The Air Force is defending their decision to get rid of all their A-10 aircraft, which are the only Air Force asset specifically designed to provide the Army with close air support:
General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told a panel in the House of Representatives that eliminating the 283 tank-killer jets would save $3.7 billion over the next five years plus another $500 million in planned aircraft upgrades.
The money saved would in turn be used to bolster current Air Force readiness, which has slipped in recent years because of budget cuts, and to focus on priorities for the future, such as the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range bomber.
Oh sure, the Air Force promises that multi-mission aircraft will continue to support the "mission" of ground support even when the asset designed for that mission is gone.
Yeah, I'm sure when the Air Force is prioritizing missions for their scarce multi-mission aircraft that ground support will be high on the list.
But by killing the only aircraft specifically designed just for ground support, the Air Force is very clearly telling us what their priorities are. The Air Force is essentially telling the Army (while denying this to Congress) to have a nice life--but goodbye. To think they were once the Army Air Force.
I assume our Air Force leadership will stop complaining about Army efforts to get bigger and more capable UAVs to provide the aerial fire support that the Air Force obviously considers a luxury inconsistent with their core missions.
Heck, maybe the A-10 (and the funds to support them) could go to the Army and Army National Guard? Make them subordinate to our ground division headquarters where they can be integrated into support for the brigades these headquarters control in the field. The Marines have their own planes? As the Army gets more expeditionary, why not the Army, too?
I don't know if the Air Force has truly decided to aim high, but they sure don't want to aim low.
Our Air Force is very good at what it does. I wouldn't want to go to war without them. But I worry about what they decide to do--especially in a tight budget environment.