HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Increased global threats could push back the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10 close air support aircraft, says Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of the Air Combat Command, according to reports from defense and politics websites Breaking Defense and The Hill.
Carlisle spoke Nov. 10 at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C.
“We have to retire the airplanes, but I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and maybe keeping around the airplane a bit longer is something that’s being considered based on things as they are today and what we see in the future,” Carlisle was quoted as saying in The Hill report.
“I think if you look at what we’d like to do, is probably a couple of squadrons maybe early, because we have F-16s coming out of Hill (Air Force Base), and we’d like to transition A-10s to F-16s in a couple of different places, but I think the majority of it we would move it a couple of years, two to three years, to the right.”
The Air Force has attempted to retire the A-10 multiple times in the past few years, only to be blocked by Congress at each turn. The retirement was part of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2016 budget, a plan that consisted of a four-year phase-out in coordination with the F-35 procurement plan.
The Department of Defense has said the plan would create more than $4 billion in savings over five years.
Carlisle said the retirement shift isn’t official yet and would ultimately have to be approved by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Secretary Deborah Lee James.
Both Welsh and Carlisle visited Hill just a few weeks ago. Welsh spoke to Airmen about several issues facing the Air Force, including the A-10 retirement, and Carlisle was a featured speaker at a ceremony celebrating the arrival of the F-35 on base.
Carlisle told reporters Nov. 10 that threats like ISIS and growing instability in the Middle East and Africa are driving the discussions to keep the A-10 airborne longer than anticipated.
“What’s happening in Yemen, what’s happening in the Horn of Africa, what’s happening in Libya, combined with the fact we’re not leaving Afghanistan … for at least one more year there, has all put a greater demand on the capacity of the United States Air Force across all the mission areas,” he said.