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If the Air Force kept the 42 A-10s it has already re-winged and got rid of the rest, it would only save $1 billion versus the $4.2 billion saved by taking down the whole fleet, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Welsh said it’s the infrastructure that “drives the big cost,” so keeping a few is quite expensive. If USAF doesn’t get permission to cut all the A-10s, he said the other “horrible” options include cutting another 363 F-16s (14 squadrons' worth), reducing the F-15E fleet, or eliminating the B-1 fleet. Doing so would make it “impossible” to win “a big conflict,” he asserted. USAF saves “big lives on the ground” by providing air superiority—allowing freedom to maneuver and attack—and through striking follow-on forces and command and control. The combination saves far more lives than close air support, he said, and the aircraft retained can also do CAS, as proved over “thousands and thousands” of sorties. The A-10 retirement plan is “not emotional, it’s logical,” and has been vetted through all the Pentagon models used to plan wars. Retiring the A-10, “very clearly, ... (was) the least impactful” move  affecting the ability to fight a major war, Welsh insisted. Ten years from now, the A-10 “will not be part of that solution” to winning a high-end fight, he said.