US Congress speeds up withdrawal of US Air Force's oldest planes except A-10

Since the mid-2010s, each new Pentagon funding law has given rise to a standoff between the US Air Force and the US Congress over the accelerated retirement of devices deemed unsuitable for modern operational needs, so as to free up budgetary and human resources to accommodate new equipment, and in particular the F-35A Lighting II and the future NGAD, intended to replace the F-22 by the end of the decade. And each year, an aircraft concentrates this opposition, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the mythical low-altitude fire support aircraft, which was designed to eliminate the columns of Soviet tanks in central Europe in the 70s, and which worked wonders. during the military operations of the years 2000 and 2010, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year was no exception, while the financing law has just been amended by the House of Representatives.

According to this law, which has yet to be voted on by the Senate, the US Air Force will indeed receive 48 F-35A as requested, as well as 17 F-15EX, as well as the C-130J transport planes, the KC-refuellers. 46 or the T-7A Red Hawks requested. In addition, it will be able to withdraw from service no less than 160 aircraft deemed too old to represent significant added value against China, including 47 F-16C / D, 48 F-15C / D, four electronic surveillance aircraft E -8J JSTARS as well as 20 HALE RQ-4 Global Hawk block 30 drones, to which will be added 18 KC-135 and 14 KC-10 tankers, as well as 13 C-130H transport aircraft. It should be noted in passing that the US Air Force will withdraw 95 fighters from service and that it will only admit 65 to replace them, the equivalent of a squadron lost in 2022. On the other hand, and as before faced with a somewhat resigned US Air Force, the US Air Force's request to withdraw 42 A-10 Thunderbolt from service was once again rejected, under pressure froma strong lobby of representatives and senators involved around Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where the Thunderbolt IIs are stationed.

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The F-35A presented as the replacement, among other things, of the A10, does not have the firepower or the resistance sufficient to carry out close fire support missions, and must therefore carry out its strikes at medium altitude and safety distance.

For the US Air Force, the A-10 can no longer play a significant role in high intensity combat, especially if it were to intervene against an advanced military force such as the People's Liberation Army. The aircraft is in fact deemed too slow and not stealthy enough to be able to operate in contested airspace in the face of dense anti-aircraft defenses. In addition, initially designed to be engaged in the European theater, its combat range of 500 km for fire support missions and its cruising speed of only 300 knots, make it unsuitable for a theater of operations. extended as in the Pacific. Finally, the advanced age of the aircraft, which entered service more than 40 years ago, leads to increasingly high maintenance costs, while its capacity for development, particularly in terms of avionics and systems communication, are increasingly restricted as the 4 American Armies evolve with great strides towards the collaborative combat doctrine Joint All-Domain Command and Control, which assumes a full and complete cooperative capacity of all units and equipment present on and around the battlefield.

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