Aug 13, 2014

Doing The Math: Saving A-10s By Cutting F-35s

In February 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel briefed that retiring the A-10 fleet would save $3.5 billion over five years. That equals a savings of $700 million per year, not exactly chump change. A few months later, in April, the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, actually bumped the estimate up by exactly $700 million, to $4.2 billion. This means either the A-10’s annual operating expenses went up by 20% to $840 million per year, or the new savings is calculated over six years instead of five. Either way, the intended message was unambiguous: Air Force leadership did some math and made a logical decision. Retiring the A-10 fleet will save a lot of money, and these days saving money is a necessity, not an option.
But in June, the House of Representatives voted to prevent the Air Force from retiring the Warthog, leading Air Force Secretary Deborah James to ask where they want to find the money instead.
It’s a great question and one worth answering. Are there other, perhaps better ways to come up with $4.2 billion in savings? Where else could the Air Force look? One alternative is the Joint Strike Fighter, often described as the most expensive weapons system in history. Let’s do a little math here – but don’t worry, I’ll keep it as painless as possible.

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