HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Despite multiple calls over the years to send the plane to the boneyard, the old A-10 Warthog is still a vital part of the nation’s defense infrastructure.
And it appears that Northrop Grumman and Hill Air Force Base — the longtime maintenance hub for the close air support aircraft — will be keeping it flying for years to come.
Late Monday, the Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. was awarded a $185.7 million contract to provide “engineering services” on the military’s fleet of A-10 aircraft. According to a press release from the Department of Defense, the work will be performed in Clearfield in collaboration with Hill and is expected to run through Nov. 22, 2030.
In a statement, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called the announcement “welcome news” for Hill, Utah and for national security.
“Hill Air Force Base plays a vital role in maintaining a fighting force to carry out our country’s national security strategy, supporting our country’s military readiness, and bolstering our capacity to deter foreign aggression,” Romney said. “With this funding, Hill Air Force Base will be better equipped to continue carrying out these objectives for many years to come.”
The Air Force’s full fleet of A-10s consists of about 280 plans. Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex has long served as the primary maintenance depot for the plane and recently wrapped up another decade-long project to replace wings on the planes.
The Air Force has tried to retire the A-10 multiple times during the past decade, but those attempts were repeatedly blocked by Congress. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has been a vocal opponent of the retirement plan, saying the plane is irreplaceable in combat situations where troops need close air support.
Sending the plane into retirement was part of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2016 budget and consisted of a four-year phase-out coinciding with the arrival of the F-35. At that time, the DOD said the retirement would create more than $4 billion in savings over five years. Many defense insiders thought the F-35, with its sophisticated sensors and precision targeting capabilities, could replace the A-10 in the immediate term.
But the DOD ultimately decided against the retirement, as increased global threats like ISIS and growing instability in the Middle East and Africa created more need for the A-10’s services.
According to a Hill fact sheet, the plane has “excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. They can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and ... their wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines.”
The plane has been nicknamed “The Warthog” because of its rugged look and reputation as a preeminent close air support plane. It first began service during the mid-1970s.