News Article

Maryland lawmakers having talks ‘at the highest levels’ to preserve Air National Guard flight mission at Martin State Airport
February 13, 2024


By: Jeff Barker

Federal lawmakers say they are having conversations “at the highest levels of the Pentagon” to try to persuade the Air Force to preserve a flight mission at Martin State Airport in Middle River, home of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing.

The Air Force is phasing out its A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft over the next five years. No aircraft has been designated to replace them, leaving hundreds of the A-10 program’s pilots and other workers at the Warfield Air National Guard Base in limbo.

Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County — all Democrats — don’t want the A-10 program halted before it can be replaced with another flying mission for the historic airport.

“As the Air Force phases out the A-10 nationwide and increases the Maryland Guard’s already important contribution to our nation’s cyber mission, we are working to find a way forward with the Air Force to preserve this unit’s flying mission so it can also remain at the ready to protect and defend our country in the skies,” Van Hollen said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday.

Those efforts, said Cardin, the state’s senior senator, in a statement, include having “valuable conversations at the highest levels of the Pentagon and the White House. We are optimistic that we can find common ground to keep the Maryland Air Guard flying.”

A decision about the base mission is expected  “within the next couple months,” Air Force spokeswoman Sarah Fiocco said Wednesday.

The A-10, a rugged attack plane initially rolled out in the 1970s, is being retired to make way for more modern aircraft.

Maryland lawmakers have been lobbying Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III, among other officials.

The push includes a letter last week to Kendall from 18 Baltimore County state delegates.

“We implore you to reconsider this decision and ensure the future of this historic and high-performing unit,” the letter said.

It said the air base includes some 600 pilots and others, and that the Maryland Air National Guard “has participated in dozens of deployments throughout the world since September 11, 2001.”

Preserving the mission is one of Gov. Wes Moore’s top federal priorities, according to a memorandum the Democrat presented to the state’s federal lawmakers last June that was obtained by The Sun.