Congresswoman Martha McSally

Representing the 2nd District of Arizona

U.S. Rep. McSally Leads Bipartisan Effort to Begin Re-Winging the Rest of the A-10 Fleet

December 15, 2017
Press Release
Calls on Senate to End Neglect & Fund More A-10 Wings at Authorized Levels Already Approved by President Trump, House & Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Martha McSally today led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 20 lawmakers in sending a letter request to Senate leadership and high ranking appropriators urging them to include funding for new wings for the A-10 fleet in any final FY18 spending package. The A-10 wing production line was shut down because the Obama Administration unsuccessfully attempted to mothball A-10s and cripple the fleet. These requested funds would jumpstart the production line again.

Currently, 110 A-10 aircraft—one-third of the fleet—are in desperate need of wing set replacements or the Air Force will be forced to start grounding them.  A requirement to start to finish re-winging the fleet was fully funded in the FY18 House and Senate National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs), the FY18 NDAA conference report, and the House-passed defense appropriations bill. However, Senate Appropriations neglected to include it in their funding bill, regardless of the fact that the Air Force has re-geared up the A-10 depot line in order to sustain the A-10 fleet indefinitely.  

“Now that the Air Force has confirmed that it plans to maintain the A-10 fleet well into the foreseeable future, the remaining 110 wing sets must be delivered as soon as possible. The A-10 remains the only aircraft in the U.S. military specifically designed for Close Air Support (CAS) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). If one-third of the A-10 fleet were to be grounded, it would create a significant capability gap at a time when our service members are facing increasing threat environments,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “We urge you to fully fund this Air Force UPL list item as authorized/requested in any final spending package for FY18 in order to keep these battle-tested aircraft in the air and in the fight.”

As of August 30th of this year, the Warthog had dropped roughly 20 percent of all munitions—more than any other aircraft—in the fight against ISIS. The lawmakers point out that the A-10 is currently one of the U.S. military’s most utilized aircraft across multiple theaters, crucial in contingency operations against North Korea, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, and ISIS in the Middle East.

Thanks to Rep. McSally’s tireless efforts, Congress has taken clear and concrete steps to preserve the remaining A-10 fleet over the last several years. Since Congresswoman McSally was elected to the House of Representatives, she has effectively canceled the A-10’s retirement and fully funded the fleet. She also worked to successfully establish a requirement for the Air Force in FY18 NDAA to maintain no less than 1,970 fighter aircraft, and the A-10 is a vital part of maintaining this force.

“The funding amount authorized for new A-10 wings in the House, Senate, and conference NDAAs and requested in the House defense appropriations bill would allow the revival of a wing production line and begin the process of supplying these remaining aircraft with the new wings they need to keep flying safely in the future.”

Politico’s Morning Defense reported on Congresswoman McSally’s letter this morning.

The full letter text follows.

View a PDF of the letter HERE.

December 15, 2017

 

 

Senator Thad Cochran                                                Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen

Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee            Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

The Capitol, Room S-128                                           The Capitol, Room H-305

Washington, D.C. 20510                                            Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Senator Patrick Leahy                                                 Representative Nita Lowey

Vice Chairman                                                            Ranking Member

Senate Appropriations Committee                              House Appropriations Committee

The Capitol, Room S-128                                           1016 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                            Washington, D.C. 20510

 

 

Chairman Cochran, Chairman Frelinghuysen, Vice Chairman Leahy, and Ranking Member Lowey:

 

We write to express our grave concern regarding the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee’s omission of the Air Force’s Unfunded Priority List request for funding to restart A-10C Thunderbolt II wing production in its fiscal year 2018 (FY18) funding bill. The A-10C is currently one of the most utilized aircraft across multiple theaters, and this requirement was fully funded in the FY18 House and Senate National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs), the FY18 NDAA conference report, and the House-passed defense appropriations bill. We ask that this same level of funding be secured in any final FY18 spending package in order to prevent a critical capability gap in the operational fleet.

 

As you may know, the Air Force has taken the A-10C out of “sunset status” (after “mothballing” the equivalent of five squadrons, leaving only nine deployable squadrons in the inventory) in the face of growing security threats and increased operational tempo in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Korean Peninsula. The A-10 “Warthog” has continued to be instrumental in U.S. contingency operations around the globe, including just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) for critical anti-armor capabilities against North Korea, deploying to Eastern Europe and the Baltics in the face of Russian aggression, conducting missions in the South China Sea in the face of illegal Chinese military expansion in the region, and fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). In fact, as of August 30th of this year, the Warthog had dropped roughly 20 percent of all munitions—more than any other aircraft—in the fight against ISIS, and had flown 14 percent of all sorties deployed since counter-ISIS operations began in 2014.  

 

Furthermore, the A-10 is uniquely designed for life-saving missions like Close Air Support (CAS) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). The former protects troops in harm’s way while the latter involves rescuing downed pilots or other isolated personnel from enemy territory before they become prisoners of war. A-10 pilots specifically train for these missions because only the A-10 has the lethality, loiter time, and survivability to succeed in each of these mission sets.

 

Congress has taken clear and concrete steps to preserve the remaining A-10C fleet over the last several years. In FY16, Congress: fully funded the fleet, prohibited the use of any funds to retire any additional A-10s; required the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 171 combat-coded A-10s; and directed the Air Force to commission an independent assessment of the required capabilities and mission platform to replace the A-10.

 

The FY17 NDAA and defense appropriations bill continued this trend by: preserving the current fleet of 283 A-10s; again requiring a minimum of 171 combat-coded A-10s; mandating adequate maintainers and a regular depot schedule; protecting A-10s in the boneyard from premature destruction; and asking for a plan in conjunction with the FY18 budget request to prevent any A-10s from becoming unflyable due to wing deterioration.  Congress also required the Air Force to conduct a comparison or “fly-off” between the F-35A and the A-10C in CAS, CSAR, and Forward Air Control-Airborne (FAC-A) missions. This provision prevented any retirements until the full operational test and evaluation (OT&E) process for the F-35A is complete and an analysis is done by the Air Force on mission gaps. This exercise has yet to occur.

 

The FY18 NDAA also established a requirement for the Air Force to maintain no less than 1,970 fighter aircraft. The A-10 is a vital part of maintaining this force.

 

However, 110 A-10C aircraft—one-third of the fleet—are in desperate need of wing set replacements in order to safely continue mission assignments into the coming years. 173 A-10s have already received new wings. But, as the Air Force was considering whether to decommission the A-10 fleet, the contract for wing production was allowed expire before the remaining 110 wing sets could be completed. In September, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said the Air Force would be forced to start grounding some A-10s beginning in 2018 because their wings will have reached the end of their service life. Yet, in October, Gen. Pawlikowski also confirmed that the Air Force has “re-geared up” the A-10 depot line in order to sustain the A-10 fleet “indefinitely.” 

 

Now that the Air Force has confirmed that it plans to maintain the A-10 fleet well into the foreseeable future, the remaining 110 wing sets must be delivered as soon as possible. The A-10 remains the only aircraft in the U.S. military specifically designed for CAS and CSAR. If one-third of the A-10 fleet were to be grounded, it would create a significant capability gap at a time when our servicemembers are facing increasing threat environments. The funding amount authorized for new A-10 wings in the House, Senate, and conference NDAAs and requested in the House defense appropriations bill would allow the revival of a wing production line and begin the process of supplying these remaining aircraft with the new wings they need to keep flying safely in the future until we have a proven, tested replacement for its capabilities.

 

Congress has clearly willed over recent fiscal years that the A-10C fleet be sustained in its entirety. Further, this wing funding was a top Air Force Unfunded Priority List item specifically added into both the FY18 House and Senate defense authorization bills, the FY18 NDAA conference report (which has been signed into law by President Trump), and the FY18 House defense appropriations bill, which passed the House in July. As such, we urge you to fully fund this Air Force UPL list item as authorized/requested in any final spending package for FY18 in order to keep these battle-tested aircraft in the air and in the fight.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

                                         

       Martha McSally                                                            Johnny Isakson

       Member of Congress                                                    United States Senator

 

 

 

                                               

        David A. Perdue                                                          Walter B. Jones

        United States Senator                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                         

        Mike Turner                                                                 Mike Coffman

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                         

        Vicky Hartzler                                                             Austin Scott

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                         

        Ruben Gallego                                                             Paul Cook

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                               

        Colleen Hanabusa                                                        Carol Shea-Porter

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                               

        Tom O’Halleran                                                           Thomas Suozzi

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

                       

 

 

                                         

        Matt Gaetz                                                                   Don Bacon

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                         

        Jim Banks                                                                    Earl L. “Buddy” Carter

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

 

                                         

        Adam Kinzinger                                                          Kyrsten Sinema

        Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

 

 

Cc:

Senator Richard Durbin

Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

 

Representative Kay Granger

Chairwoman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

 

Representative Peter J. Visclosky

Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

 

Senator Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader

 

Senator Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader

 

Representative Paul Ryan

Speaker of the House

 

Representative Kevin McCarthy

House Majority Leader

 

Representative Nancy Pelosi

House Minority Leader