Bye-bye to BRRRT: Moody AFB to replace A-10s with F-35s, Idaho ANG to replace A-10s with F-16s

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The USAF Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. said on Mar. 7, 2023 the service would likely retire all its A-10 Warthog attack aircraft over the next five or six years.

The Department of the Air Force selected Moody Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia, as the preferred location to receive the next active-duty F-35A Lightning II mission.

According to a US Air Force (USAF) news release, the two squadrons of F-35As are projected to begin arriving in FY27 and are anticipated to require an increase in approximately 500 personnel.

The F-35A brings an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced threat environment in which it was designed to operate. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A provides next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness and reduced vulnerability.

The decision to host the F-35 mission at Moody AFB came after assessing the area’s ability to facilitate the mission and infrastructure capacity, while accounting for community support, environmental factors and cost.

The Fiscal Year 2024 Program Objective Memorandum details department plans to retire 54 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. If approved, six A-10s will be divested out of Moody AFB in FY24 with the remaining A-10s divesting by FY28.

The service also announced that the 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Idaho, is expected to transition to an F-16 Fighting Falcon mission.

The transition will better align the Department of the Air Force to support the National Defense Strategy and will allow the Idaho Air National Guard 124th FW to leverage existing fighter aircraft operations and maintenance expertise once its A-10 Thunderbolt IIs retire, beginning fall 2026.

The decision to host the F-16 mission at Gowen Field ANGB came after assessing the area’s ability to facilitate the mission and infrastructure capacity, while accounting for community support, environmental factors and cost.

F-16s are expected to begin arriving in spring 2027 after the completion of an environmental impact analysis, which is expected to be completed in spring 2025.

As we have already reported, the USAF Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. said on Mar. 7, 2023 the service would likely retire all its A-10 Warthog attack aircraft over the next five or six years.

Until recently, the USAF and Congress have disagreed over what to do with the iconic close air support aircraft (CAS). While the A-10 was known and beloved for its CAS role in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades, the USAF says the low-and-slow-flying plane would not be able to survive in a fight against a nation with modern air defenses, like China.

But now, with Congress starting to go along with the Air Force’s wish to retire its aging A-10 fleet, Brown “4+1” fighter plan of two years ago is “probably just ‘4’ now,” he said on Mar. 15.

The A-10’s CAS mission can be carried out by a variety of other platforms, Brown said, and the Air Force must move on to cutting-edge capabilities that can survive in contested airspace and will keep the service ahead of China, the pacing threat.

The four fighters in USAF’s plan will be the:

• F-35
• F-16
• F-15E/F-15EX
• F-22 before it transitions to the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter around 2030

The first A-10s to be retired will be those of the 122nd Fighter Wing Blacksnakes in Fort Wayne that will replace its fleet of 21 Thunderbolt II CAS aircraft with F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets.