AURORA, Colorado — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown said Tuesday the Air Force would likely retire all its A-10 Warthogs over the next five or six years.

Until recently, the Air Force and Congress have disagreed over what to do with the famed and rugged attack airplane. While the A-10 was known and beloved for its close air support role in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades, the Air Force 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.

The Air Force has repeatedly sought congressional permission to start retiring the A-10 and instead use those resources to bring on newer jets, but was rebuffed by Congress each time until the fiscal 2023 budget was approved.

The Air Force this year will start retiring its first 21 A-10s Brown told reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association’s AFA Warfare Symposium here. This will reduce the service’s A-10 inventory from 281 to 260.

Those Warthogs will come from an Air National Guard squadron at Fort Wayne, Indiana, which will then transition to an equal number of F-16s.

And in subsequent years, Brown said, the Air Force hopes to continue that momentum.

“I would say over the next five or six years, we will probably [have] the A-10 out of our inventory,” he added.

In future wars, Brown continued, the Air Force needs aircraft that can fill multiple roles, and the A-10′s utility is too limited.

Combatant commands have not been asking for A-10s, Brown said, and he has a hard time getting them to use them because it’s “a single-mission airplane.”

“The A-10 is a great airplane … in an uncontested environment,” Brown said. “The challenge is, we’re going to be in more contested environments in the future.”

Fighters such as the F-35 and bombers are able to carry out close air support missions, Brown said, but in a future, highly contested combat environment, the Air Force will likely play less of a close air support role than it did in the Middle East.

“I’ve got to lean towards where the threat is,” he said.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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