Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Visclosky,
As the subcommittee prepares its Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations legislation, we respectfully ask for your support of the A-10 aircraft fleet.
The A-10 provides unmatched Close Air Support (CAS) capability, delivering firepower to save American lives when they are under fire in close proximity to enemy forces. The A-10 offers long loiter time, lethality, survivability, and the ability to strike moving targets in a complex visual fight. It can operate in rugged environments at all altitudes and under weather ceilings or with low visibility.
The A-10 also uniquely provides critical Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) capabilities, absolutely vital to ensure downed pilots do not meet the same fate as the Jordanian pilot who was captured and lit on fire by ISIS.
A-10s are currently deployed to the Middle East for CSAR and offensive operations in the fight against ISIS. They are also deployed to Europe to reassure and train our allies in CAS in the face of increased Russian aggression.
In a March 17th House Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark Welsh both confirmed that mothballing the A-10 was driven by budget constraints only.
Over the past several Congresses, both chambers have successfully protected the A-10 fleet from complete divestment, but the equivalent of four squadrons have been mothballed since 2012. Over $1 billion has been invested recently in the A-10 to upgrade its avionics and strengthen its wings, extending its lifespan until 2028. However, the President's Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2016 again directs the Air Force to divest the entire A-10 Fleet, starting with 160 aircraft in FY 16. This divestiture, particularly because of a lack of a similarly-capable replacement platform, puts Americans' lives at risk.
We recognize the challenges imposed by the Budget Control Act, but we believe that now is not the time to divest an aircraft that has demonstrated success in combat for decades and has saved lives, especially at a time when there is no suitable replacement. We urge you to reject the President's request to divest the A-10 aircraft fleet in the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations bill.