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By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Wednesday said has crafted a complex plan to move forward with the retirement of 42 A-10 "Warthog" combat aircraft, clearing the way for some to be retired from a base in Arizona.
Provided there is congressional support for the retirements, the Air Force will retire 35 A-10s from the Davis-Monthan base in Tucson, Arizona, and replace them with several squadrons of A-10s and helicopters from Nevada along with their maintenance and support crews.
Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, remains an opponent to retiring the A-10s "without a suitable replacement" a spokesman said.
The Pentagon proposal would make the Arizona base a close air support and rescue mission "Center of Excellence." Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada would get the same "Center of Excellence" moniker but for fifth-generation fighter jets as it brings in several F-22s and F-35s from Tyndall and Eglin Air Force bases in Florida respectively.
President Joe Biden's proposed 2022 budget of $715 billion proposed cutting some older aircraft and ship programs to help pay for a jump in research and development funding.
The cuts included the beloved A-10 "Warthog", a slow-flying, twin-engine plane with a 30mm nose-mounted, tank-busting gun and heavy armor used for low-altitude strafing runs to help ground troops. The A-10s being retired are among the oldest in operation.
The moves could begin as early as October, the beginning of the government's 2022 fiscal year.
The close air support plane has been in use since the 1970s, but with the U.S. exit from Iraq and Afghanistan the Air Force wants to retire 42 from its fleet of 281 in fiscal 2022 and a handful of other in the coming years.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis)