(With all credit to National Lampoon, of course)
The F-35 is the Air Force's most important project right now, and they claim that just keeping a small force of A-10s in their inventory could delay fielding that plane!
The Air Force’s logic, if that is what you want to call it, is interesting—the F-35 program must have the A-10’s maintenance personnel. If the F-35 force does not get them, the “initial operational capability” for a single 12-plane squadron of the 99 F-35As delivered to the Air Force will have to be delayed to past the December 2016 date the Air Force promised to Congress last year.
Therefore, the Air Force has started to argue, at least 72 A-10s must be retired in 2015, with all the rest being retired immediately thereafter. To avoid the F-35 IOC slippage, the Air Force insists it must have 800 maintenance personnel who can only come from the A-10 force.
I know. This is standard budgetary dishonestly. A cut in State Department funding's rate of growth means that money for Benghazi security was not available. Curse you, stingy appropriators!
Yet nobody will point out that somehow money for drapes and new furniture for the Paris embassy was plentiful.
Or reduce funding for the Library of Congress, and the only way to cope is to cut public hours open by 50% (as if the patrons are just a reason to have employees rather than the other way around).
Aside from that nonsense, I think the Air Force is making a mistake in assuming that Congress views the F-35 at the same level of importance. The same goes for the White House.
With budget difficulties, politicians could easily view the huge pile of money required to field the F-35 as the only game in town when it comes to saving money for other priorities. If the Air Force can't spend money to field the F-35 because of the A-10, perhaps that F-35 money will go elsewhere.
Some politicians might simply resent such a transparent ploy (that only they are allowed to use!) to pressure Congress and call the Air Force bluff, saying, "Fine, your schedule slips. We'll keep the issue of F-35 funding active--and see how well that goes next year."
This level of nonsense to kill an effective plane that is the Air Force's only plane specifically designed to provide ground support to the Army makes me wonder if the Air Force puts any priority at all on supporting the Army on anything but Air Force terms.
The Air Force can say the words about supporting jointness, but the money says otherwise.