Senators McCaskill and Blunt are working to protect some endangered Warthogs. About 25 of them live at Whiteman Air Force Base—the A-10 fighter jets that killed a lot of tanks and other ground installations in Iraq. But major defense budget cuts either through regular Congressional action or because of a second round sequestration have some Air Force officials thinking about phasing them out. They’d be replaced in the national arsenal by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
McCaskill is among those working on a provision in National Defense Authorization Bill that blocks the retirements of A-10s. “Until we have the replacement aircraft we should not retire the ones we are currently relying on,” she says. And she and Blunt say the F-35 isn’t ready for that.
McCaskill is similar to congressional refusal of letting the Navy get rid of the F/A-18s until the F-35 Navy model is fully developed.
McCaskill describes the F-35’s development as “a mess.” Although it can do a lot of things, the operational costs are double those of the A-10. And McCaskill says the F/A-18 is capable of doing 85 percent of the things the F-35 can do at far less cost—all of which means to her that there are better ways for the Pentagon to save money than by killing Warthogs.