It’s not often that Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and Republican Congressman John James (R-Farmington Hills) agree on issues, much less co-sponsor legislation, but when it comes to fighter jets, they are on target.
Slotkin and James are among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced a bill Wednesday that would temporarily hold off planned retirements of older aircraft at Air National Guard bases around the country, including the A-10 squadron based at Selfridge Air National Guard base in Macomb County.
The legislation, also sponsored by Republican Don Bacon of Nebraska, a retired Air Force brigadier general, requests the U.S. Air Force create a 10-year plan for replacing older aircraft like the A-10 with next-generation aircraft at the 25 Air National Guard bases around the country.
“The idea is that we believe that there should be a more significant fighter capability into the future, and, of course, Selfridge Air National Guard base would like to compete for that fighter mission in the future,” Slotkin told The Detroit News. “But we can’t do that unless we understand what the Air Force’s recapitalization plan is.”
State leaders have been working to secure an eventual replacement for the A-10s at Selfridge, a base that supports an estimated 5,000 jobs.
“Michigan is a military powerhouse and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is its crown jewel,” James said in a statement. “My district has long been a strong advocate of replacing the current A-10 Thunderbolts with a next generation fighter. I will not rest until Selfridge is home to a mission worthy of its stature and strategic position.”
James is a West Point grad who served eight years as a helicopter pilot, including multiple tours in Iraq.
The effort to retire A-10s is part of an Air Force plan to reduce the overall number of fighter aircraft. Officials say securing next-generation fighter aircraft for Selfridge would ensure the base stays open long into the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Michigan is moving forward with planned improvements at Selfridge, including $28 million in federal funds for a new maintenance hangar and a previous pledge by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to spend nearly $100 million in state tax dollars to upgrade facilities at the base.