The U.S. military’s retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, nicknamed the “Warthog,” has been set for 2022 in the forthcoming defense budget, revealed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in a recent speech.
“The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35 Joint Strike Fighters on a squadron-by-squadron basis, so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today’s conflicts,” Carter said in Washington on Feb. 2, according to a transcript.
Attempts to retire the A-10 have been met with strong resistance from soldiers, Marines, and some U.S. lawmakers who believe the F-35 isn’t a proper replacement for the plane.
The 40-year-old A-10 is designed for close air support and specializes in attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and enemy combatants on the ground.
Troops on the ground say the A-10 has a kind of shock-and-awe effect on their adversaries, and the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon on the nose of the plane has become a meme among military fans for its signature “BRRRRRRT” sound.
One of the main reasons troops are wary of letting the plane go, however, is because they believe pilots need to be able to see friendly troops and their targets. The A-10 flies low and slow, and many of its supporters say it’s less likely to accidentally strike friendly troops than the F-35.
On the other hand, the Pentagon is preparing for tomorrow’s wars, and while the A-10 is effective against terrorists and insurgents, its age would likely show if a war were to break out between major powers.