Extending the life of the A-10

Popular Mechanics:
On paper, the Air Force plans to start mothballing the A-10 in 2018, with the last Warthogs sent to the boneyard by 2021. But last month Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said that the retirement of the A-10 would likely have to be delayed further as the military continues to rely on the low-and-slow attack plane for close-air support (CAS) missions flown against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Even more telling, the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) is bringing the depot line for A-10 maintenance and repair back up to full capacity, according to Aviation Week.

The Hawg isn't going anywhere.

"They have re-geared up, we've turned on the depot line, we're building it back up in capacity and supply chain," AFMC chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski recently told Aviation Week. "Our command, anyway, is approaching this as another airplane that we are sustaining indefinitely."

Air Force maintainers are also preparing to replace the wings of the A-10 fleet, tapping a $2 billion contract originally awarded to Boeing in 2007, which was intended at the time to keep the fleet flying until 2028. Some corrosion of the planes has been seen at the depots, but Pawlikowski says this is to be expected, especially on an aircraft that has been in service since 1977.

Much of the leadership within the Air Force is keen to retire the A-10 so that the resources used to maintain the fleet can be pumped into the fifth-generation F-35 program. However, the A-10 is the Air Force's only plane with the sole purpose of CAS to protect ground troops. In the current struggle against the Islamic State, a heavily armed and armored attack plane with a long loiter time—and the GAU-8 Avenger 30-millimeter gatling gun that holds 1,350 armor-piercing rounds—is significantly more useful than a stealthy, fast, software-laden fighter like the F-35.
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There is more.

This move makes sense.  None of the other aircraft in the US inventory can match the A-10 for close air support.  The other craft are also not nearly as cost effective as the A-10.

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