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​Critics of the Air Force's plan to retire the A-10 have pointed to the airplane's use in the battle against ISIS as proof the jet is still relevant, but optics had no influence on its deployment, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said. Speaking Feb. 3 with Air Force Magazine, Welsh noted that while Congress denied USAF's request to retire the A-10 on the service's desired schedule, "they funded us to keep them in the inventory. Which is great. As long as we have the airplane, we'll use the airplane." Welsh said US Central Command did not specifically request the A-10 enter the ISIS fight. "They requested capability in ... strike aircraft, [close air support], personnel recovery," he said, and the A-10s "were originally deployed to the theater to serve ... specifically in the personnel recovery role as the (Combat Search and Rescue) flight leads over in the theater." He added, "We have to use our whole fleet." The new Air Force budget plan calls for phasing the A-10 out completely by 2019. "It's very clear the world has not gotten more stable in the last year. If there's a way to hedge our bet a little bit in that regard, why wouldn't we?" he asked.