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Is The Air Force Still Secretly Plotting To Kill The A-10 Warthog?
The A-10 Warthog got a major boost from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson at the end of 2017, and Congress has told the service to overhaul the beloved light attack aircraft’s wings to extend its life by another 20 years. But internally, branch officials would prefer that the tank-killer jet up its wings for good, a new report suggests.
Civilian A-10 program manager Todd Mathes told roughly 100 officials in a recent meeting on the A-10 project that the Warthog’s multi-million dollar re-winging and rebirth simply “was not going to happen,” the Project on Government Oversight reports.
Mathes’ comments contrast sharply with Wilson’s commitment to the A-10 in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. The 2018 defense budget had authorized $103 million to “add money to the Air Force budget to retool and open a line for wings,” Wilson said. “If that comes through, we will execute that and get that line started back up so that we can [retool] the first four or five sets of wings.”
“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” the former Air Force officer added with a smile.
The POGO report on Mathes’ comments is based on interviews with meeting attendees who declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation by the Air Force. Two years ago, the vice commander Air Combat Command — the same command where Mathes works, according to POGO — told a group of airmen that writing their congressmen in support of the A-10 amounted to “committing treason.” That commander, a two-star general, was fired three months later following a branch IG investigation into his remarks.
“According to Mr. Mathes’s reported statements, as the wings wear out, the Air Force will allow the number of flyable A-10s to draw down to 171 aircraft,” POGO’s Dan Grazier, a former Marine officer, reports. “As the number of operational aircraft falls, so, too, will the number of A-10 squadrons, going from nine squadrons down to six. Six is exactly the number the USAF is planning for, according to Congressional testimony by Air Force Lieutenant Generals Jerry Harris and Arnold Bunch.”
Cantankerousness in Air Combat Command’s A-10 program office is just another wrinkle in the aircraft’s recent roller-coaster ride. The Air Force has been actively pushing to phase out the light attack craft in favor of the F-35 since at least March 2014, when the service issued a public affairs guidance on A-10 phaseout, decreeing that A-10 units “will not actively seek any media coverage” praising the aircraft. Two and a half years later, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski of Air Force Materiel Command stated that the DoD planned on funding the aircraft “indefinitely.”
But after the Pentagon released a FY 2018 budget proposal that would fully fund “the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs,” Bunch testified to the House Armed Services Committee in June that the Air Force planned on reducing its force structure to six squadrons, drawing ire from Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona. “It’s the first time you’ve publicly said that you are going to go down to six squadrons,” McSally — a former A-10 pilot and current Senate candidate — told Bunch. “I’d really like to know what those planning assumptions are of the six squadrons.”
"We don't know if [Mathes'] statement was made as it was reported, or, if it was, what the context was. So it's difficult to provide any kind of clarification," ACC public affairs director Col. Tadd Sholtis told Task & Purpose when reached for comment. "Because of persistent budget uncertainty and the nature of the budget cycle, the current status of the program can only be based on what we know, which is this: pending approval of the FY18 appropriation, the Air Force plans to use the $103 million authorized in the FY18 NDAA to award a contract, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional A-10 wings, which is all that money funds."
So for now, the Warthog’s future remains cloudy — but one thing is clear: As long as the A-10 remains on the chopping block, folks like Grazier’s sources and McSally will clearly do whatever it takes to convince lawmakers and the American public it shouldn’t be.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include a statement from Air Combat Command Director of Public Affairs Col. Tadd Sholtis who responded to Task & Purpose’s comment request after the story published. (1/18/2018; 12:23 pm)
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.