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Both the 162nd Fighter Wing and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base could be in jeopardy without the full support of the community. – Ron Shoopman, President Southern Arizona Leadership Council

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U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft sit beneath sunshades on the flightline before takeoff at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Sept. 26, 2012. More than 20 aircraft and 400 personnel were deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook)

An A-10 prepares to land on the flightline after completing its mission at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Feb. 14. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn)

Three A-10C Thunderbolt IIs fly in formation beside a KC135 during an aerial refueling mission in the Tombstone Military Operating Area in Southern Arizona, April 27. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla)

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That prompted U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, a Tucson Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, to fire off a strongly worded letter on Nov. 13 about the importance of keeping the A-10 active to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The letter was also signed by 31 other members of Congress. “The A-10 plays an essential role in helping our ground forces and special operators accomplish their missions and return home safely,” Barber and Ayotte wrote. “We oppose any effort that would divest the A-10, creating a CAS (close air support) capability gap that would reduce Air Force combat power and unnecessarily endanger our service members.” Shepperd said the A-10, nicknamed the Warthog, is the best jet for providing low-flying support to ground forces. However, he said economics favor the F-35. “The A-10 is a single-mission aircraft. But it is the single best closeair support aircraft anywhere in the world. The problem is with budgets looking like they do for the future, we are not going to be able to afford single-mission aircraft. The F-35 is a multi-mission aircraft that can do the same mission as the A-10, but in a different way. It will do it from high altitude with smart weapons and sensors.” Many observers believe the A-10 will not be retired for another 15 years or more, in part because new wings and electronics have been installed on the aircraft to extend their lifespan. But Shoopman called the A-10’s future uncertain. “Air Force officials are not just hinting at these things. They said they are seriously looking at parking the A-10s,” he said. “The timetable is unknown. The assumption was they would be around until at least 2025 – but that is not necessarily guaranteed under the current situation.” Business leaders applaud Barber’s efforts in support of the A-10, yet refrain from giving national security or procurement advice to Congress or the military. They say Tucson needs to embrace whatever mission the U.S. government sends our way. “If the Air Force does decommission the entire A-10 fleet, we need the F-35 here to replace it,” Varney said. “Otherwise we leave a large hole in the entire mission of D-M, which would increase the base’s exposure to BRAC measures.” The F-35 has been endorsed for deployment at D-M and TIA by Barber and by Republican U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita and Pima County have endorsed the use of the F-35 in Tucson as well, leaving just one local government jurisdiction conspicuously absent from the list – Tucson itself. While the Tucson City Council has taken no position on deploying the aircraft, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said he must hear the F-35 firsthand before he decides his position. Local opponents of the F-35 primarily complain that the aircraft is too loud. Proponents say it is only slightly louder than the F-16. “I have made it very clear that I am going to listen to the F-35. I’ve gone once to listen to the F-35 and they couldn’t get one in the air. That was at Lockheed Martin in Dallas,” Rothschild said. “I know from my own personal view, for my own conscience, I have to hear the plane.”


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