The US Air Force will delay retiring the A-10 — a stalwart attack aircraft beloved by ground troops — because of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, a military news site reported Wednesday.
Plans to postpone the mothballing will be outlined when the Pentagon submits its 2017 budget request to Congress next month, Pentagon officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Defense One.
Developed in the 1970s, A-10s can fly low and slow, and are famed for their tank-destroying capabilities and their heavy armor that makes them difficult to shoot down from the ground.
US ground forces delight at the distinctive sound of the highly maneuverable plane’s massive cannon, which can drench a target with high-caliber firepower at a rate of about 70 rounds per second.
According to Defense One, Air Force officials have postponed immediate plans to retire the Warthog, as the plane is known, because of its utility in Iraq and Syria, where the United States is leading a coalition against IS jihadists.
The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the report.
“The A-10 fleet is playing an indispensable role in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and assisting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” he said, using an alternative name for the IS group.
“With growing global chaos and turmoil on the rise, we simply cannot afford to prematurely retire the best close air-support weapon in our arsenal without fielding a proper replacement.”
The A-10’s retirement, proposed two years ago, was intended to free up cash to pay for newer planes, including the costly F-35 fighter jet.
In October, the Pentagon announced the deployment of 12 A-10s to the air base in Incirlik in southern Turkey to support anti-IS operations in Iraq and Syria.