The end of an era: Davis-Monthan Air Force base retires A-10 Fleet

 13. 02. 2024      Category: Air force

In a move that marks the end of an era for the venerable A-10 Warthog, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona has begun the process of retiring its fleet. The initial phase saw the first set of A-10s from the 355th Wing being moved to their final resting place, the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group, affectionately known as "the boneyard." This significant event underscores a pivotal shift in U.S. Air Force strategy, as it looks towards a future of more technologically advanced fighter jets.

Picture: A-10 Thunderbolt heading to landing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base August 2023 | Shutterstock

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known for its distinctive durability, close air support capabilities, and the unmistakable sound of its GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, has been a symbol of American airpower for nearly half a century. The 354th Fighter Squadron, part of the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan, saw two of its A-10s being retired recently, with the base planning to phase out the entire squadron by the fall. This move is part of a broader Air Force initiative to replace the aging Warthog fleet with newer, more advanced aircraft by the decade's end.

Col. Scott Mills, 355th Wing Commander and an A-10 pilot himself, reflected on the legacy of the A-10 at Davis-Monthan, emphasizing its role as a symbol of commitment, excellence, and service among airmen. The retirement of these aircraft, however, is not just a farewell to an iconic plane but also a transition for the personnel involved. Pilots and maintainers from the disbanded squadrons will be reassigned to other units, with some transitioning to operate the F-35, the Air Force's fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The retirement of the A-10 from Davis-Monthan is part of a larger reshaping of the Air Force's strategic capabilities. The 492nd Special Operations Wing is set to relocate from Hurlburt Field, Florida, to Davis-Monthan, transforming into one of the "power projection wings." This new formation will encompass a wide array of special operations missions, signaling a significant shift towards versatile and integrated airpower capabilities.

The Air Force's decision to retire 21 A-10s from the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Indiana, in fiscal 2023, reducing the total A-10 inventory, is indicative of this strategic realignment. With plans to further decrease the number of Warthogs to 218 by year's end, the Air Force is steadily moving towards a future defined by advanced technology and multifaceted operational capacities.

Since its first arrival at Davis-Monthan in 1976, the A-10 has been a steadfast guardian of U.S. skies and ground forces. Its retirement signals not only the end of an iconic era in military aviation but also the dawn of a new age, where the fusion of technology, strategy, and capability promises to redefine the future of air combat and support. As the sun sets on the A-10 fleet at Davis-Monthan, the base prepares to embrace the next chapter in its storied history, continuing its legacy of excellence and innovation in the service of the United States Air Force.

 Author: Michal Fencl