US Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General David Goldfein has reportedly revealed plans to continue operation of its A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft fleet until 2021.
Speaking to reporters during a breakfast meeting on 7 February, David Goldfein was quoted by Defense News as saying: "We’re going to keep them until 2021, and then as a discussion that we’ll have with [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and the department and the review over all of our budgets, that is what will determine the way ahead.”
The plans to retire A-10 were backed by a report released by the Government Accountability Office in August last year, FlightGlobal reported.
The report revealed that early divestment of the aircraft could be risky.
The A-10 Thunderbolt is the air force's high-survivability and versatile aircraft that is used to attack tanks, armoured vehicles and installations, and for close air support of ground forces.
The A-10 Thunderbolt was originally scheduled to be replaced by the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets.
The air force is planning to purchase 1,600 F-35As in order to modernise its fleet.
In a statement posted on the US Department of Defense website, Goldfein said: “The more F-35s we can procure in the shortest period of time to reduce aircraft age and get more heavily into the fifth-generation capabilities, the better.”
Besides F-35, the air force also needs to invest in new tanker aircraft, pay for the B-21 bomber programme and fund the nuclear modernisation programme.
Image: A fully armed A-10 Thunderbolt. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Blake R. Borsic.