35 valuable is its speed and fusion, he said.

“The F-35 has tremendous stealth capability, tremendous fusion and the ability to work cooperatively with other airplanes that no other plane can do,” said Hostage.

The next step is to figure out what kind of aircraft will follow the F-35, he said. Budget cuts mean carefully planning what the sixth-generation fleet will be, said Hostage.

He said the Air Force was already behind on its timeline to define what this next-generation fighter should be.

“We have to figure out what is the capability that future technology will bring to us that will provide balance,” said Hostage. Yet he added that he was “confident we will have the capabilities before somebody else does.”

Having coalitions with other nations’ air forces is a key factor in producing as much combat power as possible for the sixth-generation fighter, he noted. The Air Force continues to conduct red flags, which are exercises to train pilots and other crew members from the United States, NATO and other allied countries for air combat situations.

The ability to have partners with interoperable equipment is important because the Air Force needs different security elements for synergy, Hostage said. “We have to be able to train together if we want to fight together.”

Topics: Aviation, Joint Strike Fighter, Tactical Aircraft

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