The Warthog is sitting pretty. Once on the brink of forced retirement, the A-10 attack plane with the ungainly shape and odd nickname has been given new life, spared by Air Force leaders who have reversed the Obama administration’s view of the plane as an unaffordable extra in what had been a time of tight budgets. In the 2018 Pentagon budget plan sent to Congress this week, the Air Force proposed to keep all 283 A-10s flying for the foreseeable future.
Three years ago, the Pentagon proposed scrapping the fleet for what it estimated would be $3.5 billion in savings over five years. Congress said no. The following year, the military tried again but said the retirement would not be final until 2019. Congress again said no. Last year, officials backed away a bit further, indicating retirement was still the best option but that it could be put off until 2022.
Now the retirement push is over, and the Warthog’s future appears secure.
“The world has changed,” said Maj. Gen. James F. Martin Jr., the Air Force budget deputy, in explaining decisions to keep aircraft once deemed expendable. The Air Force has similarly dropped plans to retire the iconic U-2 spy plane amid prospects for bigger budgets under President Donald Trump. It also reflects the relentless pace of operations for combat aircraft and surveillance and reconnaissance planes that feed intelligence data to war commanders. The service had complained for years that its inventory of aircraft was getting dangerously small and old. Gen. Mark Welsh, who retired as the top Air Force officer last year, was fond of describing the service as having 12 fleets of aircraft that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia.
The A-10 is a special case. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona who flew the A-10 in combat and commanded a squadron in Afghanistan, speaks of it with obvious affection.
“The A-10 is this badass airplane with a big gun on it,” she said she told Trump in a recent conversation, explaining why the Warthog is unlike any other attack aircraft. The “big gun” to which she refers is a seven-barrel Gatling gun that is nine feet long and fires 30mm armor-piercing shells at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. Also armed with Maverick missiles, the A-10 is effective not only in a conventional battle against tanks and other armored vehicles. It also provides close-air support for Iraqi and other U.S. partner forces taking on Islamic State fighters in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. A number of A-10s fly missions in Syria from Incirlik air base in Turkey.
McSally is among members of Congress for whom elimination of the Warthog carried political risks back home. Sen. John McCain, a fellow Arizona Republican, joined her in strenuously arguing against the plane’s early retirement. Arizona’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to an A-10 unit; retirement of the aircraft might have made Davis-Monthan more vulnerable to closure. A veteran of combat in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and beyond, the plane entered service in 1976. It is among Cold War-era icons like the venerable B-52 bomber that have exceeded expected lifespans and are likely to remain central to U.S. air campaigns for years to come.
Specially designed for the Cold War mission of attacking armor on the front lines of a potential European war with the Soviet Union, the A-10’s air crews considered it so ugly they called it the Warthog. Its official nickname is Thunderbolt II. The plane has been out of production since 1984 but has received many upgrades over the years, most recently with new electronics.
Your laptop isn t the only item you ll have to part with at airport security. For over a year, the Transportation Security Administration has been quietly testing new security requirements at 10 US airports, including in Los Angeles, Boston, and Las Vegas, that require passengers to remove any electronic item larger than a cell phone, not just laptops, from carry-on baggage so scanners can better read the contents of the luggage. These requirements could be extended to other airports, the TSA said.
This helps in obtaining a clearer picture on the X-ray machine, a TSA spokeswoman told Quartz, adding that the tests are not related to the recent US ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on on US-bound flights from the Middle East. Passengers may also have to part with items other than electronics, the TSA said. Food and other things travelers stuff in their bags to avoid baggage fees can also make it hard for X-ray machines to read the contents of a bag, creating false alarms.
But as with the electronics ban, having some cash to spare goes a long way. The restrictions are the perfect advertisement for the TSA PreCheck program, whose members are exempt from the stepped-up checks. TSA PreCheck members pay $85 for five years of membership after undergoing a background check and are granted access to less invasive security screenings and usually shorter, dedicated security lanes. TSA PreCheck applications jumped last year after hourslong security lines formed in Chicago and other large US airports. As of this month, 4.8 million people are enrolled in TSA s PreCheck, up from 2.6 million enrollees a year ago, but TSA has said it aims to get 25 million people enrolled by 2025. What better advertisement than the alternative of a longer security line?
For those that don t want to pay the additional fee, do yourself and your fellow travelers a favor: Instead of fumbling around emptying out your luggage, consider a digital detox on your next flight and leave the electronics at home.
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- ^ US ban on laptops and other large electronic devices (qz.com)
- ^ to avoid baggage fees (qz.com)
- ^ the Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
- ^ having some cash to spare (qz.com)
- ^ TSA PreCheck program, (qz.com)
- ^ after hourslong security lines (qz.com)
- ^ Trump reportedly called Germany bad, very bad and threatened to stop Americans from buying BMWs (qz.com)
Manchester terrorist Salman Abedi. Facebook
The newspaper noted the times Abedi had been reported. Citing information also reported by the BBC, it said:
- He told friends “being a suicide bomber was okay,” something that led them to contact an anti-terrorism hotline run by the British government.
- A community worker who knew Abedi had been worried he was “supporting terrorism” and had expressed the view that “being a suicide bomber was ok,” the BBC reported late on Wednesday.
- Didsbury Mosque attended by Abedi in the past contacted the Home Office’s Prevent programme about Abedi. Prevent is an anti-radicalisation programme.
- Two people who knew Abedi at college made calls about him to the authorities, the BBC added.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Didsbury Mosque distanced the centre from Abedi and condemned his actions in the strongest possible terms. It is also believed that British authorities were aware that Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi, had potential links to terror-related groups. Former Libyan official Abdel-Basit Haroun told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the elder Abedi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s, which had links to al-Qaeda. Haroun said he belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, an extreme sect of Islam from which al-Qaeda and the Islamic State hail.
Ramadan Abedi, alongside his other son Hashem Abedi, Salman’s younger brother were both arrested separately in the Libyan capital Tripoli by counter-terrorism forces on Wednesday.
Abedi killed 22 and injured at least 64 when he detonated an improvised bomb in the foyer of Manchester Arena in central Manchester on Monday night, where pop star Ariana Grande was performing.
The 22-year-old suicide bomber was radicalised during trips to Syria and was known to British intelligence services, it has emerged.