The lawmaker most vocally opposed to possible Air Force plans to cut the A-10 has crafted an amendment that would keep the jet in the air for about another 10 years, until the final version of the F-35 is ready.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has submitted an amendment calling on the Air Force to keep all its A-10s until the Block 4A version of the F-35 is flying, which is not expected until about 2022, along with keeping the Warthogs until the F-35 fleet is as big and as capable as the A-10.
It is the latest step in months of actions by Ayotte to handcuff the Air Force’s ability shed the A-10 fleet. Earlier this year, Ayotte placed a hold on the nomination of Deborah Lee James to be the next secretary of the Air Force. She submitted a series of questions critical of the Air Force decision, and last week help write a letter to Defense Department leadership calling for more oversight to Air Force budgetary decisions.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined Ayotte on the amendment. It is also being cosponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. The Reserve 442nd Fighter Wing flies the A-10 in Blunt’s and McCaskill’s home state at Whiteman Air Force Base, and the National Guard 124th Fighter Wing flies it in Crapo’s home state at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base.
Ayotte is a member of the Senate Armed Services committee and her husband, Joe, was an A-10 pilot.
“What makes me concerned is that there already has been a decision made on the A-10 and as you and I talked about in our meeting, the A-10 has a very important function in terms of close-air support and in fact, most recently in July, 60 soldiers were saved in Afghanistan because of the important close-air support provided by the A-10,” Ayotte said at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on Sept. 19.