Milley: A-10 Cut is an ‘Acceptable Risk’

The Air Force’s plan to cut 42 A-10s but retain the bulk of its fleet is an acceptable risk as the military looks ahead to more survivable capabilities, the Defense Department’s top uniformed officer told lawmakers June 10.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2022 budget looks to cut the current A-10 fleet to 239 from 281, the service’s latest attempt to divest the venerable Warthog, which the Department says is aging and is not relevant to a future, high-end fight.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that while he’s “personally a very big fan” of the aircraft and that the cuts do create some risk, it is acceptable and the budget only represents a “modest decrease in the number of A-10s.”

“We’ve got to recognize and begin to shift toward a future operating environment and a changing character of war, and we must shift [to] the capabilities that are going to be relevant, survivable, and effective against a tier one adversary sometime in the future,” Milley said.

The Air Force plans to retire the older A-10s and shift those units to new missions. Milley said the remaining aircraft would be enough for five squadrons.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) pressed Milley on the Air Force’s plan during the hearing, saying he understands that more exquisite aircraft are needed on Day 1 of a conflict, but he’s concerned about close air support in “Day 30, Day 60, Day 180.”

Kelly, himself a former Navy combat pilot who represents Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., home to 83 A-10C aircraft, has assumed the now annual role of Arizona lawmaker opposing Warthog retirements.

“In a former life, I used to be a test pilot. I’ve flown close air support myself in an airplane that does not do the job well, and I don’t see another airframe in our inventory, not the F-16, not the F-35, that can do the mission like the A-10 can,” Kelly said.

The Air Force actually wants to divest a total of 201 aircraft in 2022, which the service says will yield a savings of $1.4 billion to put toward other capabilities. In addition to the A-10, the service is looking to cut 48 F-15C/Ds, 47 F-16C/Ds, 20 Block 30 Global Hawks, 18 KC-135 tankers, 14 KC-10s, eight C-130Hs, and four E-8 JSTARS.