The Air Force has been clamoring to kill the A-10 Warthog fighter jet for years in favor of switching over to the F-35 aircraft developed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. But some in opposition have raised alarm at the tactics senior Air Force leaders have been using to silence dissent, Foxtrot Alpha reports.
Recently, USA Today received declassified data from the Air Force purporting to show the more dangerous side of the A-10. In reality, it turns out that the data was actually manipulated to shed the A-10 in an unfavorable light, which represents yet another attempt by the Air Force to mislead both the military and the public on the merits of the aircraft.
After the piece aired, Sen. Kelly Ayotte immediately called attention to the fact that the Air Force decided to selectively release part of the data and stated that the move to get rid of the A-10 is “misguided, dangerous, and premature” because of its strong service record. (RELATED: Declassified: A-10 Attack Jet Responsible For The Most Friendly Fire)
Upon further analysis, the Project on Government Oversight concluded that the Air Force doctored the data by excluding events mentioning significant civilian casualties. One of the events left out in the analysis was an incident in 2009 when a B-1 was involved in the killing of 147 civilians. When fully calculated by number of civilians killed per 100 deployed aircraft, the B-1 comes out with a rate of 6.6 deaths per 100 deployments, which is almost five times higher than the A-10 rate. Conveniently, the Air Force adjusted the length of the time frame to exclude the 2009 event, choosing to select events only after 2010.
“The Air Force cherry picked and doctored the data that it released in an attempt to build a false narrative against the A-10,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at POGO. “The Air Force is resorting to dirty tricks because it can’t make a valid argument against the A-10, proven to be reliable, effective, and a favorite of troops on the ground.”
Aside from monkeying with the data, reports have emerged of senior leaders like Maj. Gen. James Post threatening his troops and saying that if any of them testified to Congress regarding the positive aspects of the A-10, it would be tantamount to treason. Only after major public backlash did the Air Force announce that it was beginning an investigation of Post. Continued evidence of a sustained smear campaign against the A-10 has left the public skeptical of whether Air Force leadership can make the right decisions.
Robert Farley, University of Kentucky professor, has argued that the vendetta against the A-10 has been because the Air Force originally designed the aircraft to maintain supremacy over close air support operations, rather than let the Army take over with helicopters in the 1970s. But still, the Air Force never really liked the idea of slow, lumbering jets flying at a very low altitude.
Still, as of January of this year, 11 percent of sorties against ISIS were conducted by A-10s, and the jets continue to fight furiously in Syria and Iraq, providing close air support. In fact, the A-10s are so useful that they’re being sent over to Europe, only a few years after they were first removed, as a plan to keep Russian aggression in check. In a statement, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Martha McSally praised the Pentagon’s decision to send 12 A-10s across the pond, with McCain emphasizing that plans to scrap the A-10s are “folly.”
However, the Air Force maintains that it’s quickly running out of funds in the budget, and because it can’t spare any personnel, maintenance crews for the A-10s will have to the untested F-35s. (RELATED: SHOTS FIRED: New Congress Fights Back As Air Force Moves To Cut A-10s, Shut Down More Bases)