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McCain: A-10's importance in fight vs. ISIS keeps it alive

By Joe Ferguson

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Arizona Sen. John McCain credits the fight against the ISIS terror group for postponing the retirement of the military's A-10 Thunderbolt II jet, which has a huge presence at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

'If you had to give the majority of credit somewhere, I would give it to Mr. Baghdadi in ISIS, because we had to go into Syria. We had to go after ISIS. The A-10 is still the most capable weapon to do that,' McCain, R-Arizona, told the Arizona Daily Star during a meeting Friday, citing the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

'This is probably the first and last time that I am in league with Mr. Baghdadi.'

Arizona's senior senator predicts Davis-Monthan will receive good news in February from the Pentagon, saying funding for the A-10 will be restored in the fiscal 2017 budget request. 'We've been told they are not going to continue the request to retire the A-10,' McCain said about the Air Force's plans for the plane. A-10s, or Warthogs, are still proving their worth in battle, he said. 'I am sure you've heard about this spectacular strike where we hit the fuel trucks, 100 or so of them. You know who carried out that airstrike? TheA-10s,' McCain said. 'Still the best close air-support aircraft in the inventory.'

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led the fight to save the A-10, and says he is optimistic about the future of Davis- Monthan.

However, 'the A-10s are not going to be around forever,' he said. 'There are a lot of ideas out there, including a drone base.'

D-M's proximity to the Goldwater Air Force Range- a

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U.S. Sen. John McCain

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huge swath of land northwest of Tucson, continues to be an asset, McCain notes, especially due to soldiers' ability to use live munitions there. McCain said the community has helped reverse the perception that residents do not support the base.

'Tucson has done a remarkable job, in my view. I am very pleased with the way the mayor has been totally supportive,' he said, also noting D-M is popular with the airmen and women serving here.

NEW HIGHWAY COMING

In other news, McCain said the proposed Sonoran Corridor will be fully funded but will take time to build.

The corridor is a proposed connection between Interstates 10 and 19, to run south of Tucson International Airport, that economic development proponents are touting as a prime location for expansion of regional transportation and distribution networks.

The highway will help improve the Southern Arizona economy, McCain said, while cautioning it will be a slow, difficult process to build in some places a brand-new federal highway.

He also touched on issues with hiring more federal customs inspectors to work at the ports of entry in Nogales. McCain said he is exploring whether the federal government could offer financial incentives to those employees to live and work in Nogales.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

A-10West Demo Team pilot Capt. Joe 'Rifle' Shetterly piloted his airplane to seven times the force of gravity during a 12-minute demonstration of theWarthog's capabilities over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 2010.

DAVID SANDERS / ARIZONA DAILY STAR 2010

Sen. John McCain says Tucson has done a good job changing the perception the community doesn't back Davis-Monthan.

RICK WILEY / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

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