For many years now, the idiocy of using front line jets to plink trucks has been obvious. The solution has been just as obvious – use a light (probably propeller driven) attack aircraft. The benefits are blindingly obvious: cheaper acquisition cost, cheaper operating cost, easier to maintain, easier to learn to fly, etc. Note that when we say cheaper, we mean by astronomically huge margins. In the military budget world, these light attack planes border on free to buy and free to operate.
ComNavOps has suggested that the Navy acquire a simple Essex-type carrier to operate a wing of Super Tucanos or something similar. The Navy has no interest in that and wants no part of it. In fact, the Navy seems quite happy to burn through F-18 Hornet flight hours rather than embrace a simple, cheap solution. They have sidestepped the issue by allowing the Air Force to take the lead on ‘evaluating’ the concept.
So, how is the Air Force progressing? You would think that it would take all of about a week to evaluate the issue, right? I mean, it’s just not that complicated. Let’s see how they’re doing. From a Breaking Defense article:
After a decade of dithering, and under threat from Congress to strip the program from its control, the Air Force today issued its long-awaiting request for proposal (RFP) for the Light-Attack Aircraft to Textron Aviation for the AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security for their A-29.
So, rather than a week of evaluation, the Air Force has wiled away a decade???? How can that be? Well, the answer is obvious. The Air Force wants nothing to do with a small, light aircraft. If it isn’t a high cost, high performance jet, the Air Force doesn’t want it – just like they don’t want the A-10. It’s just like the Navy’s disdain for small vessels, no matter how useful.
So, if the Air Force doesn’t want a small, light attack aircraft why are they even pretending to look at it? Well, it’s because Congress and public opinion has forced them to make a token effort.
Well, at least they’re finally going to commit to a light attack aircraft, right? Wrong.
The Air Force will buy “two or three of both,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Breaking D today.
So, a decade of dithering and now they’re going to buy two or three of each of the two types for a total buy of 4-6. That’s not exactly commitment – that’s more delay.
Okay, so that’s a miniscule initial buy but that will quickly ramp up to significant purchases, right? Wrong.
Air Combat Command will take charge of the AT-6 Wolverine planes at Nellis AFB in Nevada “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” the announcement said. [emphasis added]
Air Force Special Operations Command will use the A-29 Super Tucano at Hurlburt Field in Florida “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”
Newly installed Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett chimed in with one of her first official statements, saying: “Over the last two years, I watched as the Air Force experimented with light attack aircraft to discover alternate, cost-effective options to deliver airpower and build partner capacity around the globe. I look forward to this next phase.”
So … … … more studies?
And, what’s this about other countries?
Phase 3, ongoing since at least 2011, includes looking more closely at their use by allies, such as Afghanistan and Lebanon, who both own small numbers of the A-29, for counter-insurgency operations, and assessing how many the Air Force and allies might buy.
“Our focus is on how a light attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in the Air Force announcement. “Continuing this experiment, using the authorities Congress has provided, gives us the opportunity to put a small number of aircraft through the paces and work with partner nations on ways in which smaller, affordable aircraft like these can support their air forces.”
Congress started this project to acquire small, light attack planes for OUR use, not for other countries. Where did this focus on other countries come from? Who gives a rat’s ass about what other countries might think about our light attack aircraft? This is just a way to continue postponing any significant action by the Air Force.
And, just to close out the idiocy, there’s this tidbit,
Sydney did a comparison of the two planes way back in 2012.
Hey, no sense using what they learned. That would be too quick. Better to spend a decade restudying and delaying, right Air Force?
By the way, with the cost of a decade or so of ‘studying’ we could have already purchased all the light attack aircraft we need and had plenty of money left over.
With the Air Force taking the lead on light attack aircraft, the Navy is never going to get a cheap, simple alternative to burning through Hornet flight hours but I guess that’s fine by the Navy. Why use a free aircraft when you can use a $100M jet with a limited number of flight hours?
Source: Navy Matters