Vulnerable Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) is hoping that his efforts to keep the Air Force’s venerable A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft fleet in the air can lift him to victory in November.
This year Defense Department officials proposed mothballing the fleet, affectionately called the “Warthog” by U.S. troops, in order to save $3.5 billion over five years. They argued that the aircraft’s close air support mission could be carried out by other newer platforms, including the F-16 fighter and the B-1 bomber.ADVERTISEMENT
The idea was met with stiff, bipartisan resistance in both chambers of Congress and became one of the most controversial proposals in the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2015 budget.
Now Barber, who successfully introduced amendments to the House defense authorization and appropriations bills to keep the A-10 airborne for at least another year, recently launched a television ad touting his role in the fight to save the aircraft that’s critical to his Tucson district.
“No one has worked harder to save the A-10 aircraft than Ron Barber,” Maureen Phillips, a veteran who served as a tactical intelligence officer for A-10 missions, says in the spot.
The two-term congressman faces a tough reelection rematch against retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally (R), who has slammed Barber for not taking action earlier to keep the Warthog off the chopping block, a charge he vehemently denies.
The district is home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which boasts approximately 80 Warthogs, around one-third of the service’s 283-plane fleet.
With more than 10,000 employees, the base is the district’s third-largest employer and pumps around $1.5 billion into the local economy annually, according to a fact sheet provided by the installation.
“Voters have a clear choice between someone who is credible, has firsthand knowledge and will lead on this issue, and someone who was asleep at the switch and is a follower and is taking credit for things he didn’t do,” McSally, who personally flew the A-10 during her time with the Air Force told The Hill.
She said Barber’s efforts rest on “two very symbolic amendments that have no money behind them.”
Read More:Endangered Dem bets on the Warthog | TheHill.