GOP senators praise House vote to save A-10

Republican senators on Thursday praised the House Armed Services Committee for voting to preserve the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft despite the Air Force’s push to retire the fleet.

Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteBattle brews over Trump’s foreign policy Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates NH voters hold Ayotte accountable for gun control votes MORE (R-N.H.) John McCainJohn McCainA Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Meet Trump’s ‘mad dog’ for the Pentagon Wrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamA Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Pentagon should have a civilian chief to give peace a chance Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington MORE (R-S.C.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.) called the panel’s “overwhelming” bipartisan vote to delay the fleet’s retirement a “significant interim victory for our ground troops.”

“We applaud the committee members for honoring our commitment to provide our troops the best possible close air support so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely,” they said in a statement.

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Defense Department officials have argued for mothballing the A-10, fondly referred to as the “Warthog” by troops, in order to save $3.5 billion over the next five years. They say the aircraft’s close air support mission could be fulfilled by other platforms like the F-16 fighter.

Many lawmakers, though, question whether other aircraft can fill the A-10’s role and often note its popularity with ground troops.

In its marathon markup of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday the Armed Services panel voted 41-20 to incorporate a measure that would delay the A-10 fleet’s retirement for at least a year and require a Pentagon study on whether other planes could provide troops with adequate close air support.

The four senators have been staunch defenders of the A-10, rejecting a compromise proposal from committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) earlier this week that would have put the aircraft into "Type-100" storage. McKeon’s plan would have allowed the 283-plane fleet to be reactivated easily if and when the government’s fiscal outlook improved.

“We look forward to addressing this issue in the Senate Armed Services Committee and working with members of both parties and both chambers to ensure the A-10 can continue to protect our ground forces,” the GOP senators said Thursday.