The US Air Force (USAF) will be allowed to retire more than 160 legacy aircraft of other types, helping to free up funding for new technologies, in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House and Senate armed services committees jointly released on Dec. 7, 2021.
The service will be permitted to retire all the aircraft it proposed to divest except the A-10 in its FY22 budget request, a House aide told Breaking Defense.
According to Breaking Defense, the list includes 47 F-16C/Ds, 48 F-15C/D Eagles, four E-8 JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft and 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drones. The bill will allow the service to divest the 18 KC-135s and 14 KC-10s requested in the budget, while also removing a restriction prohibiting further KC-10 divestments — opening up the door for easier KC-10 retirements in future years.
Lawmakers also approved the divestment of 13 C-130Hs, five of which will be replaced by newer C-130J models, leaving a total fleet of 279 C-130 cargo planes, according to a second House aide.
Instead the A-10 remains undefeated. The attempted divestment of 42 A-10 Warthogs was thwarted by the fierce protection provided by the congressional delegation that represents Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., with lawmakers mandating that all 281 of the venerable ground attack planes remain in service.
The House took up the bicameral version of the NDAA on Dec. 8. Now the hope is to have the bill moved through Congress signed by President Joe Biden by Christmas.
The outcome of the FY22 NDAA will be welcome news for Air Force leadership, which has struggled to get Congress to agree to retire older aircraft that generate work at bases in their home districts.
“Our old iron, if you will, our 30-year average airplane is an anchor holding back the Air Force right now,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Dec. 4 at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “We’ve got to get rid of some of those aircraft so we can free up resources, and get on with modernization.”
Noteworthy the Congress’ forbidding the A-10 retirement is not the only good news for the Warthog community: as we have recently reported in fact, mission capable (MC) rates dropped in 2021 for every USAF fighter type except the A-10.
The A-10s are the healthiest jets in the fighter force. Perhaps benefitting from an ongoing re-winging program, the A-10 MC rate ticked up from 71.2 percent in fiscal 2020 to 72.54 percent in fiscal 2021. The Warthog is generally less sophisticated than the other fighters, with fewer sensor systems, and its maintainers are generally more experienced, as most A-10s belong to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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