Senator Crapo Roots for Warthogs

By Tom Bacon

Idahosenior senator Mike Crapo has become an advocate, a conservationist for warthogs. But not the 4-legged kind with tusks. When Crapo speaks of keeping warthogs alive, he's talking about an aging combat airplane, designed as a cold-war-era tank buster, but which won its spurs two decades later as a tank buster in the Iraq war.

It's the Air Force A-10, a big, tough, lethal gun and bomb platform which pilots and ground troops love because of its ability to come in low and slow and wreak havoc on enemy forces. But it's so ugly they dubbed it the Warthog.

Facing new budget cuts, the Air Force wants to do away with active-duty A-10s and replace them with more versatile fighters. The move could save an estimated 3-and-a-half billion dollars. But Crapo and several other senatorial lawmakers are worried about the fate of home-state Air National Guard squadrons which now fly the A-10. Idaho's 124th National Guard wing flies A-10s from Gowen Field in Boise. 

Crapo and the other defenders of the Warthog contend that divestment of the A-10 Thunderbolt - that's its formal name - will create a dangerous gap in the close air support capability that would endanger soldiers in future wars. He's introduced an amendment to the pending National Defense Authorization Act to stop the Air Force from retiring the old Warthogs until top officers can certify that enough new fighters are available - and functioning properly - to take over the close support role.
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