U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this week that the Department of Defense (DOD) has decided to delay the planned retirement of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt bomber-jet squadron, which will remain in service until at least 2022, a move that drew praise from at least one U.S. senator.
The A-10 is designed as a close air-support aircraft to give ground forces a superior tactical advantage, and the original decision to retire it drew criticism.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cheered the decision to put off the retirement. McCain said Carter’s approach to replace the A-10 incrementally is the most responsible way to update the nation’s squadrons.
“Not only has the Air Force decided to keep the A-10 flying through at least 2022, but it has also pledged to replace it on a squadron-by-squadron basis – ensuring we won’t be left with a capability gap as we confront a complex array of conflicts and crises,” McCain said.
“For the last several years, I’ve been proud to lead efforts, along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)on the Senate Armed Services Committee to prevent the Air Force from prematurely retiring the A-10 fleet," McCain said. "There is no weapon in our arsenal that offers more effective close-air support to American ground troops serving in harm’s way than the A-10 aircraft. I look forward to seeing our A-10 pilots continue to make important advances in the fight against ISIL in the Middle East, boosting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and supporting vital missions for U.S. national security wherever they are needed.”