The U.S. commander in South Korea on Friday praised the vital close air support role performed by the A-10 Thunderbolt in deterring North Korean aggression but backed the Air Force decision to retire the aircraft.
“As an infantryman, I love the A-10,” said Army Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
“I also understand the Air Force’s position” on budgeting and the need for aircraft that can fill multiple roles, Scaparrotti said at a Pentagon briefing. ”I’m confident that I’ll get the close air support from the Air Force without the A-10 there,” Scaparrotti said of the aircraft better known as the “Warthog.”
The proposed retirement of the A-10s has been the subject of fierce debate in Congress. Critics of the Air Force decision have frequently cited the role of the A-10 in defending South Korea, one of only two overseas bases for the Warthogs. The other base is in Germany.
The A-10s of the 25th Fighter Squadron currently are at Osan Air Base on South Korea’s northeast coast about 48 miles south of the De-Militarized Zone, making the aircraft at the base the most forward, permanently deployed in the Air Force.
Scaparrotti’s trip to Washington came as the U.S. and South Korea agreed to delay indefinitely the plan that would have transferred operational control of South Korea’s forces in the event of war to a South Korean general in 2015.