All bets are off for 2015
The U.S. Air Force will be prohibited from using any money appropriated in the 2014 budget to retire the A-10 Warthog if the National Defense Authorization Act passes Congress and is signed into law.
The flying branch wants to ground all 350 of the low- and slow-flying attack jets in order to divert money into developing new stealth warplanes, but ground troops and legislators value the A-10 for its ability to attack enemy troops in close proximity to U.S. forces.
The act protects the A-10 only in 2014. The Air Force could try again to decommission the plane in 2015.
The Senate is expected to pass its version of the authorization bill on Dec. 19 and the House of Representatives voted on the measure earlier in the month. The only remaining step after Dec. 19 will be for Pres. Barack Obama to sign the authorization into law.
“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended to make significant changes to manning levels with respect to covered aircraft or to retire, prepare to retire or place in storage a covered aircraft,” the NDAA states.
The term “covered aircraft” refers to the A-10 and the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft—which the Air Force is also trying to divest.
The 2014 NDAA also further stipulates that the USAF many not retire or prepare to retire the A-10 until after Dec. 31 2014, which includes the first quarter of the 2015 budget. However, the Air Force would be allowed to get rid of the aircraft the service was already planning to retire before April 9, 2013. That amounts to several dozen of the 350 A-10s.
The cannon-armed Warthog isn’t out of the woods yet. The aircraft was never really in danger of being retired in the 2014 budget, as the Air Force was examining proposals to retire the long-serving jet in the administration’s 2015 budget.
That being said, the Pentagon is considering multiple budget plans depending on how much money might ultimately be available. The recent two-year spending deal reached between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress gives the Pentagon a little more flexibility—but no final decisions have been made.
What the Air Force decides to do with the A-10 fleet won’t be revealed until the 2015 budget proposal rolls out around mid-February 2014. But if the service does propose to send the A-10 to the boneyard, it will surely face fierce resistance in Congress.