TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The A-10 Warthog is a familiar sight in our skies---and an essential part of keeping Davis-Monthan a multi-million dollar contributor to our local economy.
But now the Air Force is testing several smaller, simpler planes --- considering them to take over at least part of the A-10s ground attack mission.
The Air Force has been trying to retire the A-10 to make room in the budget for newer planes like the F-35. Now the service is saying it will keep the warthogs flying for at least another five years.
Wednesday and for most of the coming month, at Holloman Air Base in New Mexico the Air Force is testing very different planes to take over at least part of the A-10s mission.
There is no plane quite like the A-10. Ground troops---and members of Congress love it for its ability to fly low, slow and close enough to safely take out threats even when friendly troops are close to the target.
The A-10 is built to take damage and keep flying.
The giant gun the plane was designed around can rip open a tank with just a short burst.
Now the Air Force is considering, simpler, cheaper options for battlefields where the enemy doesn't have much that will bring down a plane.
It will spend the next month testing the planes in New Mexico.
The A-29 Super Tucano is a Brazilian design that would be built by an American company called Sierra Nevada. The Defense Department has already sent about 20 of these planes to Afghanistan's Air Force to fly against the Taliban.
Air Tractor's AT-802L is a crop duster modified to carry weapons and fly modern sensors.
Textron has two planes in the competition. One is the AT-6. It's a modified version of the plane the U.S. Air Force and Navy use for basic flight training.
Textron also has the only jet in the competition. It says the Scorpion is much cheaper to operate than other military jets.
Like the A-10, most of the planes are able to fly in and out of rough fields in remote locations. That's one reason special operations forces are looking at the tests too.