(Valdosta Daily Times): Lawmakers urge Congress to fund 'Warthog' wing work
VALDOSTA -- Lawmakers are pressing for Congress to find funding for replacing worn-out wings for the Air Force's A-10C inventory, including Georgia congressmen who represent Moody Air Force Base, where some of the A-10Cs are located.
The defense bill for 2018, signed by President Donald Trump last week, authorizes the wing replacements, but Congress still has to authorize spending the $103 million needed.
The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee omitted the funding, according to a statement from the office of Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga.
Friday, Scott and 19 other lawmakers, including both Georgia senators, signed a letter to the Senate and House appropriations committees urging them to arrange for the needed A-10C funding.
The A-10C "Warthog" is the Air Force's only plane designed for low-level ground-attack missions for troop support. As of 2015, the Air Force had 283 A-10Cs.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed retiring the fleet of tank-killer planes for an estimated savings of $3.5 billion during five years.
More recently, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter postponed the planned retirement of the planes. He cited the Warthog's success in strikes against ISIS forces as a factor in the decision.
In September, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said some Warthogs would have to be grounded in 2018 because their wings will have reached the end of their service life, meaning they cannot be safely flown, according to Daryl Mayer, media operations section chief for 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.
"We expect to ground up to 55 A-10s across the entire fleet by fiscal year 2025, although there are many factors which could change those projections," Mayer said in a statement.
The lawmakers' letter says one-third of the Air Force's A-10Cs are in "desperate need of wing set replacements" and that 173 A-10Cs had already gotten them but, as the Air Force was considering retiring the Warthogs at the time, the contract for wing production was allowed to expire before the remaining 110 wing sets were completed.
The Warthog is used by squadrons of the 23d Fighter Group at Moody.
Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.