Maj. Gen. John Pletcher, the deputy assistant secretary for budget at the Air Force's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Management and the Comptroller at the Pentagon, told Military.com that the partial retirement of the Warthog attack planes will only affect the “oldest and least ready” of the fleet.
The decision, largely rooted in an effort to cut millions of dollars in costs and reshuffle funds to cover new, up-and-coming technologies, is expected to bring the grand total of the A-10 inventory to 237 planes.
At present, the service has only 281 Warthogs, of which only 173 had undergone re-winging as part of the 2011-launched Enhanced Wing Assembly program by the end of 2019; however, now, with the decision to cut the cord on 44 of the planes, only 65 more planes are expected to undergo the procedure.
A spokesperson informed Military.com that the Air Force would only begin the re-winging procedure once again after the axed attack planes are selected. Last year, officials indicated that the new wings would allow for the selected planes to “last for up to 10,000 equivalent flight hours without a depot inspection.”
Todd Harrison, who directs defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the American Military News that the Warthog decision emphasizes the Pentagon’s inability to fully let go of its aging defense capabilities.
“They’re afraid to let go of things completely,” Harrison said. “They’re shooting themselves in the foot because they’re guaranteeing that they’re going to have a smaller force structure in the future by making partial fleet reductions now.”
“If you retire whole fleets, you get way more in savings, then you can buy a larger fleet in the future,” he added.
Having entered service in 1976, the mighty Warthog attack planes, which have been deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have only recently come under retirement threats. Previously, officials looked to retire the planes to make room for the F-35 Lightning II squadrons, although the initiative was repeatedly postponed.
Aside from A-10s, the Air Force will begin retiring some of its B-1 bombers, RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and C-130H planes, according to Defense News.