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U.S. LAWMAKERS PUT FREEZE ON A-10, U-2 RETIREMENT PLANS
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Source: U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON - Looking back at the various congressional markups during the FY15 budget process, it comes as no surprise that lawmakers have included provisions in the final defense bills preventing the U.S. Air Force from retiring A-10 and U-2 aircraft. The appropriations bill succinctly states that the Air Force may not take any action to divest the U-2 fleet until authorized by Congress. The Air Force is also tasked with submitting an updated high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance transition plan to Congress, which should include the cost and schedule of modifying RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft, as well as certification that any transition plan would provide "sufficient aircraft availability and sensor capabilities" to combatant commanders. Retiring the U-2 would require that aircraft's more powerful sensors to be transferred to the unmanned Global Hawks, and lawmakers have raised concerns about capability gaps if the U-2 is taken out of service.

The appropriations bill also includes $337.1 million to keep the A-10 fleet flying through FY15, and the FY15 defense authorization bill mandates that no funds be used to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage any A-10 aircraft, except for airframes designated for retirement as of April 9, 2013. The policy bill does provide some leeway, stemming from concerns that retaining the A-10 would prevent a number of maintainers from transferring to the F-35 program. The legislation states that the Secretary of Defense may move up to 36 A-10 aircraft in the active component to backup flying status for the duration of FY15.

Regarding the maintenance concerns, the legislation requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to conduct an independent assessment of alternative ways to provide manpower for maintaining fighters and fielding the F-35. The study should consider options proposed by the Air Force, as well as alternatives, such as retiring other aircraft, and using civilian contractor maintainers on an interim basis for the A-10, F-35, or other aircraft. The Comptroller General is also directed to conduct its own independent study of the platforms used to conduct close air support mission. That study should include an assessment of capability gaps generated by retiring the A-10, or capability gaps in air superiority or global strike that could appear due to the cost of retaining the A-10. These provisions make it clear that the discussions over the fate of the A-10 and U-2 are far from over.

Source:  Forecast International - International Military Markets
Associated URL: http://www.forecastinternational.com
Source Date: December 17, 2014
Author: S. McDougall, North America Analyst 
Posted: 12/17/2014

 

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