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Mar 12, 2014 12:16 PM by Sean Mooney

Drones may be answer if A-10 flies away from Tucson

TUCSON - On Tuesday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to show their support for the A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jet that has been based in Tucson since 1975.

But some of the writing may be on the wall after the U.S. Department of Defense announced it will permanently ground the A-10 fighter jet.

Many are wondering how much revenue will be lost and how Davis Monthan Air force Base will fill the void once the A-10 flies away from Tucson.

One option is expanding the operations here of an aircraft that carries no pilot.

Predator drones are said to be the future of military aircraft. The 214th Reconnaissance Group as been based at Davis Monthan since 2007. It is overseen by the Arizona Air National Guard's, 162nd Fighter Wing, known best as an international F-16 training unit.

While no MQ-1 Predator is housed here, they are piloted from Davis Monthan as they fly all over the world. Right now the 214th employs 250 people. A small number considering the nearly 11,000 personnel connected to the base who pump more than a billion dollars in to the local economy every year.

City Councilman Steve Kozachik, says it's time to stop talking about the A-10 and start finding ways on to keep Davis Monthan flying, "Instead of arguing something that's already been decided let's get out ahead of this argument and say you know what, we got the city we got the county, we got the state, we got the base, we've got neighborhoods surrounding the base that are saying bring the 214th here."

Meaning expanding the groups operation, with more personnel flying more predators and all the support that goes with it. Lt. Col. Kenneth Rosson, Vice Commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing, says that while there's room for growth the decision makers are far away from Tucson, "That mission could be expanded but that is up to the political process, just like the A-10 being cut, which is obviously being fought in Washington and we live with what falls out from that."

But Lt. Col Rosson also believes, that no matter what cuts are made Tucson will still be flying high. "You can't beat the weather and you can't beat the airspace we have to train in," Rosson said, "so I think if there are cuts something will come in to fill that void."

A facility to train personnel to launch and land Predator drones is currently under construction at Ft. Huachuca. It is expected to be completed by the end of the 2014.

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