The U.S. has deployed at least six A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft to Incirlik airbase in Turkey to hit ISIS targets in Syria, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The deployment of the aircraft popularly known as the Warthog, which the Air Force has been seeking to retire, was first reported by Turkish news outlets and later confirmed by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.
"There are A-10s arriving in Incirlik and I don't have the exact number," Cook said. "This was part of a regular rotation that was planned," he said at a Pentagon news conference. Other news outlets reported that as many as 12 A-10s were going to Incirlik.
For years, the Air Force has been seeking to mothball the A-10s, designed during the Cold War as a Soviet "tank killer" and praised by the infantry as a fearsome close air support weapon.
For years, Congress has provided funding to keep the A-10s in the inventory, and funding for the aircraft has been included again in the current proposed National Defense Authorization Act.
In August, the U.S. deployed six F-16s and about 300 airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing from the Aviano Air Base in Italy to Incirlik when Turkey lifted restrictions on the use of its territory for strikes against ISIS.
The deployment of the A-10s could indicate that military planners believe that the slow, low-flying and armored A-10s would be more effective than the F-16s in supporting Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurd fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The move by the Pentagon to deploy the A-10s came three weeks after Russia launched its own bombing campaign in Syria to shore up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The A-10s have previously been deployed against ISIS in Iraq. A squadron of the A-10s was sent to undisclosed bases in the Mideast last November to join the air campaign against ISIS.
--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.