The first A-10 Warthog Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, on Mar. 31, 2023.
As explained by 1Lt. Alexandra Smith, Air Forces Central (AFCENT), in the article CAS aircraft arrive in Middle East, the aircraft arrived ahead of schedule following the approval for the platform to return to theater. They will fall underneath the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra AB.
“The 380th AEW is excited to welcome the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 75th Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron to the theater,” said Brig. Gen. David R. Lopez, commander of the 380th AEW. “Their arrival will enhance our ability to deliver airpower and defend the region, as well as provide us additional opportunities to partner with our Emirati hosts.”
The deployment of the A-10s necessitates the 380th AEW to stand up two new squadrons for the pilots and aircraft maintainers who hail from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
“As a CAS focused squadron, we’re excited to be in the theater where we can be most useful to the Coalition and our partners in the region,” said Lt. Col. E. Aaron Brady, commander of the 75th EFS. “We’re eager to build relationships around CENTCOM and provide seamless close air support and air interdiction capabilities to our partners, which will help our pilots prepare for transition to fifth-gen fighters.”
The deployment will also allow the aircraft to seamlessly integrate with the Air Warfare Center, ensuring close air support capabilities brought by the A-10 are well-represented in exercises and missions.
Since its creation in 1975, the A-10 has provided CAS to ground troops, destroying adversary forces and infrastructure as the first aircraft designed specifically for close air support. The deployment of the A-10 offers the opportunity for US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) to experiment with close air support capabilities in order to achieve the most robust, diverse force possible.
The deployment also enhances integration with local UAE partners, who host the US forces on Al Dhafra AB.
However, this deployment could be one of the last for the mighty Warthog in the Middle East.
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.
The first A-10s to be retired will be those of the 122nd Fighter Wing Blacksnakes in Fort Wayne that will replace its fleet of 21 Thunderbolt II CAS aircraft with F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets.
“The A-10 had unrivaled capabilities for the wars of the last 40 years and our record as Blacksnakes proves that point. To win future conflicts, we need new aircraft that provide different effects on the battlefield,” said Col. Joshua C. Waggoner, 122nd Fighter Wing Commander.
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.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sabatino DiMascio
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