Congressional panel votes to save A-10 — for now

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 8, 2014 

The Hill, a popular political website, reported Thursday that the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee passed an amendment to a defense bill that would delay deactivation of the Air Force's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.

The bill is now scheduled for consideration by the full House.

"While this doesn’t guarantee the A-10 will be saved, it is good news and a promising sign," Boise spokesman Adam Park said in an email Thursday afternoon.

Gowen Field in Boise is a base for 22 A-10s - affectionately known as "Warthogs" - as well as associated crew members and other support staff. The A-10s account for Gowen's entire aircraft fleet.

News broke in March that the Air Force was thinking about consolidating the National Guard air mission at Gowen Field with the Air Force mission in Mountain Home. That set off alarm bells around the state, particularly in Boise, because the group that operates the Gowen Field air mission accounts for about 1,000 jobs. The National Guard also worries that moving its air mission an hour's drive from Idaho's biggest population center will hurt its ability to recruit and retain reservists.

In a press conference last week, members of Idaho's congressional delegation said it's just a matter of time before the A-10 is retired. They want the Air Force to replace Gowen's A-10 squad with another plane, such as the F-15 or F-35, a fighter that is projected to someday be a centerpiece of American air power. According to The Hill's report, U.S. Rep. William Enyart, D-Ill., on Thursday echoed concerns the Idaho Sen. Jim Risch raised at that press conference.

"The F-35 I'm sure is going to be a wonderful airplane, but it's far from operational," Enyart was quoted as saying. "We can't afford to have that gap in capability for the next seven years."

Here's what Risch said last week:

"We want to see the A-10 stay operational until it is actually replaced...There is no question the platform will eventually be replaced. Every platform does. What we were concerned with in Congress as we watched this and we watched all the excitement and the rush toward the F-35, that indeed they were leaving a gap between the platform and the type of operation that the A-10 does and bringing on the F-35. We've been very vocal in saying that there shouldn't be a gap."


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