Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Prop plane reboot!

The US Air Force has a love-hate relationship with the A-10 Warthog. No question, it's the best close air support aircraft ever made. The GAU-8 30 mm Gatling gun will cut through tanks like a razor on single sheet paper. War story, when I was in Korea, 1989, we had an air liaison officer at our operations center. He was an Air Force captain who would coordinate close air support missions for the brigade. He mentioned to our battle captain, an armor officer, "I've got video of them shooting up tanks. Want to see it?"

Mike's answer, "No. I don't like watching that, it makes me a little nervous."

Now the Air Force has tried to kill off the A-10 for ages because it's not sexy, they hate the CAS mission, and the USAF likes jack of all trade birds, not master of one. But even they have had to have reality interfere with their hopes.

The Air Force Is Sending Its Light Attack Plane Competition to War

Two of the aircraft involved in the service's OA-X light attack plane competition are headed to a war zone.

The U.S. Air Force is sending two of the four aircraft involved in its OA-X light attack aircraft competition to the battlefield. The move, likely unprecedented, will allow the service to evaluate both airplanes in combat missions before a final purchase decision is made.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that the Air Force is sending the Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29 Super Tucano and the Textron AT-6 Wolverine to a yet-to-be-determined war zone. Under a program nicknamed Combat Sent III, the Air Force will stand up an experimental squadron and send two A-29s and two AT-6s, along with seventy pilots and maintainers, to test the aircraft under combat conditions.

A-29 Super Tucano

The goal of OA-X program, which stands for observer-attack experimental, is to pick a light attack aircraft for low-end missions against enemy ground forces with little in the way of air defenses. OA-X is meant to be a relatively small ground attack aircraft capable of loitering over the battlefield and delivering bombs, rockets, and missiles on enemy targets with precision. The aircraft is also expected to do reconnaissance and observation missions.

Another key requirement: The OA-X is supposed to be cheap to fly. The retirement of the A-10, whether in two years or twenty, is inevitable. The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter will likely take over close air support duties flying against countries with advanced air defense systems—think Russia or China. But in smaller wars against less technologically advanced enemies, there's little reason to use a plane as advanced (and, at $35,000 an hour, as expensive to fly) as the F-35. OA-X will be a low-cost solution for wars where the F-35A would be overkill.

The Air Force hasn't yet decided where to send Combat Sent III, but the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would be an obvious choice. The Islamic State conflict is exactly the type of fight the OA-X was tailored for, and ISIS has nearly non-existent air defense capabilities, so there is little to no likelihood that a careful pilot could be shot down by enemy fire...

I would hope they would keep the A-10s going for at least as long as the B-52s. Could it use some upgrades, yes, but again, the design is perfect for, if you will, "high end" close air support. But it's good to see the Air Force will use low cost propeller planes to supplement their CAS assets.

I hope to read soon on how this worked out.

No comments:

Post a Comment