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Will the A-10 Dodge Retirement -- and Get New Wings?

U.S. lawmakers are maneuvering to block the Air Force's latest push to retire the A-10 attack aircraft.

The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon's most expensive acquisition program.

Yet the aging Warthog is still flying missions, from attacking Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria to participating in show-of-force exercises against Russia in Eastern Europe.

Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress both want to add more funding for the Cold War-era gunship in fiscal 2016, beginning Oct. 1. The question is how much.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved its version of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes $355 million to keep the attack aircraft, known as the Warthog, flying next year.

The counterpart panel in the House, meanwhile, included almost double that amount, or $683 million, to not only keep the planes in the inventory, but also upgrade them with new wings. The House bill, approved on Friday, includes $240 million for a so-called "wing restoration program," according to a report accompanying the legislation.

"Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided," a fact sheet from the committee states.

"Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the Committee identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, modify, and upgrade the A-10 fleet," it states.

The House on Friday morning voted 269-151 in favor of the defense bill. The Senate must still debate and approve its version of the measure before lawmakers from both chambers can work out a compromise.

"We have never before faced such a diverse array of serious threats," Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after the vote. "To meet them, we must preserve our agility while we recruit and retain the very best. This bill is an important step in that direction."

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