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What's DM's mission after A-10 retires?

Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 06:45:50-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It was great news for Southern Arizona when the Secretary of Defense said the A-10 will keep flying for another six years.
The Warthog is the main mission at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The base is the area's 4th largest employer with about a one and a half billion dollar contribution to the local economy.  
But could the Air Force change its mind and ground the A-10 after all? And what new mission would help keep the base open?
The A-10's ability to fly low and slow helps it protect troops on the ground and knock out threats like ISIS. The Defense Secretary conceded the U-S has no other plane ready to do that job nearly as well.  But local leaders know DM needs new missions to stay open and active after the A-10 flies its last mission.
Ground troops say just the sound of the A-10 and its huge machine gun is enough to make enemy fighters run away. The gun designed to tear open Soviet Tanks is more than enough to level softer targets.
Congresswoman, and former A-10 pilot Martha McSally fought hard to keep the A-10 flying because it flies low and slow enough to take out bad guys and keep good guys safe.
She says, "When you are talking about close air support where we have troops on the ground in missions like I've been in where they're on the run, they can't tell you what the coordinates are.  They're just giving you a mirror flash of the sun into your eyes saying, 'Don't hit me. The bad guy are on the other side of the ravine."
The Defense Department just put a six year hold on plans to retire the A-10 to make room in the budget for the new F-35.
McSally says even with a new administration on the way, A-10 backers can probably rely on those six years because of the way the military does its budgets.
But community leaders know the A-10 will not fly forever.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild says, "We do need to be very alert and working hard to expand the current missions we have at Davis-Monthan and to look for future missions."
That could mean promoting DM as a base for fast growing drone programs, or the new F-35 and always pointing to the area's near perfect flying weather and the value of the nearby Goldwater Training Range.
You can bet local leaders will continue lobbying the Secretary of the Air Force.  She is due to visit Davis-Monthan early next month.
For now Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce President Mike Varney says the A-10’s six year reprieve is probably enough to stimulate more investment by local businesses that depend on the base.
"That's got to do nothing but instill confidence in the community that that whole area out by DM and the small businesses and large businesses that are vendors to DM have got at least a six year time horizon so I see it as nothing but a positive.”