Course Change: The US Air Force Now Wants to Keep the A-10, U-2, and F-15C
In a reversal, the service will not retire three Cold War-era planes still making an impact on the battlefield.
The U.S. Air Force plans to keep the A-10 Warthog and U-2 spy plane flying, reversing course after years of arguing that the service needed to retire the Cold War-era aircraft to pay for newer planes and drones.
The Air Force has also decided keep the F-15C fighter, a plane that generals had recently suggested was also on the chopping block. The decisions were announced in the Trump administration’s first military budget request sent to Congress on Tuesday. Lawmakers are likely to support the plan since they have routinely added funds to save the A-10 and U-2 from retirement time after time in recent years.
“The world has changed, so we're trying to maintain capacity and capability,” Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force budget director, said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Another thing that has changed: the Pentagon’s budget is expected to grow in the near term.
In recent years, Congress stopped numerous Air Force attempts to retire the A-10, which has been striking Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Service officials said last year that they would delay the plane’s retirement, in part because commanders want it for the counter-ISIS campaign.
“Fleet strategy and viability [for the A-10] will be assessed as the Air Force determines a long term strategy,” says a budget document released by the service on Tuesday.
A separate Defense Department budget document says that the Air Force has “restored funding to maintain the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet across the [5-year] Future Years Defense Program.”
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The high-flying U-2 spy plane was also spared from the boneyard. The 2018 budget proposal includes money that “extends the service of the U-2.”
“We plan to keep that platform well into the future,” Martin said. “There is not a retirement date for the U-2 in this budget.”
As for the F-15C, the Air Force has decided start investing in a series of upgrades to modernize the fighter jet. The overhaul of the plane's’ fuselage is set to begin in 2018.
“We're dedicated just to making sure that the F-15 fleet remains viable and survivable and capable,” Martin said.