Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, the top defender of the A-10 Warthog in Congress, is hitting back at Pentagon claims that keeping the close-air support plane around could cause the F-35 to arrive late for the Air Force.
Ayotte accused Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan of presenting a “false choice” over his claims that failure to retire the A-10 is causing a shortage of maintainers for the F-35, which threatens the Air Force’s targeted operational date of August 2016.
Bogdan, the F-35 program executive, told reporters Oct. 30 that the plan to go operational for the Air Force was based on having 800 maintainers moved from supporting the A-10 to supporting the F-35. With Congress blocking the retirement of the Warthog, Bogdan said, that plan is now in peril.
“I am very worried now that my promise to [the Air Force] to give them all the things they need to declare IOC on August 1 of 2016 I might not be able to give them,” Bogdan said.
But in a statement to Defense News, Ayotte insisted there are ways to move funds and personnel around to support both systems.
“Suggesting that we must prematurely retire the A-10 to fulfill long-anticipated maintenance requirements for the F-35A is a false choice,” Ayotte wrote. “There are a variety of steps the Air Force can take to maintain the combat-proven and cost-efficient A-10, while also providing sufficient maintenance personnel for the F-35A.
“Rather than threatening to unnecessarily undermine the maintenance of the F-35A, which the Air Force has said is one of its top three acquisition priorities,” Ayotte’s statement continued, “I hope the Air Force will listen to our ground troops and end its dangerous and misguided effort to deprive our troops of the A-10, which is the aircraft that is most likely to help them survive a firefight with the enemy.”
The junior senator for New Hampshire did not offer any specific solutions for how to supply the people and money needed to keep the F-35 on track without moving maintainers around, but Bogdan said it is not just a matter of numbers of people, but of the correct training.