A decision to continue funding for an attack aircraft that had been destined for retirement will bolster the Tucson economy, according to a new report.
The Pentagon’s 2017 budget request of nearly $583 billion includes funding for the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, and should help the southern Arizona economy, said Moody’s Investors Service, which rates bonds issued by cities, counties and other entities in the area. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to roughly 80 of the planes, called Warthogs.
Introduced during the 1970s, the tank-strafing, infantry-support aircraft were targeted for retirement in recent years but now appear likely to stay active at least until fiscal 2022. The announcement is favorable for local governments in the Tucson metro area where the economy receives a significant lift from Davis-Monthan, Moody’s said. The versatile plane recently has been deployed to the Middle East in the fight against ISIS.
Rep. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who used to fly the planes and represents the Tucson area in Congress, in a statement hailed the decision as “an important victory, not just for Southern Arizona, but in our continued fight against ISIS.” She also praised continued funding for EC-130H Compass Call support planes, some of which are based at Davis-Monthan. Arizona Sen. John McCain also had objected to the A-10’s planned retirement.
With roughly 8,300 workers, Davis-Montham is the third-largest employer in the Tucson area, after the University of Arizona and Raytheon Missile Systems and ahead of University of Arizona Healthcare, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center/Fort Huachuca, copper miner Freeport-McMoRan and retailer Walmart.
The Southern Arizona economy has been slower to recover from the recession compared to metro Phoenix or the nation overall. The jobless rate in Tucson, at 5 percent in December, was slightly above the 4.7-percent rate for metro Phoenix.
Davis-Monthan exerts a local economic impact of around $1.5 billion, Moody’s said. The base would be vulnerable to closure if the A-10 was scrapped, the company added.
The decision to retain the A-10 also will help the economy of Valdosta, Georgia, where a nearby base is home to roughly 75 of the planes.