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USAF finds F-35 maintainers outside A-10 fleet

The US Air Force no longer needs to rob its A-10 fleet’s maintainers to support the incoming Lockheed Martin F-35As, according to a Congressional report.

The F-35 delivery plan currently outpaces the number of maintainers the USAF can maintain and recruit until fiscal year 2020. In the interim, the service is hiring contract maintainers through 2019 in non-deploying squadrons to allow the USAF to stand up new F-35 squadrons, but Congress remains wary of a long term gap.

The service has warned the maintainer shortfall could threaten the stand up of F-35 squadrons, but the recent report assures lawmakers the air force has filled those gaps through converted National Guard squadrons from F-16 to F-35 operations, additional resources for active duty forces and using reserve duty forces.

"The total force units standing up the F-35 after (fiscal year 2019) have the necessary manpower resources to set the conditions for full spectrum readiness according to (fiscal year 2018) president’s budget and future defense plan," the report states.

The report makes no mention of robbing the A-10 fleet’s maintainers to bolster the incoming F-35s, a plan the joint programme office had once pushed under its former executive officer Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan.

The USAF appears to have taken an about face on the A-10 retirement, with the USAF’s chief assuring that the Fairchild-Republic aircraft would remain in the service’s inventory through 2021. In an interview with FlightGlobal, the USAF’s outgoing Air Combat Command chief said new wings could keep the A-10 flying through the 2030s. The National Defense Authorisation Act, which President Donald Trump signed earlier this week, approved $103,000,000 million for new wings but the Pentagon is still waiting on the appropriations bill that will guarantee those funds.

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