/ Modified mar 2, 2015 11:45 a.m.

McSally: A-10 Grounding Bad Sign for Davis-Monthan

Nine aircraft put on 'backup status' in Tucson means ground crews will move elsewhere, she says.

354th A-10s at DM spotlight A-10s from the 354th Fighter Squadron at Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base


The secretary of the Air Force’s decision to put nine A-10 aircraft at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base into "backup status" has U.S. Rep. Martha McSally worried about the future of the base.

McSally, a former A-10 pilot and squadron commander, was in Tucson Sunday and said the fact that half the planes grounded by the Air Force are at Davis-Monthan is not a good sign.

"To have nine come out of this one base is, I think, overkill," the Republican freshman congresswoman said.

McSally 2014 portrait U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

McSally vowed during her election campaign last fall to protect the A-10 and Davis-Monthan, and she was joined by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in that promise.

Both have called the A-10 an irreplaceable part of the military's ability to provide close air support to ground troops.

Air Force officials have said the Pentagon's budget simply does not allow keeping the A-10 in the air when weapons systems with higher priority are coming on board.

McSally said top brass in the Air Force has made it clear that if it can mothball the entire A-10 fleet, something it has sought as a money-saving measure, Davis-Monthan's 354th Fighter Squadron will be one of the first to go.

The squadron is the main component of Davis-Monthan's operations, with hundreds of airmen assigned to it.

The order to put the nine D-M A-10s into backup status likely cannot be reversed, McSally said, because the Air Force is moving the ground crews to work on the F-35 elsewhere.

"They are focusing on the maintenance guys but you are giving them orders to go elsewhere to go and retrain in some other skill set perhaps," she said.

An Air Force press release issued Friday confirmed that, saying, "Converting aircraft to (backup) status will free up experienced maintainers so they can be integrated into the F-35 Lightning II program."

"The secretary of defense has certified that placing up to 36 A-10 aircraft into backup flying status is a necessary step to reduce the Air Force's shortage of experienced fighter maintenance personnel," Air Force Secretary Deborah James was quoted as saying in the press release.

Under her directive and as authorized by Congress, 36 A-10s can go into backup status this year.

Besides the nine planes ordered into backup at Davis-Monthan, six were grounded at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, Ga., and three at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

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