House passes budget bill that would save the A-10 for a year
The House passed a defense funding bill Thursday that would keep the Air Force's A-10 fighter jets flying for another year.
The measure, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, would fund the A-10 through fiscal year 2015.
A provision prohibiting the Air Force from retiring the A-10 and approving $331 million to be spent to keep it flying was pushed by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber. It does, however, allow the Air Force to place up to 36 of the nearly 300 A-10s in the fleet into a “back-up inventory status,” subject to a Pentagon review.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House by a vote of 300-119. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
“This is a huge step forward in providing for a strong national security, protecting our warfighters on the ground and strengthening our economy in Southern Arizona,” Barber said in a press release Thursday. “The A-10 is protected for another year because of our actions and the fight our community put up,” he said.
Republican Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot who will likely represent CD2 if a recount holds up her narrow win, questioned Barber's support for the aircraft in the recent election.
Friday, she issued a press release calling the vote "a positive step," but questioned placing some planes on back-up status.
That "will lead us down an irreversible path of siphoning resources and manpower away from the A-10 prematurely," she said. "If implemented, this is the equivalent of shutting down nearly two A-10 squadrons."
The Air Force has 326 of the planes, operating out of five bases across the United States, including a large presence at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where 83 of the jets are based.
Retiring the A-10 could hurt the Tucson-area economy, which reaped a $1.1 billion economic impact from operations at Davis-Monthan in fiscal 2012, according a report by base officials that was released last year.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in February that the Pentagon had plans to retire the A-10 and replace it in the short-term with F-16s until the F-35s are flying.
The current version of the bill also provides $82 million in funding for the Tomahawk cruise missile built by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems.