Tell it to the Marines

Critics of the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10, who say the F-35 is simply not an adequate platform for the close air support mission, are ignoring the Marine Corps’ huge endorsement of it, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Friday. At a press conference during AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Welsh said “it’s an interesting conversation where everyone’s talking about the F-35 not doing close air support when that’s all the Marine Corp is buying it for,” Welsh said. “This thread of conversation” that USAF doesn’t care about the CAS mission “has really become a little ridiculous,” he said. “I’ve got 140,000 data points over the last seven years that prove that’s a ridiculous statement,” Welsh added, offering the statistics on how many CAS sorties the service has flown during the period. “That’s about 20,000 a year. When is there a little bit of credit given for that?” He said his father “thought he flew” CAS in P-40s, P-47s, P-51s, and F-84s, and his father’s friends thought they did so in A-1s and A-7s, “long before we had an A-10.” They believed they had a “mentality, a culture, and a focus” of giving ground support full attention, Welsh argued. “So why people, all of a sudden, looking backward, (are) saying they didn’t is a little beyond my comprehension,” he added.