On Jun. 30, 2021 the Department of the Air Force announced to move close air support and rescue missions, including A-10 Thunderbolt II and HH-60 Pave Hawk weapons schools and test squadrons, to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) beginning in fiscal year 2022.
According to an Air Combat Command news release, the proposed plan would transfer rescue and attack missions, aircraft and personnel to Davis-Monthan AFB as part of the Air Force’s vision of making the base the Center of Excellence for close air support and rescue missions.
Moving the A-10 and HH-60 aircraft squadrons, one maintenance squadron and all the supporting personnel from Nellis AFB, Nevada will result in a small personnel increase at Davis-Monthan AFB.
“The Air Force plans to modernize and maintain 218 of the current fleet of 281 combat-capable A-10s,” said Lt. Gen. David Nahom, Plans and Programs deputy chief of staff. “While the active duty combat squadron at Davis-Monthan will close, the Air Force plans to bring the A-10 and HH-60 weapons school and operational test squadrons from Nellis Air Force Base to Davis-Monthan.”
The first phase of the proposed plan, released as part of the Department of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, is contingent on congressional approval of the retirement of 42 A-10 aircraft, 35 of which are at Davis-Monthan AFB. Retiring these aircraft will create the fiscal and manpower flexibility required to design and field the future force needed to meet combatant commander requirements. Retiring the older A-10s in 2022 would allow Davis-Monthan AFB to receive the new missions.
The A-10 Weapons Instructor Course and Test and Evaluation operations will transition in 2022. The HH-60 WIC, Test and combat-coded units to include the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 66th Rescue Squadron, 58th Rescue Squadron, the 34th Weapons Squadron, and the 855th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron will move beginning in 2024.
“Under this plan, Davis-Monthan will play a critical role in reshaping U.S. airpower as home to the Air Force’s close air support and rescue Centers of Excellence,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “This realignment will consolidate all A-10 and HH-60 test, training, and weapon school activity at one location, allowing Airmen in these mission areas to train together for future threats.”
As already reported, along with Davis-Monthan AFB the Indiana Air National Guard (ANG) too is slated to lose its A-10 aircraft in fiscal year 2022. The 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne, Indiana, will pick up a new mission too.
The service wants to come down from nine A-10 operational squadrons to seven and keep one “full-up” operational squadron at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nahom said. Back home, there will be three Air National Guard squadrons, two Active duty, and one Reserve. Those squadrons would be “in a rotation” enabling the Air Force to always have at least one A-10 squadron available to combatant commanders, he said.
To date, the Air Force has 281 A-10s in its inventory, but has repeatedly stressed it can maintain roughly six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through 2032, which is why officials have not committed to buying new wings for the entire fleet. The Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in 2019 through the Enhanced Wing Assembly program, which began in 2011.
Through the next iteration of the effort, the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK” program, the service will begin re-winging the rest “of the A-10s that remain in the inventory” after the 42 planes are cut.
The reduction means only 67 aircraft would need the wing fix, down from 109.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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