By Michael Hoffman
January 31, 2012
The venerable A-10 tank killer aircraft is taking a hit of its own as part of the Defense Department's decision to eliminate six of the service's tactical air squadrons and one training squadron.
Air National Guard squadrons will bear the brunt of the losses. Three of the five A-10 squadrons going away will be Guard units. Air Force leaders plan to eliminate one Reserve and one active duty squadron.
The Air Force will also decommission one Guard F-16 squadron and one F-15 training squadron.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld confirmed the type of aircraft and duty status of each squadron during an editorial board meeting with Gannett Government Media reporters, said Lt. Col. Patrick Seiber, Winnefeld's spokesman.
Seiber said the vice chairman would not name the specific squadrons the Air Force plans to eliminate. Air Force officials contacted Monday declined to name the squadrons.
"The Air Force plans to lay out the entire force structure announcement in the coming week," said Lt. Col. Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta first announced the Air Force would get rid of seven squadrons Jan. 26 as he highlighted that and other reductions the Defense Department would make to account for $487 billion reduction in growth to defense spending over the next decade.
"The review determined that we could eliminate six of the 60 [Air Force tactical air squadrons] as well as one training squadron. None of that will impact our ability to dominate the skies," Panetta said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the pilots in the decommissioned squadrons would transfer to other units, including those that fly unmanned aircraft like MQ-9 Reapers and MQ-1 Predators.
"What we are doing is re-missioning the units," Schwartz told reporters at the Pentagon Jan. 27. "In other words, for example, a unit that was operating manned aircraft might transition to a remotely piloted aircraft mission. And so, their fundamental skills will still be employed but in a different way."
A source with the Air National Guard, who asked not to be identified, said he expected the Air Force to target three A-10 Guard units that just recently transitioned from F-16s to A-10s as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process – known as BRAC.
The Guard source said he expected the Air Force to close the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.; the 163rd Fighter Squadron at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind.; and the 184th Fighter Squadron at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Ark.
The Guard source also said the Iowa National Guard's 124th Fighter Squadron, which flies F-16s, is a target for decommissioning.
The Air Force will reduce its end strength by 10,000 Airmen to account for shrinking infrastructure, Schwartz said. It's unclear if the service will target Airmen assigned to the lost squadrons.
First built in 1975, the A-10 Thunderbolt II – better known as the "Warthog" -- is known as the infantryman's favorite Air Force aircraft because of its ability to fly low and slow over a battlefield providing close air support.
The Air Force flies 189 A-10s in the active duty, 108 in the Air National Guard, and another 48 in Reserves. Air Force leaders plan to phase out the A-10 and allow the F-35 Lightning II to take its mission sets once it enters the Air Force fleet in numbers.
But the F-35 program has experienced problems and Panetta announced in his budget "preview" that the Pentagon would delay it once again.
Source (including a fast growing discussion thread!)
5 A-10 squadrons to be cut