It's official: Barksdale's allotment of A-10 Warthogs will stay at the air force base at least one more year. Word came late this week that the attack jet will 'not' be phased out at Barksdale for now. And the reaction has been one of relief.
Not far from the gates of Barksdale Air Force Base you could hear strong reactions to word that the 21 A-10 Warthogs assigned to the base will stay at least one more year. Local resident Ray Chaney told us, "The A-10 to me is one of the greatest warplanes that we ever had. I love it."
Even the cashier inside Beam's Restaurant, right across the street from the base, had an opinion. Lee Henning said, "Well, they need 'em right now, they do for everything that's going on in the world."
A recently disclosed letter sent by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to lawmakers announced that those A-10s, assigned to the 47th Fighter Squadron of the 917th Fighter group at Barksdale would survive the budget ax through the 2013 fiscal year.
"If you ever ask an, whether he's a marine, a special operator, or a regular army guy, you ask him, 'if they're in a pinch what aircraft would they like to have overhead helping them out,' beyond a doubt ninety-plus percent of the time they'll say the A-10, that's the airplane to have supporting you," said Lt. Col. Rod Glass.
He's the deputy commander of the 917th and says the A-10's mission of close air support for ground troops has made it ideal for the fighting conditions in Afghanistan, where he's served several tours himself. "We can get low, we can get slow. We can get close-up and personal."
The next big step in the A-10's future will come in the spring of 2013. That's about six months before funding would run out for Fiscal '13. Lt. Col. Glass says the U.S. Senate made a provision for the creation of a committee that will evaluate the long-term future of the A-10 jet and then present it to a panel by March 2013 for final recommendations.
And with the A-10's Gatlin Gun able to fire 4-thousand, 30-millimeter rounds a minute some predict this famous 'tank killer' will survive long after next year as well. It's little wonder when you consider that by some estimates, the A-10's presence at Barksdale brings in 45-million dollars to the local economy every year.