A-10 Warthog ground attack jets to be retired, may end up in Ukraine
WASHINGTON — The A-10 Warthog ground attack jets in the US Air Force inventory will be retired very soon. Such are the signals coming from Washington. “The venerable A-10 … is not a system we will need against the types of adversaries we are most worried about now,” Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Frank Kendall said during the annual Aspen Security Forum, which took place on July 20.
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Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, in March, Kendall and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown made a comment rejecting the possibility of this plane being donated to the Ukrainians. Six months later, the two high-ranking Americans no longer deny such a possibility so categorically. Kendall thinks older air systems are a possible donation to Ukraine, a remark he made after Brown’s comment: “A parenthetical though. Why don’t we give those A-10s to Ukraine?” but still emphasized that he could not speculate on what kind of aircraft would be given to Ukraine, stating that they would definitely “be non-Russian”.
It is already being openly talked about that Ukraine will most likely get “some sort of fighter jets”. BulgarianMilitary.com wrote that members of the US House of Representatives voted on a budget for training Ukrainian pilots of US air systems. According to US sources, the future training of Ukrainian pilots will most likely be carried out at two American bases – a base in Columbus, Mississippi, and one of the bases in Texas. However, whether the U.S. will train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-15s and F-16s, and whether Ukraine will receive Western planes depends on the Senate, which in September will pass the amendments or its own version of the defense bill.
While both senior officials [Kendall and Brown] did not rule out the possibility of the A-10 Warthog ending up in the Ukrainian Air Force inventory, their comments remained cautious, with both stating that they “don’t know what the US Air Force’s plans are for Ukraine and whether the A-10 Warthog is part of those plans”.
Kendall and Brown continue to say that after all, Ukraine is part of this “equation” and whether the A-10 will be sent to the front depending on the willingness of the Ukrainians. US military experts say the A-10 is most likely on the wanted list, but the Biden administration has so far refused to heed calls from Congress, Ukrainian officials, and members of that country’s military, as well as the general public to send American aircraft.
But the situation, the international political situation, as well as the war in Ukraine are dynamic events, changing daily. Analysts have speculated that the US will provide air systems to Ukraine, based on a recent tweet by Ukraine’s defense minister after a conversation with Lloyd Austin that said “some very good news, but the details will come a little later”.
The A-10 has been a cornerstone of political controversy for the past decade or so, during which Congress has actively resisted hearing about “retirement,” let alone doing it. But today, the attitude towards the retirement of the A-10 is “soft”. Evidence of this is the current version of the NDAA, in which the House of Representatives agrees to the Air Force’s proposal to retire 21 A-10s in the next fiscal year. The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Monday that they are also anticipating the retirement of that fighter jet.
Whether Ukraine will receive the A-10 Warthog we will find out in the coming weeks or months. The A-10 Warthog has its advantages and disadvantages, although the latter is more. The A-10 will find itself on a battlefield saturated with drones, superior enemy air defense systems, man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems, and precision cruise missiles. It is hard to believe that it would easily survive in such an environment. But the A-10 is the “working dog” of the US Air Force – it was designed precisely for rough war, and even if it is shot down, it turns out that it can be easily and quickly repaired, within the scope of the openings, of course.
The Ukrainians also have an advantage – they are trained to fly the Soviet Su-25 Frogfoots, which is very much a Cold War analog developed by Soviet aircraft engineers.
To date, Ukraine has received very few Soviet-era aircraft. Bulgaria delivered Su-25s in parts via third countries, and Slovakia accepted the Czech Republic’s offer to defend Slovak airspace and donated its entire fleet of 12 MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine. Shortly after the start of the war, Poland was willing and ready to transfer its MiG-29s to the Ramstein base in Germany, but no agreement was reached between Washington and Warsaw.
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