A government watchdog group is refuting recent Air Force statistics that claim the A-10 aircraft is responsible for the most friendly fire deaths.

USA Today, sister publication to Air Force Military Times, last week obtained the Air Force data and reported that the A-10 has killed more troops in friendly fire incidents and more Afghan civilians than any other U.S. military aircraft.

But the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) claims that the statistics have been doctored to support the Air Force's push to retire the A-10 and replace it with bring aboard the F-35 joint strike fighter in its place.

"The Air Force is resorting to dirty tricks because it can't make a valid argument against the A-10, proven to be reliable, effective, and a favorite of troops on the ground," said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at POGO.

POGO faults the Air Force data because it uses different time frames for the friendly fire deaths, which date back to 2001, and for the Afghan civilian deaths, which date only to 2010.

For one, the Air Force provided statistics in two separate time frames, POGO says, which disrupts crucial data sets."The chart comparing civilian casualties starts in 2010, conveniently excluding the 2009 Granai Massacre in which a B-1 killed between 26 and 147 civilians and wounded many more," Smithberger said.

"For the fratricide data, on the other hand, the Air Force incongruously extended the time-frame back to 2001," she said. "If the fratricide chart had been in the same time frame as the civilian casualty chart, then the B-1 incident would have made it the main killer of troops.''If they had used the same time-frame, the B-1 bomber's killing of five American troops in 2014 would have made it top the list for fratricide." does this makes sense? the time frame difference is 2001-2009, so why is she pointing out a 2014 number? mh

Other exclusions, according to POGO, are: the numbers on all wounded U.S. troops, all killed or wounded allied troops, and all wounded civilians over the same time period; and the number of firing sorties each plane flew during the fratricide data period (2001 to 2014).

If the Air Force had included these data sets, three other aircraft would have caused "greater total fratricide losses than the A-10," Smithberger said.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns said the reason for the varying timeframe in data provided to USA Today was because of the data made available to the Air Force that pertained to USA Today's specific questions.

Xxxxxxxxxxxwas because of the Air Force provided responses to a set of specific questions presented by the reporter with the most accurate data that exists.xxxxxxxxxxxx

And the breakdown is different between percentages and whole numbers, so the Air Force provided percentages for context, he said.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns said Tthe numbers provided are also the most accurate data the Air Force has to date. He – Karns said the 2010 time frame for civilian casualties was used because that was when the Air Force began tracking civilian casualty data using a new Defense Department DOD guidance prompted by the joint staff.

The incidents captured were entered into a data base, validated and met a common definition applied across all the services, Karns said.

"When you look at the number of sorties flown where ordnance was expended and civilian casualty incidents resulted during the 2010-2014 time period, the platform with the top incident free rate was the F-15E, then followed by the A-10," Karns said.

"When you look at the percentage of sorties flown and incidents for the 2010-2014 data for civilian casualties, the most accurate platform based on when ordnance was expended would be the F-15E, then followed by the A-10," Karns said.

If a reader looks at civilian casualty by incident, however, the A-10 had the highest number of incidents in comparison to other Air Force manned aircraft, Karns said.

Fratricide numbers dating back to 2001 were more easily provided to the reporter, Karns said. INSERT FRATRICIDE 2001-14 #s explanation here

"What we really try to reinforce is really how very rare occurrences are, statistically speaking," Karns said told Military Times. "I think what you're finding right now, is that there's a passionate discussion about the A-10, and it is a viable and effective platform. H however, close air support is a mission, not a specific platform."

POGO devised its own statistics, which show that "the A-10 is the safest airplane in Afghan combat, except for the KC-130," Smithberger said.

"In fact, the A-10 produces nearly five times fewer civilian casualties per firing sortie than the B-1 bomber, even in the artificially truncated 2010 to 2014 time period," she said.

Karns said when considering civilian casualty incidents percentages in instances where a weapon was actually employed, the A-10, F-16 and B-1 have "very comparable and low incident rates. Each platform is effective in its own right."

"I think what people are confusing is that this is about the budget and the need to make tough decisions," Karns said. "The A-10 has proven itself as have other platforms in its ability to conduct the close air support missions, but with the aircraft being 40-plus years old, you have to consider what is needed and required in the future."