In the budget plan sent to Congress earlier this month, the US Air Force (USAF) has reversed the position it adopted under the Obama administration: the A-10 THUNDERBOLT II ground attack aircraft – more popularly but less flatteringly known as the ‘Warthog’ – will be kept in service for the foreseeable future.
Since 2015 the service has sought to retire the aircraft in every budget request, citing savings of $3.5 billion over five years as the principal motivation. On each occasion Congress has rejected the proposal, despite the USAF shunting the actual retirement date to the right. Now, the service plans to keep all 280+ aircraft on the active list.
Designed to counter massed Soviet armour at the height of the Cold War, in service since 1976 and out of production since 1984 the A-10 is a bespoke tank killer, but has also performed as a very effective close air support platform in Afghanistan and Iraq and is currently flying similar missions over Syria. The reversal of the decision to retire the aircraft may well reflect the extent to which planners of the ‘air battle’ see the spectre of conventional armoured warfare in Central Europe once more raising its head.