A-10s Return to Iraq after Air Force Tries to Retire Fleet

Several A-10 Thunderbolts II arrive in support of regional military activities including Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis)
Several A-10 Thunderbolts II arrive in support of regional military activities including Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis)

A-10s returned to the Middle East to fly missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant groups in support of Iraqi ground troops, the New York Times reported.

Several A-10 Warthogs assigned to the Indiana Air National Guard transferred from a deployment to Afghanistan and started arriving in Kuwait on Nov. 17. The day before the A-10s returned, the Defense Department reactivated the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group.

The A-10s were part of a package of aircraft that also included MQ-9 Reapers to better target and attack ISIS militants and support the Iraqi military. A-10 pilots will start flying missions in Iraq "as early as this week," the New York Times reported.

The A-10s will return to Iraq to fly combat missions even after Air Force leaders have fought to retire the fleet. Air Force generals said the shrinking defense budget has forced the service to kill the fleet to pay for other programs like the Joint Strike Fighter.

Nicknamed the Warthog, the A-10 is well beloved by ground combat troops as the aircraft is a trusted provider of close air support.

Lawmakers -- namely Sen. John McCain -- have blocked attempts by the Air Force to start retiring the A-10 fleet. Republicans recently elevated McCain to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee, the strongest defense committee in Congress.

In the Pentagon's most recent effort to argue for the A-10s retirement, the head of the Joint Strike Fighter program, said the failure to start retiring the A-10 has delayed the F-35 because A-10 maintainers haven't been able to move to the F-35 program.

-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at mike.hoffman@monster.com

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