The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller says the U.S. Air Force must demonstrate it has other aircraft that are equipped to replace A-10 attack fighters at Michigan’s largest military base before the A-10s are eliminated in 2017.
“Before Congress can even consider allowing the divestment of the vital A-10 fleet, the Air Force has to make the case that the critical mission performed by A-10 aircraft … can be safely transferred to another aircraft,” the Harrison Township Republican said in a statement.
The A-10 Thunderbolt, known also as the “Warthog,” is a critical aircraft to the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. The base, which has 18 A-10s in its fleet, is managed and operated by the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing. The group is made up of about 1,700 Guardsmen.
Miller made the remarks this week after the Air Force announced plans to remove the A-10s from its inventory to cut costs as part of a five-year budget plan.
Under the plan, the Air Force will fund its fleet of A-10s until 2017 and then replace them with eight KC-135s, jets that enable the military to refuel aircraft in the air. Selfridge has eight KC-135 jets.
The Air Force initially proposed eliminating the A-10s at Selfridge in plans that didn’t include any replacement craft.
Miller said eliminating Selfridge’s A-10 fleet will result in the loss of about 800 jobs.
“Assuming the new KC-135s would be an addition to Selfridge’s current fleet of eight KC-135s, this plan presents both negative and positive implications that must be considered carefully by Congress,” she said.
Selfridge officials said they would like fighter jets and the KC-135s to continue flying at the base.
“It’s critical to maintain both refueling and fighter capabilities at Macomb County’s crown jewel,” 127th Wing Commander Col. Philip Sheridan said Wednesday in a statement relayed by spokesman Sgt. Dan Heaton.
Job cuts and mission changes have loomed over Selfridge before.
The base almost lost 700 jobs last year as part of an Obama administration proposal to cut 9,000 Air Force jobs in 2013 to shore up the federal budget. A $631 billion defense bill passed by Congress spared the base.
In 2005, Selfridge lost 300 jobs when the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission shut down the Army garrison at the base.
Selfridge, about 20 miles north of downtown Detroit, is home to 44 federal agencies, including units with the armed forces and Customs and Border Protection.
Nearly 6,900 active, Guard and Reserve military personnel and civilians are stationed at the base.