WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. penned a letter to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter calling for the A-10 aircraft to be fully funded in Fiscal 2017.
McSally, a former Air Force A-10 pilot, stressed the need to preserve the A-10 Warthog fleet in the letter, and suggested that retiring the aircraft too early may negatively affect air-to-ground support capabilities.
"The A-10 has unique capabilities for Close Air Support (CAS), Forward Air Control-Airborne (FAC-A) and Combat Search-And-Rescue (CSAR), and we need a legitimate next-generation weapon system designed for CAS, FAC-A and CSAR missions before retiring any further A-10s," McSally wrote in the letter. "Because there is no replacement for these unique and crucial capabilities, either currently available or in development, we must maintain and improve the A-10 fleet until a real A-10 replacement exists."
The U.S. Department of Defense has plans to eventually replace the A-10 aircraft with the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multirole fighter. McSally maintains the A-10 is a more capable at close air support.
"The Air Force has proposed that other aircraft, such as the F-35, could perform the CAS mission. However, in testimony last year, the DOD's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Dr. Michael Gilmore admitted that the F-35 is less survivable," McSally added. "There is no aircraft, either in the fleet or in development, that can replace the Warthog's unique capabilities."
Instead of replacing the aircraft, McSally also called for the development of a next-generation A-10.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, a Fairchild Republic plane nicknamed The Warthog, is a twin-engine, close-air-support fighter designed to engage armored targets. The plane is distinguishable by its nose-mounted 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon.
The Air Force hinted at delaying the A-10 fleet's retirement in November, citing an increase in its demand.