191st Utah National GuardWASHINGTON – Arizona Rep. Ron Barber and Sen. John McCain joined other lawmakers and former soldiers Thursday urging the Air Force to reverse its plans to retire the A-10 and stop what one said would be “a travesty.” “When you’ve got aircraft coming in, you pray that you get an A-10 in, because you know that it’s safer … for you,” said retired Master Sgt. Tim Stamey at a news conference in Washington. “Nothing other than our Father in heaven reassures and protects the friendly forces and scatters the enemy like an A-10.” McCain – who is in line to become the chairman of the Armed Services Committee when Republicans take control of the Senate in January – said the Air Force is “trying to take away one of the most effective weapons systems” by retiring the A-10 fleet. Air Force officials did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment. The A-10, also known as the “Warthog,” was introduced in the early 1970s. The heavily armored, fixed-wing aircraft specializes in close-air ground support and has the ability to take heavy fire while attacking tanks, armored vehicles and other targets. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in February that the Pentagon planned to retire the entire A-10 fleet and replace it with new F-35s, a move that he said would save $3.5 billion over a five-year period. But lawmakers killed that plan earlier this year, restoring the A-10s to the Pentagon budget for 2015. Keeping the fighter jets around is crucial for Arizona, where Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is the only place in the world where A-10 pilots are trained, said Bruce Dusenberry, president of Southern ArizonaDefense Alliance. Lt. Erin Ranaweera, chief media relations officer at Davis-Monthan, said the Pentagon’s proposal would affect about 1,900 personnel at the base – including those training, flying and working with A-10s. Dusenberry said Davis-Monthan, where roughly 80 A-10 aircraft are based, is “one of the pillars of our economy.” He said he does not believe that retiring the A-10 is something that the Air Force really wants to do but is being pushed to do so by budget concerns. While the F-35 could be a capable replacement for the Warthog, Dusenberry said the A-10 “shouldn’t be retired until there is something available that would be able to do what it does.” “It’s definitley one-of-a-kind,” Dusenberry said of the Warthog. “It’s uniquely capable in the realm of close-air support.” Charlie Keebaugh, president of the Tactical Air Control Party Association, was one of the former service members at Thursday’s event in the Capitol who heaped praise on the decades-old jet. “It is truly a game-changer to have an A-10,” Keebaugh said. Barber, the only Democratic lawmaker at the news conference, said the continuing use of the A-10 is an issue that has brought both parties together. “This is not parochial or a partisan issue,” said Barber, whose district includes Davis-Monthan. “This is a bicameral, bipartisan issue, and we’re going to prevail.” “We will continue to fight this battle into the next Congress, if necessary,” he said.

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