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Jim GallowayJim Galloway

Jack Kingston aims to become the next Sam Nunn

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A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 47th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is parked on the flight line Feb. 16, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The A-10?s 30mm GAU-8 heavy rotary canon is visible below the aircraft?s nose. U.S. Air Force

A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 47th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is parked on the flight line Feb. 16, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The A-10?s 30mm GAU-8 heavy rotary canon is visible below the aircraft?s nose. U.S. Air Force

Jack Kingston, one of two Republicans remaining in the race for U.S. Senate, said Monday he would pursue a seat on that chamber’s Armed Services Committee should he win the nomination in July and the November election.

The announcement is a significant one: If Kingston beats David Perdue on July 22, he’ll face Democrat Michelle Nunn, whose father, Sam Nunn, was the longtime chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee – and one of the foremost defense experts of his period.

Kingston made his remarks during a well-placed presser in Marietta, at the end of the runways of Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

Among his priorities, Kingston said, would be the next round of military base reductions and closings – “an issue that will always be out there.”

“Part of what we need to do is make sure we’re always looking for new missions – what else can be done on that base to expand it? What kind of military needs do they have?” Kingston said.

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U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, AJC file

It came as no surprise, given that the aircraft are stationed at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, within his congressional district, but Kingston said he would be a Senate advocate for the A-10 Warthog – a ground-troop support aircraft currently on the chopping block as a cost-cutting measure.

Here’s a quick bit of background from Time magazine:

The A-10’s titanium-clad cockpit and self-sealing fuel cells protects its lone pilot. Manual flight controls back up its hydraulic system. These give the A-10 pilot the confidence to fly low and slow to take out enemy armor or troops with the eye-watering seven-barrel GAU-8 Gatling gun protruding from under its nose.

Said Kingston:

“The people who like the A-10 the best aren’t just our friends in the Air Force, but it’s the Marines and soldiers, because the A-10s can get down close…

“Sometimes you can’t get an F-16 in. It’s too far away. You’ve got to get somebody in who’s close-range, low-altitude. That’s what the A-10 does. I do not think we should discontinue the A-10 at this time, because there is not a suitable replacement that’s out there.

“Furthermore, the cost per hour of an A-10 is far less than it is on another weapons system. An A-10 is $29,000 an hour to fly. But an F-16 is something like $30,000.”

The Hill, a news website devoted to Congress, has a piece today linking sequestration to the future of the A-10:

The real problem with this outcome is that the future is here. America’s declining military superiority is no longer an imminent threat, but a “here now” problem in the words of one Pentagon official.

The A-10 will ultimately be approved for retirement absent any significant changes to budget caps. Not this year, but in the coming two years at some point. It is not a question of “if,” but “when,” because the alternatives immediately go from bad to worse. Also, there are many members without an obvious or parochial interest in this debate who have started to weigh in, supporting the Air Force.

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