Air Combat Command “has been focused … for a while” on how it maintains the close air support culture as it transitions from the A-10 to the F-35, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Feb. 13 at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. Welsh said he’s looking at putting a majority of former A-10 pilots “in some squadrons … so we create places where the CAS culture has a home; the keepers of the flame of this mindset, the attack mentality, which is important to us and has always been important to us.” He insisted the F-35 “will be a good CAS platform,” although it will take a while “to get it to where we want it to be; like it has with every other airplane we’ve ever bought, including the A-10.” The A-10, he said, “is going to go away, eventually,” and can’t serve past 2027-2028. “Beyond that, you’re talking a huge investment to recapitalize that fleet. That makes no sense in today’s environment,” Welsh argued.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.