The US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has favoured the retirement of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II close-combat support aircraft fleet.
The committee voted 23 – 13 against an amendment to the annual appropriations bill that recommended funding for the aircraft in fiscal 2015.
Powered by two General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofan engines, the A-10 is a high-survivability straight-wing jet aircraft designed to provide close air support (CAS) for ground forces by defeating tanks, armoured vehicles and other land targets having a limited air defence capability.
The gunship was extensively deployed by the USAF during Operation Desert Storm, Nato operations in response to the Kosovo crisis, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The US Air Force (USAF) had earlier proposed to retire the fleet comprising 283 A-10s by 2019, in a bid to save an estimated $3.7bn over the next five years, and another $500m in planned aircraft upgrades, reported Reuters.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees, however, agreed to transfer $339m from the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) operations and maintenance account for A-10 fleet sustainment last month, delaying its retirement for at least a year, according to Military.com.
The US Representative for Utah Chris Stewart told Reuters that the A-10 retirement would bring "billions, not millions" of dollars of savings to the air force.
"This money could be plowed back into the procurement of modern, multi-mission aircraft and research and development of a new generation of unmanned systems [and] a new long-range strike bomber," Stewart said.
The vote, however, does not represent the final decision on the aircraft, as the Senate is required to pass its version of the Appropriations bill, which would then be reconciled with the House bill.
Image: A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of USAF Master Sgt. William Greer.