This is the first of 21 A-10 Warthog CAS aircraft authorized to be retired under the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act.
Time flies when you’re having fun … An A-10C Warthog belonging to 74th Fighter Squadron (FS) made its final descent into Davis Monthan, Arizona from Moody Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia, April 5, 2023, after 14,125 flight hours.
After 43 years of dedicated service, the A-10 will make the sunny Arizona desert its new home, where the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration (AMARG) squadron will receive it and get to work preserving as much of it as possible while removing parts that can be used for replacements in other A-10’s.
According to a USAF news release, this is the first of 21 A-10s authorized to be retired under the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act. Air Combat Command is prioritizing the A-10s with the least combat effectiveness for retirement first to ensure the most combat capable airframes remain in service. The remaining 20 aircraft will retire from various bases by the end of September.
“This is bittersweet, it’s an old aircraft and there comes a time when each of them needs to be retired,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Bryne, 74th FS dedicated crew chief. “They are still combat capable, but after all the hours put in, their time comes.”
The 74th FS is one of Moody’s two combat-ready A-10 squadrons keeping the airframe maintained and mission-ready. The squadron’s 35 pilots are dedicated to carrying out the close air support mission through the A-10, which is specifically designed for long loiter time, accurate weapons delivery, austere field capability and survivability.
Capt. Kevin Domingue, 74th FS A-10 pilot, commented on his overall experience on flying the simple yet effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft.
“It’s sad to see this aircraft reach the end of its service to the United States,” Domingue said. “Thousands of service members have flown or worked on this particular jet; this will be the last time it takes flight and carries their cumulative effort. I am honored to be a part of this aircraft’s history like so many before me.”
In a farewell, Domingue along with others signed the inside of the aircraft in great Air Force tradition.
“I am proud to be a part of it,” Byrne said. “It was nice to sign the pod and the inside of the aircraft to be a lasting part of its history. I think it’s time for it to go to bed – it’s a workhorse, it has been trucking since 1980.”
“The A-10’s remains the most effective close air support platform in the world today even after 45 years,” Domingue explained. “As long as the Air Force allows the aircraft to fly and be properly maintained, this community is ready to provide that expertise anywhere in the world against any adversary.”
Significant in its own right, this will be the first A-10 from Moody reaching retirement age since the 23rd Fighter Group along with their respective A-10’s arrived at Moody in 2007 from Pope Field, North Carolina. Simultaneous with the group’s move, all 23rd FG A-10s were upgraded to the precision engagement A-10C.
Although goodbyes were given to tail number 149, warm hellos are in order as the 74th Fighter Squadron welcomes a replacement A-10 from Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Fort Wayne, Indiana as the guard base begins their transition to the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
As already reported US Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. said on Mar. 7, 2023 the service would likely retire all its A-10 Warthog attack aircraft over the next five or six years.
Until recently, the USAF and Congress have disagreed over what to do with the iconic CAS aircraft. While the A-10 was known and beloved for its CAS role in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades, the USAF says the low-and-slow-flying plane would not be able to survive in a fight against a nation with modern air defenses, like China.
In fact, the A-10’s CAS mission can be carried out by a variety of other platforms, Brown said, and the Air Force must move on to cutting-edge capabilities that can survive in contested airspace and will keep the service ahead of China, the pacing threat.
In FY24, officials are asking Congress permission to accelerate retirements of the A-10: the proposed retirement of 42 A-10s in 2024 would follow this year’s retirement of 21 Warthogs, and would leave the service with 218 of the attack aircraft.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Whitney Gillespie / U.S. Air Force