U.S. Senator Blocks Vote On Air Force Nominee Over Plane Concerns By Andrea Shalal-Esa, David Alexander and Phil Stewart

Reuters.com
September 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — A U.S. senator upset over suggestions the Air Force may eliminate its storied fleet of A-10 Warthog ground support aircraft has slapped a hold on President Barack Obama’s pick for Air Force secretary, blocking a Senate vote on her nomination.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, whose husband flew the tank-killer aircraft in Iraq, has placed the hold on Air Force secretary nominee Deborah James until she gets answers about Air Force planning for the A-10, an aide for the New Hampshire Republican said.

Ayotte expressed concern during James’ nomination hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the Air Force was poised to eliminate the plane.

“I was given a slide I believe came from Air Combat Command that actually says that the A-10 fleet would be divested by FY 15 (fiscal year 2015),” Ayotte said. “And so what that makes me concerned is that there has already been a decision made.”

James told the hearing that as far as she knew no decision had been made on divesting the Air Force of A-10s or any other aircraft.

The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ayotte wanted to make sure the Air Force had an effective replacement for the A-10’s capabilities before it was eliminated.

The Air Force could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. military is facing nearly a trillion dollars in budget cuts over the next decade and the different service branches have engaged in a number of discussions about what they might cut in order to reduce spending.

It would not be the first time the Air Force has attempted to eliminate the A-10, a mean-looking, low-flying, slow-flying aircraft with heavy armor plating for protection and a powerful 30 mm cannon that can fire nearly 4,000 rounds a minute.

The plane, designed to combat tanks and support ground troops, is loved by its pilots and the soldiers they protect. But the 1970s-era aircraft is viewed as increasingly expensive to maintain and as fulfilling a single role that can be provided by faster, higher-flying planes using precision munitions.

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