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GOV/MIL OA-X: More Than Just Light Attack
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  1. #41
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    They will actually do the OA-X program and use it to justify killing the A-10.

    In their story, the OA-X and F-35 will cover everything.

    In their thoughts, it means more money to build zoomies.
    Proud Infidel...............and Cracker

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  2. #42
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    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.military.com/dodbuzz/201...49l_xs.twitter

    Senators Want $100 Million for New Marine Corps Light Attack Aircraft

    Military.com 1 Jun 2018 By Oriana Pawlyk
    The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.

    In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced last week it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.

    Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It's unclear.

    “The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.

    “The SASC's decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email Friday.

    “Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.

    But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.

    Related content:
    • Air Force Creates Office to Help It Shake Up Acquisition Process
    • The Air Force's Light Attack Search Won't Yield a New A-10. Here's Why
    • Congress Eager for Results of Air Force's Light Attack Aircraft Demo

    "I'm not sure the Marines themselves saw the need for this, but light attack is very popular in Congress right now," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group.

    "I think there's a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations," Aboulafia told Military.com on Wednesday.

    Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack -- especially in the context of the Air Force's ongoing experiment with light attack platforms -- saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.

    For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson this week reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.

    "We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory," Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.

    Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.

    For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.

    "The idea of buying hundreds of these planes is completely dysfunctional," he said.

    "What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there's absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat," Aboulafia said.

    He added, "If there's either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn't materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency."

    While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.

    The Air Force selected two aircraft -- Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano -- to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7 and will run through July, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.

    The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.

    The A-29 -- used by the Afghan air force in its offensive against the Taliban -- is being pitted against the Wolverine, which is already used to train both Air Force and Navy student pilots.

    During a phone call with reporters in recent weeks, an industry source said on background that an Air Force request for proposal is anticipated as early as October.

    A contract award for a few hundred planes could be granted as quickly as six months after the RFP publication, he said.

    -- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

  3. #43
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    Light attack plane crashes in New Mexico

    A US Air Force light attack plane crashed Friday over a bombing range in New Mexico. One pilot was injured, while the condition of the second one was not disclosed.

    An A-29 Super Tucano aircraft crashed over the Red Rio Bombing Range, located some 105 kilometers north of the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, the 49th Wing said in a statement.

    One aircrew member sustained minor injuries and was airlifted to a local hospital, the statement said. Information on the second pilot “will be released when it is available,” it added.

    The crashed A-29 was taking part in training as part of the Holloman base’s Light Attack Experiment, a program aimed at creating a fleet of new lightweight attack aircraft. The Air Force is considering the A-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine as the candidates. The base in New Mexico is used for demonstration flights, which started in May, Military.com said.

    https://www.rt.com/usa/430622-air-fo...sh-new-mexico/
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  4. #44
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    The wonder of our time isn’t how angry we are at politics and politicians; it’s how little we’ve done about it. - Fran Porretto
    -http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-wholly-rational-hatred.html

  5. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Dozdoats View Post
    The modern American CAS aircraft needs to be-

    -inexpensive to procure, operate and maintain
    -rugged and resistant to ground fire
    -highly maneuverable
    -capable of carrying an effective combat load and loitering for long periods
    -piloted by a warrant officer
    -operable from forward located austere airfields

    Of course, none of this is likely to happen, because it runs counter to zoomie mentality.

    Which is why the whole thing should be assigned as an Army mission, not a USAF mission.
    Yep!
    "Be Prepared" - Boy Scouts Motto
    "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." - Jesus Christ, Mk 13:37
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  6. #46
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    I know it's a bit late but I figured I'd better...HC

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.stripes.com/news/air-for...crash-1.535891

    Air Force ends flying portion of light-attack experiment following fatal A-29 crash

    By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES
    Published: July 3, 2018

    WASHINGTON — The Air Force has ended the flying portion of an experiment to test the merits of light-attack aircraft following the crash of an A-29 Super Tucano in New Mexico that killed a Navy test pilot, officials announced Tuesday.

    However, the service has not canceled the program completely, Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the Air Force’s top general for acquisition, told reporters at the Pentagon. It will continue collecting data about the A-29 and the AT-6B Wolverine — turbo-prop, light-attack aircraft that it has been testing — as officials determine whether the service should add one of those models to its inventory.

    “Right now we have not made that decision,” Bunch said. “Right now all the indications are that [the planes are] performing as we expected the platforms to perform. It’s a tragedy. And we’re heartbroken by it, but we have not made a commitment that we will not go forward with” the light attack program.

    The Air Force is considering purchasing hundreds of light-attack planes as it looks for a cheaper, less-sophisticated alternative to using its advanced fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets for bombing missions in areas where major air defenses do not exist, such as Afghanistan. It would allow the service to focus its fighter pilots on preparing for a potential war with a near-peer adversary, such as China, Russia or North Korea, Bunch said.

    related articles
    If senior Air Force officials choose to purchase the light-attack aircraft, the service intends to seek bids by December, Bunch said.

    The Air Force had already spent months testing Textron Aviation’s AT-6B Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, a joint product of the Sierra Nevada Corporation and Embraer Defense & Security, before the June 22 crash at Red Rio Bombing Range that killed Navy Lt. Christopher Carey Short.

    The Air Force completed the first of two planned flying phases last year at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. That phase featured four aircraft and saw test pilots from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps test the planes in hundreds of hours of flying.

    In February, the Air Force announced it had narrowed the field to the A-29, the plane that the Afghan Air Force flies in combat missions, and the AT-6B, a combat-outfitted version of the T-6 Texan that the U.S. military already uses to train student pilots.

    The Air Force began the second phase of the flying experiment May 7 at Holloman in what was planned to be three months of flying to determine maintenance and sustainment requirements of the aircraft while also conducting additional scrutiny of their combat capabilities, Bunch said.

    While the crash that killed Short led to the cancelation of the flying portion of the second phase of the light-attack experiment, Bunch said the Air Force was still considering both models of aircraft that it was testing. He said the investigation had not turned up any issues about the A-29 that would indicate the United States or its Afghan partners should cease flying it in training or combat.

    “I’m not aware of anything that we’ve changed right now,” the general said.

    Bunch declined to provide any additional details about the crash investigation, saying the initial probe would likely last about a month and follow-up studies would take additional time.

    dickstein.corey@stripes.com
    Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

    related articles

    Navy identifies pilot killed in A-29 Super Tucano crash at White Sands

    Air Force reports A-29 Super Tucano crash at White Sands

    ----

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone...ment-after-all

    Air Force Says It Might Have The Data It Needs From Its Light Attack Experiment After All

    After insisting it needed to gather more information, the service says it might not need to finish the tests following a deadly accident.

    BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK
    JUNE 28, 2018

    he U.S. Air Force has suspended its light attack experiment, also known as OA-X, indefinitely following the fatal crash of an A-29 Super Tucano aircraft taking part in the project near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The service now says it could have enough data to end the evaluations early, but this only raises renewed questions about why this round of tests was necessary in the first place.

    The OA-X tests have been on hold since the mishap on June 22, 2018, which killed U.S. Naval Reserve aviator Lieutenant Christopher Casey Short. This second phase of the project began on May 7, 2018, and followed an initial round of tests that occurred at Holloman in August 2017. Embracer and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s A-29 and Textron’s AT-6C Wolverine are the only two aircraft the Air Force is evaluating at this time, though this might change in the future.

    “The experiment team is currently reviewing the data collected from the current phase of experimentation, as well as last year's experiment activities, to determine the way ahead,” a U.S. Air Force spokesperson told FlightGlobal on June 28, 2018. “The forecast for return to flight operations for the experiment is still to be determined.”

    Earlier that same day, U.S. Air Force General Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, which is in charge of the OA-X effort, made similar comments at a defense writers group breakfast. He also declined to offer any additional details about the accident, which remains under investigation.

    Lara Seligman

    @laraseligman
    Gen. Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, confirms that @usairforce’s light attack experiment has been “suspended” after last week’s A-29 crash. He won’t say when/whether the experiment will resume. USAF is “working through” whether they got the data they need. @ACC_Commander

    5:28 AM - Jun 28, 2018 · Washington, DC
    12
    See Lara Seligman's other Tweets
    The second part of the OA-X project was supposed to wrap up in July 2018. We don’t know how many specific test points the A-29 and AT-6C still had to cover in this phase.

    The Air Force has said it could award a contract as early as some time in 2019 for a light attack aircraft based at least in part on the outcome of the experiment. It remains unclear whether the service intends to pick from the two types it is evaluating now or start an all-new competition open to any company using requirements it has developed during the OA-X tests.

    Video

    However, as we at The War Zone have noted repeatedly, there are many questions about how committed the Air Force is to OA-X or the idea of acquiring a light attack aircraft in general. Since 2007, various branches of the U.S. military have evaluated the A-29, the AT-6C, or both aircraft in the light attack role on no less than six separate occasions, including the 2017 tests at Holloman.

    It remains hard to understand how there was not enough existing information about the two aircraft and their capabilities both inside the Air Force itself and from its sister services after more than a decade of experimentation with the aircraft. On top of that, the service already flies A-29s in order to train foreign pilots on the type and it operates an unarmed version of the T-6 in a basic training capacity.

    Video

    Yet, after the Air Force concluded that first round of OA-X flights, it insisted that it still needed to collect additional data on the capabilities of the two planes. At the same time, the serviced canceled plans for an actual combat field test that could have occurred in Iraq. In 2015, U.S. Special Operations Command sent a pair of heavily modified OV-10G Bronco light attack aircraft to fly real-world missions in that country as part of a previous project that led in part to OA-X.

    “Rather than do a combat demonstration, we have decided to work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft – the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in February 2018. “This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement.”

    If the Air Force goes ahead and shuts the second phase of OA-X down without completing the full slate of tests, but then proceeds with a plan to purchase any number of light attack aircraft, it can only call into question the necessity of this extended evaluation in the first place. If the service puts its supposed light attack ambitions on hold entirely, it would reinforce existing evidence that it was, at best, ambivalent about the concept from the beginning. The third possibility is that the tests resume at some point in the future, which could delay the entire project.

    To be fair, the Air Force has been increasingly supportive of the project. They are also facing growing pressure from OA-X’s supporters in Congress, who added millions of dollars into the Fiscal Year 2017 defense budget for light attack aircraft and are looking to put even more money into the spending package for the next fiscal cycle.

    "We’re certainly very sad about the loss of Lieutenant Chris Short, a great aviator that was dedicated to trying to find out what the answers were about [if] can we use this airplane in some circumstances to free up out more sophisticated fighters," Holmes added at the roundtable on June 28, 2018. "Whenever you’re trying something new, there are risks of trying something new and working through it, and without knowing exactly what happened, and certainly without trying to insinuate exactly what happened – aviation’s not necessarily risky, but it’s unforgiving."

    But for all their public pronouncements, the service continues to largely deflect from answering questions about how many aircraft it might buy, when they might enter service, and what role it sees light attack aircraft playing in its future force structure broadly. The major risk in not having these questions answered sooner rather than later is that any aircraft the Air Force does end up buying might end up without a clear mission and subsequently orphaned within the service. This happened to the C-27J Spartan light airlifter, which quickly ended up horse traded to other military branches and U.S. government agencies.

    Instead, the Air Force has focused heavily on plans to make any future program a multi-national effort with smaller American allies and partners who could make good use of a relatively simpler combat aircraft. This logic is both questionable and confusing since the U.S. military has already facilitated the delivery of dozens of A-29s, as well as various other light attack aircraft, to various countries.

    How the Air Force ultimately decides to proceed in the aftermath of the June 2018 crash at Holloman might finally force the service to fully explain its plan to procure a fleet of light attack aircraft and any associated timeline for doing so. We will definitely keep a close eye on how this situation continues to develop.

    Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

  7. #47
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    http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/...-Consider.aspx

    Donovan: No Buy of Light Attack Yet; More Experiments, More Types to Consider

    1/18/2019
    ​​​​​​—John A. Tirpak

    The Air Force won’t be issuing a request for proposals for a new light attack aircraft as expected, and will in fact expand its “campaign” of experiments to include larger and more powerful aircraft, possibly including jets, Undersecretary Matt Donovan said Friday.

    Speaking to reporters after an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va., Donovan said a light attack aircraft request for proposals—which was expected by the end of 2018—won’t be coming “anytime soon” and that procurement funding for the program won’t be included in the forthcoming FY 2020 budget.

    Pressed for an explanation, Donovan said “what you would expect to see is a continuation of the experimentation campaign” with light attack in fiscal 2019. Further experiments, he said, will provide “insight” on “all manner of things, not only cost,” but, “Did we meet the cost targets that we were aiming for?” Other questions to be answered are, “What’s the market out there for our coalition partners? Do we have lots of folks that are interested in that or is there something else?”

    Asked if USAF will look at aircraft besides the two finalists in the light strike evaluations—Textron’s AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano—Donovan said the field of candidates will “expand out a little bit.” Does that mean more powerful airplanes? “It could be,” he said, adding USAF wants to “broaden the scope a bit. … We’re not excluding anything.” Asked specifically if the Boeing T-X might be considered, he nodded and said, “It could.”

    The Air Force has said all along that it has two main goals for its light strike exploration. The first is to operate in permissive airspace with a light aircraft that would be far less costly to operate than a fast jet. The second is to partner with host nations fighting terrorists and insurgencies using a common, less expensive, and less complex airplane that more countries could afford. Countries rarely buy an airplane not in the US arsenal, however, because they want the lower costs that come with economies of scale and the assurance that the US will continue to be a customer for support and parts for many years to come.

    Donovan’s comments suggest that candidate partners were not necessarily keen to operate a light turboprop and wanted something more capable. They also suggest that the operating costs of the light strike aircraft evaluated were perhaps not as low as had been expected.

    Aircraft such as Boeing’s T-X and Lockheed Martin/Korean Aerospace Industries’ T-50 candidate for the advanced trainer program were specifically ruled out in the latter part of USAF’s light strike experimentation program. Seemingly, they are once again possibilities, as would be aircraft like Textron’s company-funded Scorpion light jet, also offered for the T-X program, and also ruled out for the light attack aircraft program.

  8. #48
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    The Air Farce is eat up with zoomies.
    The wonder of our time isn’t how angry we are at politics and politicians; it’s how little we’ve done about it. - Fran Porretto
    -http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-wholly-rational-hatred.html

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dozdoats View Post
    The Air Farce is eat up with zoomies.
    Yeah, the scope of this is morphing from military aid for COIN out into the zone of a modern replacement for the F-5 series under MAP (Mutual Assistance Program) and the Mutual Defense Assistance Act.
    Last edited by Housecarl; 01-20-2019 at 02:17 PM. Reason: added "under MAP (Mutual Assistance Program) and the Mutual Defense Assistance Act"

  10. #50
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    For links see article source.....
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    https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019...dustry-buy-in/

    The US Air Force wants to continue its light-attack experiment. Will industry buy in?

    By: Valerie Insinna   1 day ago

    WASHINGTON — If the U.S. Air Force takes two years to conduct a light-attack experiment — made possible in part by industry investments — and then abandons it, why should defense contractors buy into the next one?

    That was the question posed to the Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official by one attendee of a Feb. 1 event held by the Air Force Association.

    "I think there’s a skepticism out here,” said Mike Loh, a retired Air Force four-star general who now runs a consulting firm.

    “There’s got to be a requirement or funding or both at the end of that, otherwise you’ve got guys in industry that are investing a lot of money, and they’re looking back at light-attack aircraft,” he said. “What did you do? Nothing. You put it on the back burner.”

    US Air Force’s light-attack experiment could mix in drones and helos
    The service is considering adding drones, helicopters and more sophisticated aircraft to the mix in the future, the service’s top general told Defense News.
    By: Jeff Martin

    Loh’s question highlights the confusion surrounding the Air Force’s path forward on the light-attack experiment, as well as unease about the way the service approaches industry investment in short-term experimentation or development campaigns with no clear contract award at the end of the process.

    Industry investments have already allowed the service to fly the aircraft, set up logistics infrastructure and try new capabilities.

    Last month, Air Force officials confirmed the service would not put out a final solicitation for the light-attack program. Matt Donovan, its undersecretary, said on Jan. 18 that the service preferred to conduct additional experiments and wanted to broaden the campaign.

    US Air Force’s plan to launch light-attack aircraft competition is now deferred indefinitely
    The Air Force believes it needs to conduct further experiments, its undersecretary has revealed.
    By: Valerie Insinna

    This latest shift follows a failed attempt to acquire a light-attack plane about a decade ago. In 2009, the Air Force began the Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance program, and its competitors — the Textron AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corp.-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — are the same two aircraft involved in the current experimentation campaign.

    That program fizzled out due to political reasons around 2013, but the Air Force is still hopeful it can press ahead with its latest light-attack effort.

    “I have ideas of how we go forward, and I think we know how we go forward,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said of the light-attack experiment on Friday. ”We are planning to broaden the experimentation out and carry the experimentation forward, and I think when our budget hits, you’ll understand more of what we’re doing."

    Bunch said the experiment has helped validate the Air Force’s requirement for a light-attack capability that can counter violent extremist threats in a low-cost manner.

    “What I don't want to do is end up in a position that I’ve got F-35s chasing small buses or mopeds or whatever else we may be trying to chase,” he said.

    But when it came down to it, Air Force officials looked at the new National Defense Strategy — which prioritizes a high-end fight — and decided against making a large-scale buy of light-attack planes in the upcoming budget, he said.

    The Pentagon’s annual report by the director of operational test and evaluation, released Thursday, shed some light on what may have been the Air Force’s initial plans for the light-attack program.

    The service would have purchased 359 aircraft for eight operational squadrons and three training units, with a contract for either the AT-6 or A-29 to be awarded before September, the report said. The Air Force also considered getting a waiver so that it conduct component-level, live-fire tests for both aircraft before making a final downselect.

    An Air Force spokeswoman confirmed to Defense News that the timeline and procurement quantities noted in the DOT&E report are no longer accurate.

    Expanding the experiment
    What becomes of the light-attack experiment remains unknown — Air Force officials haven’t made it clear what the service wants to see in future stages of the effort.

    Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein stressed the importance of getting buy-in from international militaries during a Jan. 26 interview with Defense News. He also said aircraft like helicopters and drones could be considered in addition to the turboprop planes that dominated the first phases of the experiment.

    On Friday, Bunch said the service could look at “technologies we may be able to put on platforms or solutions that we may not have thought of” during the first phase of the experiment.

    “I know many people have talked about specific platforms. What I want to talk about [is] not necessarily that,” he said. That may point to a systems-of-systems approach similar to what the Air Force is seeking with its Advanced Battle Management System — a replacement for its JSTARS ground surveillance planes that will be comprised of a network of existing and new sensors.

    But the Air Force will need to be clear with industry about what it wants, said Andrew Hunter, head of the defense-industrial initiatives group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    For example, “if the answer is that they need to do some kind of dramatic cost-cutting initiative, give them a number,” he said.

    It might also benefit the Air Force to incorporate prototypes in the large-scale international exercises it regularly holds with partners, which has the added benefit of giving foreign militaries more exposure to technology that the U.S. might buy, he said.

    “I think people will stick with it for a while because there’s still a belief that the Air Force will invest and, more important, that there is still a broad international market for this capability,” Hunter said of the light-attack experiment.

    But, he added, the uncertainty regarding the future of the effort illustrates the constraints of rapid prototyping and experimentation: There’s no promise of a program of record at the end of the road.

    “[While] there is some value of exercising the muscle … not every one of these is going to lead to a production program,” he said.

    Warthog replacement anyone? Former Air Force officers say to think beyond light attack aircraft
    An attack aircraft revival may be coming soon to the Air Force.
    By: Valerie Insinna

    After two years of experimentation, the Air Force still doesn’t have an answer for how it should fill its light-attack requirement, but Bunch, the acquisition official, was adamant the experiment has had value.

    "I may be the only one that believes it, but I actually believe it has been a success. We tried something we hadn't done. We built a partnership with industry. We experimented. We learned a lot, and we got to the point where we weren't ready to make a large buy decision at this stage. I still believe that is learning,” Bunch said.

    “And I believe it is something we will take the lessons learned and roll it into how we go forward,” he added. “We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and say: ‘Was that good or was it bad, and how do we do it better?’ We’ve got to do our own image check."

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    https://www.military.com/dodbuzz/201...e2724-81835773

    Air Force Light Attack Effort Stalls After Experiments

    4 Feb 2019
    Military.com | By Oriana Pawlyk

    While the U.S. Air Force hasn't closed the door to a possible light attack program, efforts to procure a new turboprop aircraft for training with allies appear to have lost steam as other priorities have come to the fore.

    Service leaders in recent weeks said they're looking at the possibility of another light attack "experiment," one that could involve helicopters, drones and even participation by allies who already have light attack aircraft.

    "What is the right mix of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, manned and unmanned [aircraft] that can do the business of light attack?" Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News in a Jan. 26 interview. "What is the right mix and how do we bring allies and partners in right now with us -- not just periodically parachute in -- but how do we expand this experiment to bring them into the tent with us?"

    Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force's military deputy for the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said the concept of light attack began as a way to support allies and partners, but was designed to fill other needs as well.

    Related content:
    From Old Pilots to New Planes, Air Force Chief Talks 'New Ways of Doing Business'
    The Air Force's Light Attack Search Won't Yield a New A-10. Here's Why
    Space Force, F-15X, Light Attack: What Will the Air Force Seek in Latest Budget?

    Bunch told audiences at an Air Force Association breakfast Feb. 1 that light attack was also intended to be an "additive mix" to the service's own force of fourth- and fifth-gen planes.

    Goldfein in the past has described light attack as a "network approach" to help share intelligence between partners.

    "It was additive. [Light attack] could not take the place of any of the other missions we have. It would be added on top," Bunch said.

    But in line with the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy, other priorities have climbed up the Air Force's wish list for the next fiscal budget request, he said.

    And there's a good chance the service's light attack plan will never become a reality.

    "I have ideas of how we go forward, and I think I know how we go forward," Bunch said. "There will be more that will come out of this over time. We are planning to broaden the experimentation out and carry [that] forward, and I think when our budget hits, you'll understand more of what we're doing."

    He said the Air Force needs to keep an open dialogue with companies, and be transparent about the fact that not every experiment will lead to an acquisition program.

    "If we're really going to do this, it's going to take all of us working together," Bunch said, speaking broadly to any new programs the service is shopping around for. "Are all of them going to work out? We do experiments to experiment. Not everything is going to result going forward on programs. We learn. That's part of experimentation."

    Should companies invest resources in Air Force experiments, then, if there's no guarantee of a payoff?

    One expert suggests treading lightly.

    "The contractors are totally right on this one. Why get burned?" said Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group.

    "If this was a smart program with a necessary requirement and a bright future, there's a lot to be said for investing in it. But it's more likely that this program falls somewhere between political messaging and temporary foolishness," Aboulafia told Military.com on Monday.

    Congress thus far has been eager to see a plan. In November 2017, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force $400 million to continue experimenting with the light attack concept. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, then added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.

    The Air Force was supposed to publish a final request for proposal in December for a light attack aircraft, but it never happened.

    The service first held a series of light attack experimental fly-offs and maneuvers at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold the flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, less expensive off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable for lower-risk missions in places such as Afghanistan.

    The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.
    But even with the second phase cut short, Air Force officials have said the best fits for light attack are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

    Whether other turboprop aircraft will come back into the experiment has not been disclosed.

    With so many hypotheticals, Aboulafia said the Air Force needs to be clear about its new path forward on light attack, especially if it wants to expand the enterprise with drone and helicopter makers.

    Otherwise, its message may be lost. Aboulafia said he expected contractors to "vote with their feet," walking away from the light attack effort.

    "The service will need to decide on the basis of off-the-shelf models and knowledge," he said. "But that doesn't matter, since this rather absurd requirement will likely be canceled anyway."

    Bunch, however, said light attack has been a successful effort for the Air Force.

    "I do believe it has been a success. I may be the only one that believes it, but I actually believe it has been a success," he said. "We tried something we hadn't done. We built a partnership with industry. We experimented. We learned a lot, and we got to the point where we weren't ready to make a large buy decision at this stage. I still believe that is learning."

    -- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

  12. #52
    The AT-6 is pretty impressive-that bird has an 8 G wing loading limit! It uses the A10 weapons management system. The thing can land at it's all up gross weight; the weapons capability is like the A10- it can even fire lazer guided missiles.

    Buy 4 squadrons of them. the pilots could be warrant officers just as in attack helo squadrons.

    I think it would be smart to pick up some of these planes-the maintenance infrastructure is already in place and working anyway. It wouldn't cost that much-and any Apache pilot could probably easily transfer into these planes.

  13. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlfaMan View Post
    The AT-6 is pretty impressive-that bird has an 8 G wing loading limit! It uses the A10 weapons management system. The thing can land at it's all up gross weight; the weapons capability is like the A10- it can even fire lazer guided missiles.

    Buy 4 squadrons of them. the pilots could be warrant officers just as in attack helo squadrons.

    I think it would be smart to pick up some of these planes-the maintenance infrastructure is already in place and working anyway. It wouldn't cost that much-and any Apache pilot could probably easily transfer into these planes.
    Yeah, about the only real competitor in their class are the new tilt-rotor aircraft that are coming out, and that's mainly in terms of basing versatility. Heck, if you're doing the COIN mission but don't want the footprint in country as heavy as an airbase the tilt-rotor allows for a sea based option without a "full up" carrier, provided the distances involved aren't onerous. They aren't apple for apple swap outs but IMHO there is an area of cross over as well as a complement for one another, just like adding to that mix Reaper drones, fixed wing and rotor wing gunships and "fast movers" for the possible QRF/BARCAP roles. They're tools in the toolbox.

  14. #54
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    Some more on the "F-5" end of the scale.....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://warontherocks.com/2019/02/bl...mbat-variants/

    Blurring the Lines, Part I: A Promising New Trainer Aircraft and Its Combat Variants

    Mike Pietrucha and Jeremy Renken
    February 6, 2019
    Commentary

    Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on new approaches to airpower called “Blurring the Lines.”

    In the 1950s, Northrop Grumman designed a lightweight fighter wrapped around two compact jet engines, designed for the Navy’s escort carriers. Soon after, the Navy dispensed with escort carriers entirely, so the N-156 was instead offered as a supersonic trainer to replace the Air Force’s aging T-33s, the aircraft then used to train pilots to fly jets. The N-156 entered service in 1961. Eventually, Northrop would build 1,146 of the aircraft, renamed the T-38 Talon. The Talon served as the airframe for the highly successful F-5 Freedom Fighter, which has been in frontline service since 1962. The F-5A Freedom Fighter entered service in 1962, with a second version (the F-5E), following in 1973. Widely employed, including in combat operations with the Air Force in Vietnam, the F-5 is still in service — as is the T-38.

    With the selection of the Boeing T-X to be the Air Force’s next-generation trainer aircraft, the service again has the opportunity to make a combat aircraft out of an existing jet trainer — only this time, planned in advance. The coming introduction of the T-X could allow the Air Force to get more bang for its buck, rolling together trainers, jet attack aircraft, and lightweight fighters that are all drawn from a common design. This would, in effect, blur the lines between trainer and combat aircraft in a manner that has been highly successful before. Using a common airframe for multiple roles could very well be cheaper, faster to develop, and easier to support from a common logistical pool. Given that new aircraft programs often take decades to mature at exceptional cost, developing a single airframe in many different ways can offer a way to break out of a long, slow, and difficult acquisition process. Why not take an aircraft designed to have “fighter-like” characteristics and make it into a fighter? The Air Force should pursue rapid prototyping effort to create a new lightweight fighter series, leaping at the opportunity to repeat a successful aircraft program from the past.

    This article is the first in a three-part series intended to offer policy options for airpower that break out of the existing paradigm for training forces or employing forces, or which otherwise depart from the comfortable complacency that all large organizations find themselves in from time to time. In many cases, some of which we will call out, the Air Force has entered an “accepted” way of doing things without adequately considering how we got there and why we should stay. Alongside these ideas, we will offer historical examples of how and why the Air Force did things differently, and why it should reconsider “old” ways of doing business. In all of our cases, we are advocating a reexamination of the strict boundaries the institution has placed upon itself in pursuit of the mission and how those lines may be “blurred” to examine other options.


    http://2k8r3p1401as2e1q7k14dguu-wpen...pietrucha1.jpg
    Figure 1: T-X (left) and T-38 (right). (Photo by Mark Nankivil, The Aero Experience)

    The T-X and Combat Variants
    The T-X competition was an Air Force contest to determine what the T-38 replacement was going to be (T = trainer, X = unknown). The Boeing/Saab entry, cheekily named “T-X” from the start, won the competition. The aircraft’s sleek lines have “fighter” written all over them, which is eminently sensible for an aircraft intended to train students who will someday fly fighters. Boeing won the competition partly because of a low cost to build, meaning a combat aircraft program wouldn’t be burdened by an expensive basic airframe. In many respects, the design philosophy mirrors the aircraft it is slated to replace — a half-century later. The idea is the same: Train pilots who may fly fighters in an aircraft that performs like a fighter.


    http://2k8r3p1401as2e1q7k14dguu-wpen...pietrucha2.jpg
    Figure 2: T-X during taxi test (Boeing)

    We have previously floated the idea of combat variants of the T-X, called AT-X and FT-X. In our vision, we want to keep the combat variants light and limit the cost by avoiding making a single variant of a trainer aircraft also do all things fighter/attack. The FT-X would look remarkably like the stock T-X on the outside and be focused on counter-air missions against enemy missiles and aircraft with an advanced radar supporting a missile-and-gun armament. The AT-X, for its part, might look like a beefier version of its parent, capable of carrying heavier air-to-ground munitions and penetrating hostile airspace, but still with respectable air-to-air capabilities for self-defense.

    These two aircraft might well be the spiritual successors not only to the T-38 and F-5, but also to the Eagle and Strike Eagle — though the newer craft will be in a much lighter weight class than those heavyweights. Indeed, in many respects we expect a modern fighter to be built with the mission systems comparable to the so-called “Fifth Generation” aircraft, with T-X variants differing in shape from their stealthy siblings but not lacking advanced systems. Similarly, the variants could use similar weapons — the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range air-to-air missile, the AIM-9 Sidewinder dogfight missile, and the all-weather, GPS-aided Joint Direct Attack Munition, a “smart bomb” that comes in 1000-lb (GBU-32) and 500-lb (GBU-38) variants.

    Table 1: Notional T-X, FT-X and AT-X Numbers
    Aircraft
    T-X
    FT-X
    AT-X
    Crew
    2
    1 or 2
    2
    Empty Weight
    7165 lbs.
    7965 lbs.
    8390 lbs.
    Combat Loadout
    None
    4 x AIM-120 missiles
    2 x AIM-9 missiles
    Gun Pack w/ 200 rounds
    2 x AIM-120 missiles
    2 x GBU-32, 4 x GBU-38 missiles
    Gun Pack w/ 200 rounds
    Takeoff Weight
    12,125 lbs.
    16,625 lbs. (est)
    19,306 lbs. (est)
    Mission Avionics

    High-performance radar
    Defensive Jammer
    Infrared Search & Track
    Radar Warning
    Tactical Datalink
    Multimode Radar/Terrain Following radar
    Defensive Jammer
    Optical Targeting System
    Radar Warning
    Tactical Datalink
    External Fuel
    No
    Maybe
    Yes

    These variants seem feasible. Table 1 shows differences between the three aircraft, each with a representative mission load. The FT-X is essentially a T-X with 500 pounds of equipment added (for radar, infrared search & track, datalink, etc.), a gun pack based on the Eurofighter’s lightweight 27mm gun, and six missiles. We envision that the radar on this aircraft would have the capability to pick small, stealthy targets like cruise missiles out of ground clutter — a necessary capability for an aircraft intended to serve a defensive counter-air role. If our bar-napkin calculations are correct, a fully loaded (hypothetical) FT-X could (theoretically) point straight up, engage afterburner — and accelerate.

    The AT-X, the attack variant, would not be capable of that kind of performance because of heavier weapons loads and a higher mission weight. For our calculations, we kept the 500-lb avionics pack and also imposed a 13 percent weight surcharge on the AT-X for the ability to carry heavy weapons — the same weight differential between the F-15C and the F-15E. We assume its radar would still do air-to-air work but would trade very high-sensitivity target detection away for ground mapping, ground moving target indication, and terrain-following capabilities. Our notional weapons loadout is substantial — two 1,000-pound and four more 500-pound precision weapons (and their weapons racks), with a 27mm cannon and 200 rounds — plus two medium-range air-to-air missiles for self-defense. The AT-X variant would be designed to execute air-to-ground missions in a way that FT-X is not.

    Missions
    At this point, we’re discussing one very real trainer aircraft and a pair of notional fighter/attack aircraft in the same airframe — unsurprisingly very similar to how the N-156 turned out. What might the service use them for? We can expect that the operating costs of the T-X airframe will be lower than those of the legacy jets and much lower than those of their fifth-generation counterparts, which should make the T-X and variants cost-effective for both training and combat roles. The Air Force has long relied on a high-low mix of fighter capabilities to allow the force to remain broadly capable on a limited budget. A combat variant of the T-X would be a continuation of that philosophy.

    FT-X could fill a role currently occupied by the aging F-15 Eagle. Air Guard F-15 and F-16 squadrons around the country maintain air sovereignty alert — the successors to the long-disbanded Air Defense Command. These units are ready, literally at a moment’s notice, to respond to airspace incursions, external threats, wayward aircraft and terrorist operations. The F-15 Eagle may be the best air-to-air jet ever built, and trading it in is not something we want to do; the FT-X would never be able to fill the larger fighter’s landing gear wells for the full range of F-15 missions. But keeping the F-15 is not an option, and replacing it with new builds is expensive. The FT-X could execute this essential mission at a much lower cost, avoiding the need to allocate expensive F-35s for a task they are less than optimal for.

    The FT-X could also serve as aggressor aircraft, revitalizing a long-dormant capability that helped win Operation Desert Storm. The forward-based aggressor squadrons, long since cut out of the force due to budgetary pressures, were once a core part of the Air Force’s preparation for war, flying F-5E Tiger II aircraft to help counter the Soviet threat. Aside from its squadrons in Nevada and Alaska, the Air Force can no longer afford to dedicate aircrew or aircraft to this mission. Instead, fighter squadrons provide their own “Red Air” — fighter aircraft simulating hostile fighters (friendly fighters are always blue and the enemy red). The resulting asymmetry detracts from training, because those playing the “bad guy” burn flying hours pretending to be the enemy and miss out on training in their primary mission (although they do still get flight time in their fighter, which is worth something). Alternatively, the Air Force pays commercial companies to provide adversary air support, which also creates a brutal lack of symmetry because the money and flight time that the “adversaries” accumulate goes to civilian contractors, not Air Force aircrew. Bringing aggressors back “in-house” would ensure that every aircrew member in every flight is gaining valuable experience.

    The AT-X is already being talked about inside the Pentagon as “third generation” light attack, that is, lightweight aircraft flying air-to-ground missions. OA-X is the second generation and the first generation all dates from Vietnam. Unlike OA-X, which is intended for austere fields and permissive airspace, AT-X would be intended for contested airspace, including the very low altitudes necessary for non-stealthy aircraft to avoid ground-based radar detection. The two-seat configuration provides a huge benefit here — previous fighter/attack aircraft capable of safe, low-altitude, terrain-following operations (e.g., the F-111, RF-4, and F-15E) have largely been two-seaters. With its high wing and raised air intakes, the AT-X may be able to operate from damaged or deteriorated airstrips, a capability that could be salient in a stand-up fight with a peer adversary. Even at our (notional) loaded weight, the AT-X is less than a quarter of the maximum takeoff weight of the F-15E with a similar thrust-to-weight ratio in afterburner, meaning it can use runways that won’t support the heavier jets.

    While the AT-X could also fly aggressor missions for training purposes, its contribution might be far better if focused on providing the necessary live-fly training necessary to keep Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) current and qualified. Like training with adversary air, the training benefits are symmetrical — aircrew gain valuable experience working with JTACS at the same time those JTACS practice their wartime mission with live aircraft. Training efforts may benefit greatly from some airframe commonality in ways not related to combat capability — the benefits of using the T-X to “apprentice” fighter aircrew were spelled out in War on the Rocks last week.

    Indeed, in that article, no less a personage than Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, suggested pairing the T-X with fighter squadrons to improve the training enterprise. This pairing, he argued, would build more capable fighter aviators faster and cheaper than the current T-38 model. That model might also be suitable for use with the AT-X or FT-X, mixing combat variants of the T-X with legacy and fifth-generation fighters in the same wing. Thus, the “apprentices” in a fighter wing would gain time in a combat variant of the T-X trainer, providing additional combat capability.

    No discussion of mission would be complete without considering the Air Force’s aerial demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds have flown both fighter and training aircraft, but mostly fighters. In 1974, the Thunderbirds switched from the mighty but fuel-sucking Phantom II to the fuel-efficient T-38 Talon — a supersonic trainer. Today, the Thunderbirds fly a combat aircraft again, the F-16. The F-16, in turn, could be replaced by a T-X variant, providing aerial demonstration capabilities at a lower cost. With the FT-X, the Air Force would not have to choose between an economical aircraft or a representative combat aircraft — it could have both.

    The Technical Benefits of a Common System
    The benefits of sharing a common baseline system go beyond just appearance. Systems commonality makes sense and reduces costs, with all aircraft sharing the same basic airframe, engine, and cockpit design. The T-X cockpit already looks like a modern fighter cockpit — a necessity given that many of those who receive their wings in the aircraft will go on to modern fighter/attack. The RADICAL proposal, unveiled last year, floated the idea that the aircraft share mission systems not just with each other, but also with other classes of aircraft. Ideally, the mission systems will be designed to conform with Air Force Research Lab’s Open Mission Systems concepts, simplifying software changes and keeping the evolution of the mission software under government and not contractor control. Indeed, sharing mission systems between the OA-X, the FT/AT-X, and potential future systems would be a huge benefit to the government over the lifetime of several aircraft.

    Opportunity Is Knocking
    If the Air Force can free up the resources, it has a clear opportunity to capitalize on the possibilities that were successfully realized almost a lifetime ago with the N-156, which morphed into the T-38 and the F-5. A relatively small investment in the development of the mission systems, such as capitalizing on Federal Aviation Administration-funded research for advanced, multimode low-cost radar antennas or developing a common mission system architecture, would pay large dividends. Faced with spiraling operational and procurement costs for the F-35 and a never-ending demand for rotational fighter forces in the Middle East, the service sorely needs to add a capable, common, and relatively low-cost combat aircraft. In addition, Congress has given the military branches new authority to conduct rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts, which could enable an accelerated pathway from trainer to fighter. By blurring formerly stark dividing lines between combat aircraft and trainers, the service can capitalize on the availability of an advanced, low-cost aircraft that is ripe for modification and built with flexibility in mind. This will provide a much-needed force structure boost for an Air Force that remains at the forefront of U.S. combat operations.

    Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Col. Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently assigned to Air Combat Command.

    Lt. Col. Jeremy “Maestro” Renken is an instructor pilot and former squadron commander in the F-15E Strike Eagle, credited with over 200 combat missions and one air-to-air kill in five combat deployments. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons Instructor Course and is currently an Air Force Fellow assigned to Air Combat Command.

    The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.

  15. #55
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    Zoomies gotta zoom. If it isn't a go-fast jet, it ain't happening. $$$ be damned, efficiency be damned, effectiveness be damned.

    We need a ground attack mafia again ...
    The wonder of our time isn’t how angry we are at politics and politicians; it’s how little we’ve done about it. - Fran Porretto
    -http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-wholly-rational-hatred.html

  16. #56
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    Hummm…..

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://warontherocks.com/2019/02/bl...ny-other-name/

    Blurring the Lines Part II: A Pilot by Any Other Name

    Mike Pietrucha
    February 20, 2019
    Commentary

    Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on new approaches to airpower called “Blurring the Lines.” Read the first article in the series here.

    It’s been pointed out so often that it’s gotten boring: The Air Force has a pilot shortage. Imagine: The organization that bills itself as the premier aviation organization on the planet is short of fighter aviators, has been for some time, and will continue to be for a significant period to come.

    Other officers have written extensively about the problem and how to solve it, but perhaps we’re not casting far enough afield for solutions. Indeed, as a light attack enthusiast (some would say “zealot”), I’ve long pitched the OA-X light attack aircraft as a partial solution to the pilot shortage. More aircraft means more places to put pilots, therefore more experienced pilots, therefore less of a shortage. But I, too, have been guilty of operating in a narrow lane, focused on either the pipeline to produce pilots or the force structure to incorporate them into the force. In the process, I’ve ignored a giant, parallel pilot training and absorption pipeline that produces and absorbs more pilots than the Department of Defense does. The Air Force should expand its pilot training pipeline by establishing an alternate pipeline to train military personnel assigned to civil-derived aircraft. Perhaps by blurring the lines between civil and military pilot training, the service can generate a more broadly capable force that has a wider aviation expertise.

    In the first installment of “Blurring the Lines,” Jeremy Renken and I focused on the T-X and its combat variants, advocating for eliminating the divide between trainer and combat aircraft. Here, I argue that a similar breaking down of artificial barriers — in this case, the divide between military and civil aviators — could help the Air Force deal with its persistent, perilous pilot shortage.

    The business of training a military pilot is expensive and takes a whole year. This timeline is effectively unchanged from World War II, although there is a proposal afoot to significantly reduce that time. Civilian pilot training is more variable. The Federal Aviation Administration allows two pathways, one with less structure but more flight time (Part 61), and another that is shorter, more formal and follows a FAA-approved syllabus (Part 141). Either way, the civil path uses aircraft that might cost $200 per hour to operate, while the military flight path is many times more costly. It’s obvious that the military path is necessary for fighters, bombers, and the heavy airlift that have no civilian analog. But what about those aircraft that do have a civil counterpart? Why couldn’t the Air Force use civil programs to train and apprentice pilots to fly those aircraft?

    The Air Force ought to be able to, because the Defense Department does the same thing with airplanes. Today, the department flies military variants of the Boeing 707, 737, 747, and 767, the Douglas DC-9 and DC-10, Gulfstream IV, V, and 550, the Lear 35, and the Twin Otter 400. Every one of the military’s jet tankers is a converted airliner. The Beechcraft King Air is also the C-12, RC-12, and MC-12. The Pilatus PC-12 is the U-28. This trend predates the founding of the Air Force as a separate service, and the list of repurposed civil aircraft runs well past 100. And no accounting of military conversions is complete without mentioning the L-4 Grasshopper. The L-4, the military variant of the J-3 Piper Cub, served in three wars with the only differences between the two being the Cub’s yellow paint and the Grasshopper’s skylight. There is no reason the Air Force couldn’t replicate that effort, getting significant military utility out of civil aviation — and civil-trained aviators.

    The idea of using civil schools to train military pilots predates World War II. Until July 1939, according to the War Department, primary flight training was conducted by military instructors at Air Corps stations. That proved inadequate for the rapid expansion that began even before the United States entered the war, so the Department of the Army turned increasingly to civilian schools. By 1943, there were 56 civilian flying schools under government contract. While the civil courses took less time than the old Air Corps school, students received the same number of flying hours.

    Before 1943, students in primary flight training would fly in whatever training aircraft was available. But by the middle of the war the training programs would settle on the PT-13 Stearman — a fabric-covered biplane that had no analog to any of the operational aircraft in service. As the War Department analysis notes, a total of 193,440 pilots completed Army Air Forces advanced flying schools between July 1939 and V-J day. Another 124,000 failed to complete pilot training, but most of these remained in aviation jobs, from bombadiers to mechanics. After the war, all of the aviators trained in the conflict had had significant exposure to civil aviation — a generational advantage that carried over into a fledgling independent Air Force but not much further. Airmen trained in World War II had a deep connection to civil aviation that the average Air Force aviator doesn’t acquire today.

    Today, it probably isn’t desirable to use civil flying schools to train candidates for fighter attack, bomber, or heavy airlift aircraft. But what about for flying those civil aircraft? What about the MC-12, U-28, or UV-18C? The Air Force should consider expanding the pool of available pilots by looking to uniformed airmen who are inside the Air Force but who get their aviation credentials outside the military pilot training system.

    The service already considers other civil skills held by Air Force personnel to be capabilities that can be drawn upon at need. Indeed, in 2004, the Defense Department established the Civilian Employment Information Program, which applies to all of the reserve components of the U.S. military as well as the Coast Guard Reserve. The program attempts to capture “civilian” skillsets held in the reserve component. It uses a broad list of professions contained in the Standard Occupational Classification Manual, which is self-limiting in that it captures only occupations, not skillsets. Thus, the category “Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers” has only two classifications: airline pilots and commercial pilots. There is no means for capturing critical skillsets — an Air Force weapons systems officer who is certified as an instrument flight instructor for multi-engine aircraft has a highly desirable set of skills, but the Air Force classifies her as a navigator, while the reserves pass by her civil aviation skillset entirely. The service effectively ignores an aviation skillset held by one of its airmen because it has become so stratified in its thinking that it cannot see outside its self-imposed stovepipes.

    Admittedly, the Federal Aviation Administration courses do not provide the same skillset as Air Force training, but we should not pretend current Air Force pilot training covers all of the bases either. When fielding the MC-12W Liberty, a converted Beechcraft King Air, the service made the fateful decision to crew these aircraft rotationally, for short periods only, ensuring that the aircrew flying them would always be inexperienced. That mistake cost lives — after the MC-12 loss in April 2013, the accident report cited “pilot inexperience” as a causal factor. It wasn’t that the pilots were new to flying, they were simply new to the aircraft — an aircraft with a long and successful service record in civil use.

    Not only does the Air Force have access to an aviation skillset that it is not using, there is also no program to train more military personnel outside the military pilot training pipeline. When I became part of the initial cadre of the Irregular Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, it became clear that this new assignment would involve spending time with a rifle — training I didn’t have. But I eventually got it. The Army Asymmetric Warfare Group stood up to provide me with the same combat skills training that its own members got, even though I was starting from a lower knowledge level. If an airman can get ground combat skills as part of their military training — and many do — surely the Air Force can provide civil aviation training to its own personnel.

    The service needs to look ahead to a time when it may once again need to use a range of converted civil aircraft, as was the case in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It might consider a Civil Reserve Airman Fleet to complement the existing Civil Reserve Air Fleet. Designed to provide a commercial reserve of airlift aircraft (and pilots) to serve military needs, the Civil Reserve Air Fleet was effectively utilized in Operation Desert Storm, moving 25 percent of the air-transported cargo and over 60 percent of the passengers. The program remains dormant, awaiting another similar need. Perhaps the Air Force should invest in a broad effort to train and retain members with civil pilot certificates, held in reserve against future need. Indeed, it may be past time to consider what civil aviation capabilities could provide for “gray area” fights, particularly in Europe, where an obvious military footprint is problematic. The option of adding civil aircraft to the Air Force need not be constrained by a lack of aviators to fly them.

    It is nothing less than an institutional failure that a service founded on the premise that airmen were needed to control and manage airpower should so narrowly constrain its own processes to the point that it ignores aviation skillsets that its own members already do have or could have. The cost of military pilot training exceeds a million dollars, while the cost of Federal Aviation Administration-certified programs runs in the thousands — and they are shorter to boot. There may come a time when the Air Force need to rapidly expand its aviation capabilities, particularly when facing emerging Russian and Chinese threats. By blurring the lines between civil and military flight training, the Air Force could take advantage of latent capabilities in a brutal financial environment where new capabilities are in short supply.

    Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Col. Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently assigned to Air Combat Command and is qualified in the AT-6C Wolverine. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. Government.

  17. #57
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    Hummm…..

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://warontherocks.com/2019/03/th...ttack-message/

    The Little Airplane that Couldn’t? The Air Force’s Light Attack Message

    Heather Venable
    March 4, 2019
    Commentary


    https://2k8r3p1401as2e1q7k14dguu-wpe...Res_edited.jpg

    Much ink has been spilled over what insiders and outsiders alike have perceived to be the Air Force’s conflicted relationship with a variety of close air support and attack platforms, including A-10s and the much-vaunted light attack aircraft experiment. The service engaged in a fixed-wing experiment in 2017 and then began a second round in the summer of 2018 to test maintenance, logistics, and network interfacing. Subsequently, it appeared to have determined it had the necessary information to go forward. Recently, though, after something akin to 50 first dates, the Air Force announced that it cannot pursue any of the options proposed for the two light attack aircraft finalists — the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — in their current form.

    Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently suggested that the light attack aviation debate might entail more than the AT-6 versus the Super Tucano. In other words, the debate became too platform-centric by emphasizing fixed wing aircraft as offering the best blend of capabilities in terms of low operating cost, ease of maintenance, and more affordability than jet aircraft. Now, perhaps, it seeks to alter course to pursue a different paradigm for light attack.

    But recent statements by other Air Force officials about light attack aviation over the last several months reveal a confusing trail of conflicting pronouncements. Even as the Air Force put the pursuit of a light attack program on hold in January 2019, it also suggested it might “expand” the experiment. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson then announced in February 2019 that the Air Force planned to spend $2.4 billion to purchase light attack aircraft over the next five years. The erratic dithering is confusing.

    What is most unfortunate for the Air Force is the way that this announcement casts further doubt on if it is allergic to close air support and similar missions. After all, the Air Force “picked” the Super Tucano over the AT-6 back in 2012 to equip the Afghan Air Force. Even then, however, commentators described an Air Force determined to avoid purchasing such a “niche” capability for the low-end fight. Then it delivered more Super Tucanos to the Lebanese Air Force in 2017. Similar cynicism has been proffered regarding the Air Force’s on-again, off-again relationship with the A-10. Both the A-10 and light attack aircraft are multi-role aircraft. However, it is the close air support mission with which these types of platforms are generally associated.

    These decisions amplify the Air Force’s trust problem when it comes to its willingness to meet its responsibilities across the range of military operations. Recently, for example, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Owen West expressed his “disappointment” in the Air Force’s decision to pause the light attack experiment. The service’s failure to articulate an official, coherent response to the experiment only raises more doubts about the institution’s warfighting preferences.

    It is equally confusing to determine, based on Air Force rhetoric, how well light attack meets national defense strategy. An Air Force official paraphrased in a recent article, for example, calls the light attack program into question with the assertion that such capabilities do not align with the National Defense Strategy’s strident emphasis on great-power conflict. On the surface, this response makes sense because the United States cannot afford to lose a peer-on-peer conflict. In this light, the Air Force must focus on acquisition for the high-end fight, especially as the last 17 years of irregular conflict have delayed modernization. In the summer of 2018, news broke that the Air Force might also buy F-15Xs, which only reinforces this trend. Cynics will note, of course, that the Air Force appears quite efficient at making decisions about fast jets, unlike light attack aircraft.

    If the return to great-power conflict requires putting light attack on hold, then the Air Force should say this forthrightly while insuring it has examined fully the assumptions of what great-power conflict entails. Goldfein did that in February 2018 when explaining that the light attack experiment aligned with the National Defense Strategy by “provid[ing] relief to our 4th and 5th generation aircraft” as well as complimenting coalition efforts. Similarly, in May 2018, Wilson argued that “[w]e need different aircraft to fight in a global environment that’s very competitive than what we need to fight violent extremism.” In doing so, she characterized the use of a F-22 striking a narcotics factory in Afghanistan as “overkill.”

    Now, however, Goldfein suggests the Air Force’s motive for pursing light attack aircraft has changed. Apparently, the Air Force appears to be seeking light attack solely to support allies rather than to free up costly high-end assets. Such a change leaves a number of key considerations unresolved. First, it is a rare “regular” conflict that does not have an unconventional component. Second, it is likely that great-power conflict will play out in the form of proxy wars, much like the Cold War. Third, operators of high-end assets continue to struggle to balance their responsibilities to train for both the high-end fight and the low-end one.

    In 2015, the U.S. Air Force Strategic Master Plan stressed the importance of maintaining the right balance between both responsibilities. It stated that the service must “[e]nsure a Full-Spectrum Capable, High-End Focused Force: The Air Force must focus on the skills and capabilities that deliver freedom of maneuver and allow decisive action in highly-contested spaces. However, we must retain the ability to succeed in low-intensity conflict.” Statements suggesting the current offerings are still just not right or that allies may have lost interest make the Air Force look like it is playing hard to get or, worse, is still allergic to the low-end fight. It also registers internal tension and uncertainty about how to proceed. If allies have lost interest, it might be because — as the Air Force itself recognizes — “if it’s good enough for us to buy, it tends to be good enough for our allies and partners.” The inverse is also true.

    Upon assuming the position of chief of staff, Goldfein set forth three big rocks: revitalized squadrons, multi-domain command and control, and joint leaders and teams, most of which focus on the operational and tactical levels of war. It is time to consider another one: providing a strategy that guides how the Air Force seeks to balance its responsibilities across the range of operations since the best mix of high-end and low-end assets historically has bedeviled the Air Force.

    It is unclear what current strategic vision is driving the Air Force since it has not released any documents offering such insights since 2015. The origins of similar documents, however, go back to 1989. In that year, an internal Air Force document pointed out that it — unlike the Army and the Navy — lacked a service strategy. Between 1990 and 2015, the Air Force responded by producing 18 strategic documents, ending with the 2015 Air Force Future Operating Concept.

    Until it releases something similar, we will have to rely on the Air Force 2019 Posture Statement, which the service presented to Congress in March 2018 to justify its budget request. In it, it ranked light attack fourth in a list of five major changes it hoped to make to prepare for great-power conflict. It further explained that it needed to begin “preparation for fielding a force of U.S. light attack aircraft” in order to keep “irregular warfare as a core competency at a lower cost” while “strengthening our alliances.” Stay tuned for the upcoming placement of the little airplane that could or could not on the 2020 wish list.

    Dr. Heather Venable is an assistant professor of military and security studies in the Department of Airpower at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. She has a forthcoming book from the Naval Institute Press entitled How the Few Became the Proud: The Crafting of the Marine Corps’ Mystique. Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency.

  18. #58
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    New plane, turbo prop or radial engine with all new avionics, low light/flir observation systems, combo of regular and some of the new light weight armor materials, 2 crew members pilot and systems officer, call it Sky Raider II.
    All love is unrequited-Cmdr. Susan Ivanova //Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave. - Capt. Mal remember boys and girls ATFTRAF I used to run with giants, now I wait to be zombie road kill.

  19. #59
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    New plane, turbo prop or radial engine with all new avionics, low light/flir observation systems, combo of regular and some of the new light weight armor materials, 2 crew members pilot and systems officer, call it Sky Raider II.

    And strip it out of the zoomie-jet crazed USAF and assign it to the US Army Aviation Branch, to be flown by Warrant Officers. Screw the Key West 1947 insanity.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West_Agreement
    The wonder of our time isn’t how angry we are at politics and politicians; it’s how little we’ve done about it. - Fran Porretto
    -http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-wholly-rational-hatred.html

  20. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dozdoats View Post
    New plane, turbo prop or radial engine with all new avionics, low light/flir observation systems, combo of regular and some of the new light weight armor materials, 2 crew members pilot and systems officer, call it Sky Raider II.

    And strip it out of the zoomie-jet crazed USAF and assign it to the US Army Aviation Branch, to be flown by Warrant Officers. Screw the Key West 1947 insanity.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West_Agreement
    Or put them under SOCOM....

  21. #61
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    Hummm…..

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.defensenews.com/digital-...ssor-aircraft/

    Air Warfare Symposium

    US Air Force’s new trainer jet could become its next light-attack or aggressor aircraft

    By: Valerie Insinna  
    20 hours ago

    ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Air Force’s new T-X jets could be more than just trainers, with aggressor or light-attack missions now on the table for the Boeing-made plane, the head of Air Combat Command said Thursday.

    Although buying new T-X trainers to replace the more than 50-year-old T-38 fleet still remains a top priority for that program, the service is beginning to explore whether the T-X could be procured for other uses, Gen. Mike Holmes said at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.

    “You could imagine a version of the airframe that could be equipped as a light fighter. You can imagine a version that is equipped as an adversary air-training platform,” he told reporters during a roundtable.

    "At the informal level, I have some guys that work for me that are thinking through what the requirement might be for those different versions. When or if that transitions and becomes something more formal will depend on a lot of things,” he said, adding that one of those variables is the budget.

    So what T-X variants could the Air Force pursue?

    Boeing’s T-X could be coming to the Middle East — and not just as a trainer jet
    Boeing and Saab's T-X trainer could be sold to nations in the Middle East for a variety of roles beyond just pilot training.
    By: Jeff Martin

    A light-attack T-X
    The Air Force still hasn’t made clear its path forward on the light-attack experiment, but leaders have said they want to broaden the effort to include aircraft beyond the turboprop planes, which were the focus of the first experiments. The T-X, or a low-cost jet like it, could have a role, said Holmes, who declined to get into specifics until the fiscal 2020 budget is released with more details.

    US Air Force’s plan to launch light-attack aircraft competition is now deferred indefinitely
    The Air Force believes it needs to conduct further experiments, its undersecretary has revealed.
    By: Valerie Insinna

    "An airplane like that, like all the airplanes that competed in the T-X category, an airplane like that at that size and cost per flying hour and capability is something I think we should definitely look at as we go forward in the experiment,” he said.

    In the first round of light-attack experiments in 2017, the Air Force evaluated one light fighter —Textron’s Scorpion jet — but ultimately eschewed it in favor of turboprops like the A-29 and AT-6.

    While the Scorpion brought with it some added capabilities that the turboprops couldn’t replicate — like increased speed and maneuverability, and an internal bay that can host a variety of plug-and-play sensors — the AT-6 and A-29 had two major advantages over the Scorpion. Both are cheaper to buy and already have existing production lines, while the Scorpion has not been purchased by any country.

    Boeing’s T-X won’t be grappling with those same challenges. For one, the T-X trainer program gives it a built-in customer dedicated to buying at least 350 planes, covering the cost of setting up a production line and pushing down the price per plane.

    Holmes also noted that Boeing incorporated its Black Diamond production initiative into the T-X design process. Black Diamond aims to drastically cut production costs by pulling in new manufacturing techniques and technologies from the company’s commercial side.

    “Then if you look at the size of the fleet, if you have more airplanes that are based on a common platform, that almost always brings economies of scale that make it cheaper to operate those airplanes and sustain them for a long time,” Holmes added.

    Still, an upgunned T-X may be more expensive from a cost standpoint, and it will have to be something that international militaries are interested in buying — and can afford.

    “We don't have any conclusion about whether that would fit for what we're looking for at a cost point,” Holmes acknowledged. “And as [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein] talks about, the primary or at least one of the primary components of anything we're going to look at with light attack is going to be how our partners feel about it.”

    An ‘aggressor’ T-X to play the baddie
    The Air Force plans to award contracts this year to a number of companies that provide “red air” training that simulates how an adversary fights in air-to-air combat, but the service believes its requirement could grow even larger, necessitating the purchase of a new aggressor plane.

    USAF Downplays T-X 'Red Air' Option
    The T-X trainer replacement program is one of the Air Force's top recapitalization programs, viewed as vital by service leaders as they prepare to train the next-generation of F-22 and F-35 pilots.
    By: Aaron Mehta

    When the T-X program was still a competition between multiple companies, the Air Force downplayed the T-X as an option for a future aggressor aircraft. However, now that a contract has been awarded, the service is taking a look at whether the new trainer could fit requirements, Holmes said at the conference.

    The Air Combat Command head spelled out his idea in more depth in a January article in War on the Rocks. The T-X is slated to replace the T-38 Talon, but because flying the Talon is more like operating a 1950s-era fighter than a modern one, only the most very basic fighter tactics can be learned in the seat of that trainer.

    A T-X, with its flying and sensor capabilities, is much closer to a modern day fighter, and Holmes hypothesized that much of the training that occurs once a pilot starts flying an F-15, F-16, F-22 or F-35 could actually be done inside the T-X.

    It could also take over “some of or all of the adversary aircraft training requirements for nearby fighter units,” he wrote.

    “This accelerated seasoning and increased adversary air sortie generation is possible because the T-X’s lower operating cost — presently expected to be less than half the cost per hour of a fourth-generation fighter, and perhaps a fifth the cost of a fifth-generation fighter — allows the pilots to train more for the same, or less, cost.”

  22. #62
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    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.defensenews.com/smr/fede...News%20Roundup

    Federal Budget

    Air Force to buy handful of light-attack planes, but will a bigger program follow?

    By: Valerie Insinna  
    1 day ago

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force will procure a handful of A-29 Super Tucano planes from Sierra Nevada Corp. and AT-6 Wolverines from Textron to continue light-attack demonstrations, the service’s top general said Wednesday.

    That purchase provides a modest, but much-needed show of confidence for the two companies, which have invested internal funding over the past two years on the Air Force’s light-attack experiment and are still hoping the service moves forward with a bigger buy of light-attack aircraft.

    The Air Force plans to place small detachments of AT-6 and A-29 turboprop planes at Nellis Air Force Base — the Nevada-based installation that hosts Red Flag and other training exercises — and Hurlburt Field, Florida, where Air Force Special Operations Command is based, Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

    Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense News that the service would likely buy two or three of each aircraft, but Goldfein told lawmakers at the hearing that the exact numbers would be dependent on the price tag of the planes.

    “The United States Marine Corps has already said they’re joining us,” Goldfein said. “We’re going to invite allies and partners, and with the authorities you’ve given us now that we own those prototypes, we will continue to experiment to build the interoperable network that we’ve already advanced.”

    US Air Force asks for $35 million in new budget for light-attack experiment
    The Air Force wants to look more broadly at what industry could provide, as well as study what international partners would commit to buy.
    By: Valerie Insinna

    Funding for the AT-6 and A-29 will come from leftover money from previous years’ budgets. Congress has appropriated about $200 million for the experimentation campaign so far, Stefanek said. Of that, about $60 million in fiscal 2018 research and development funds and $100 million in fiscal 2019 procurement funds still remain, and will be used by the service to finance the AT-6 and A-29 buy.

    Although most of the light-attack experiment centered around turboprop planes, the Air Force is interested in expanding the exercise to include drones, rotorcraft and turbojet planes.

    The FY20 budget request calls for $35 million to continue the light-attack experiment. Part of those funds would go toward a market analysis of global demand for light-attack platforms, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

    The US Air Force wants to continue its light-attack experiment. Will industry buy in?
    Not all big risks come with big rewards.
    By: Valerie Insinna

    Then the service would go through a similar process as it did with earlier portions of the experiment, soliciting companies to offer off-the-shelf technologies and using special, congressionally approved authorities to partner with them for demonstrations.

    The idea is that the Air Force will have solidified exactly what light-attack capabilities it needs sometime around 2022 through 2024, when it plans to procure such assets, Goldfein said.

    However, some lawmakers criticized Air Force leadership for what they perceived as its sluggishness in moving to the procurement phase of the experiment.

    Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said that when he saw a recent report by the Pentagon’s weapons testing agency that cited a plan for the Air Force to buy upward of 300 light-attack aircraft, he considered it as proof that the rapid acquisition process was working. However, recent statements by Air Force leaders on the future of the program made him concerned that the service was abandoning light-attack aircraft procurement, he noted.

    “It seems to me that there is a schizophrenia in the Air Force about light attack. The messages are mixed,” Moran said.

    Goldfein responded that the service simply didn’t have enough information to commit to a program of record at this point, and wanted to do more work exploring the requirements of partner nations and establishing an interoperable network with them before making a final decision.

    “When you compare what we’ve done compared to a normal timeline for acquisition that would take five to 10 years, we’re two years into this,” he said.

  23. #63
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    Great!

    That purchase provides a modest, but much-needed show of confidence for the two companies, which have invested internal funding over the past two years on the Air Force’s light-attack experiment and are still hoping the service moves forward with a bigger buy of light-attack aircraft.
    Those companies finally got tired of the zoomies yankin' their chain, with no plans of diverting money from their pet projects.

    To be a fly on the wall when the generals were told to FOAD.
    Proud Infidel...............and Cracker

    Member: Nowski Brigade

    Deplorable


  24. #64
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    the service’s top general said Wednesday

    This is the same USAF COS who was bent out of shape because the USAF didn't have Bandaids for people of color, right?
    The wonder of our time isn’t how angry we are at politics and politicians; it’s how little we’ve done about it. - Fran Porretto
    -http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-wholly-rational-hatred.html

  25. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dozdoats View Post
    the service’s top general said Wednesday

    This is the same USAF COS who was bent out of shape because the USAF didn't have Bandaids for people of color, right?
    Uh hu....

  26. #66
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    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://warontherocks.com/2019/03/th...xport-fighter/

    The Myth of the Export Fighter

    Mike Pietrucha
    March 21, 2019
    Commentary

    At the beginning of the Nixon Administration, there was renewed concern that our friends in the Third World needed to do more for their own defense. In air defense terms, the “Nixon Doctrine” led to the International Fighter Aircraft Program.
    –RAND Case Study P7495

    For over a decade, the OA-X light attack aircraft has been touted as ripe for export. Indeed, the OA-X enabling concept, which started the ball rolling for a light attack aircraft, specifically called for the aircraft to be transferrable, affordable, modular, and interoperable — all characteristics that would make it exportable. The view was always that the U.S. Air Force needed an aircraft that it could use for low-intensity conflict, and also share with partners. A key element in the concept was sharing — not selling. By 2011 Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, then Air Force chief of staff, had altered the concept, retitled “Light Attack / Armed Reconnaissance,” into a program that would train foreign airmen for an aircraft that the U.S. Air Force would not itself operate.

    While that concept succumbed to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the idea that the United States could provide an exportable aircraft that it did not use persisted, and worked itself into the OA-X program. But this idea springs from a fundamental premise that has never been correct for foreign air forces — that if the United States offers a product it does not operate, those air forces will come running to buy it. This has never been the case and there is no evidence that this assumption would play out today. Some might counter with the F-5 example, but the only reason that the F-5 export fighter was so wildly successful is that the United States did not market it for sale so much as give it away to offset Soviet influence. The marketable export-only fighter is a unicorn: a creature that never existed and cannot be created without significant U.S. investment in time and money.

    Historical Background
    When the United States entered World War I, it had no fighter or bomber aircraft. France actually supplied 4,874 of the aircraft used by the Air Service, compared to only 1,213 American-built aircraft (the British supplied 258 and the Italians 19). About a quarter of this total were trainer aircraft. By the 1920s, though, U.S. aviation companies like Curtiss and Boeing were building fighter and attack aircraft that would be exported — all aircraft types that were produced in batches large enough to prove their worth in the U.S. military. The Curtiss Falcon, an attack aircraft, was used by the Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps and exported to eight foreign countries, some of which used the planes in combat. The Boeing P-12, a fighter, was also used by the Air Corps and the Navy, with about 30 exported to five countries, while slightly more than a dozen Curtiss P-1 Hawks were exported. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the United States would export fighter aircraft in larger numbers, among them the P-40 Warhawk (16 foreign users), the P-39 Aircobra (8 foreign users), F-4F Wildcat (5 foreign users) and even the P-38 Lightning, with a dozen foreign users. Many of these aircraft were provided under wartime pressures, under lend-lease or other arrangements.

    The export stream did not stop after the war, but the way exports occurred changed. The post-war export control rules and foreign aid programs dictated how aircraft would be sold overseas, and to some extent they still do. Fighter aircraft were provided to foreign customers in three ways.

    The first was outright provision of the aircraft by the United States through foreign aid packages of one kind or another. Congress passed the Mutual Defense Assistance Act in 1949, and similar laws in 1951 and 1961. These acts authorized the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, and later the Military Assistance Program. From 1950 to 1967, this program provided $33.3 billion dollars’ worth of arms and another $3.3 billion of surplus. For reference, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s request for defense spending in 1958 (midway between 1950 and 1967) was $38.5 billion. MAP and MDAP were succeeded by the foreign military assistance and foreign military sales programs, which persist in one form or another to this day. Examples of aircraft provided through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program include the A-1 Skyraider, A-37 Dragonfly, and both F-5 variants.

    The second method was via a co-production or production agreement. These agreements were made between the U.S. manufacturer and overseas companies to build aircraft overseas for foreign use. The F-86, F-104, and F-16 were produced overseas in significant numbers. The third method was via foreign military sales, where foreign countries purchase the aircraft using their own funds. Government sales by the United States now fall under security cooperation efforts and its subset, security assistance. To date, these programs have largely been limited to high-end, front-line fighter aircraft like the F-4 and the F-16, although the F-5 was also sold through foreign military sales. Notably, the commercial sale of export fighter and attack aircraft (and not just American ones) has long been marked by unethical business practices, including outright bribery (in the cases of the F-104, A-29, and JAS.39 Gripen aircraft).

    The history of direct sales to foreign militaries shows that foreign customers either required a deep U.S. commitment to the type (as with the F-16) or a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the type (F-15), or both (F-4). Sometimes it takes a lot to demonstrate success. The F-4 did not find an export customer until more than 2,700 had been built and the aircraft had been used in combat for more than three years.

    Some aircraft were acquired by all three methods—direct assistance, production agreement, and sales. The F-86 Sabre was provided under all three conditions, as was the F-104 Starfighter and the F-5E/F Tiger II. The F-16, the most modern example, was both sold under foreign military sales and co-produced.

    Successful Programs
    The F-86 Sabre was a highly successful fighter, with numerous exports under the Military Assistance Program. First flown in 1947, foreign manufacture of F-86 began in 1949 in Canada, supplying both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force with Sabre Mk2, especially as demand spiked during the Korean War. Most exports were surplus U.S. Air Force aircraft, although some were new aircraft provided as military assistance. Some export customers re-exported the aircraft: Taiwanese-built aircraft went to the Philippines; Norwegian aircraft went to Saudi Arabia and Portugal. The F-86 established a demand for U.S.-built jet fighters that never abated.

    The U.S. Air Force flew the F-104 Starfighter for a few years, but the primary users were foreign customers, many of whom built the aircraft domestically. First flown in 1956, the majority of F-104s were foreign-built and foreign-operated, with the first export sales in 1961. The Luftwaffe was the largest user, receiving a total of 915 Starfighters. The Starfighter exports were jump-started by the so-called “Deal of the Century” offered to Lockheed by Germany in 1958, which started the ball rolling for foreign manufacture. It was later revealed that Lockheed had paid $22 million in bribes to German officials, including the minister of defense, to close the deal. Similarly, Lockheed paid $1.1 million to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to assure sale of the F-104 to the Dutch, and another $1.5 million to Japanese officials. Ex-U.S. Air Force Starfighters were also provided to Germany, Pakistan, and Jordan.

    The F-5A Freedom Fighter, derived from the Northrop N-156, was a true export aircraft. The F-5A wasn’t intended to be sold. Rather, it was intended to be provided gratis as part of a foreign aid program. The U.S. Air Force funded three prototypes specifically for a fighter that could be provided as part of the Military Assistance Program. On this basis Northrop engaged in overseas marketing (including overseas production options) in direct competition with the F-104. In April 1962, the Defense Department chose the N-156 as an export fighter funded under the Military Assistance Program, meaning that the United States would largely give them away to defend against and compete with Soviet MiGs. The F-5 had a hidden advantage: It had a great deal of commonality with the T-38 Talon, meaning that the logistics and parts infrastructure were well established in the Air Force — and could be leveraged by foreign partners.

    The U.S. Air Force used the F-5C in combat (as the Skoshi Tiger) in Vietnam, but did not buy into the type as a front-line combat aircraft, and provided the ex-Skoshi Tiger aircraft to Vietnam in June 1967. Despite the fact that the Air Force did not employ the F-5 in combat after Skoshi Tiger, the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps used the aircraft as aggressor aircraft (the Marines still do), thereby ensuring a steady supply of experienced F-5 aviators. This supported an advisory effort that lasted from 1963 to 1989, whereby foreign F-5 operators received U.S.-provided training, including an F-5 Fighter Weapons Instructor Course for American pilots who would act in an advisory capacity.

    Lightning struck twice for Northrop: The F-5E Tiger II was an improved variant of the F-5A and was entered by Northrop into the International Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970 alongside three other competitors. It won the competition and an order for up to 325 aircraft for $415.6 million. Notably, the Air Force paid for development of the aircraft using Military Assistance Service-Funded money, not the Air Force procurement budget. Aircraft were manufactured or assembled overseas in Switzerland, Korea, and Taiwan. The aircraft is still in service worldwide.

    The F-16
    The F-16 killed the export fighter by becoming one. In terms of number of using countries, the F-16 is a wildly successful export, with over 2,000 aircraft delivered to foreign air forces and almost 1,000 built overseas. Because it was in front-line service with the U.S. Air Force, and bought in large numbers, it also ended the very idea of an export fighter, supplanting both the F-5 and the ill-fated F-20 Tigershark. General Dynamics, having just won the lightweight fighter competition with the prototype YF-16, pursued an early co-production strategy for European nations who were looking for a replacement for the F-104. To prime the pump, the Air Force announced a decision to buy 650 fighters in early 1975, specifically because the European Participation Group wanted a firm Air Force commitment prior to entering into a co-production agreement. The European Participation Group announced an intent to buy F-16s scant months later. Shortly thereafter, following the 1976 U.S. elections, foreign interest crashed because of a Carter administration policy not to sell front-line fighter aircraft overseas. The European Participation Group was grandfathered in and Israel excepted, and the United States started the FX program for a new export fighter, exemplified by Northrop’s F-20 and General Dynamics’ export-compliant F-16/79. The program didn’t last — FX died when the Reagan administration reversed the export limits on front-line fighters.

    The Failures
    In contrast to the earlier F-5 programs, the F-5G, renumbered as the F-20 Tigershark, was an unmitigated disaster for Northrop. While the Air Force funded the production of four prototype aircraft, Northrop invested around a billion dollars developing a single-engine, improved F-5 variant. The aircraft first flew in August 1982, and was marketed on the European airshow circuit in 1983 and 1984. It was believed that a U.S. Air Force order would be necessary to jump-start the market, and the U.S. Air Force was not in the market for a lightweight fighter, having instead chosen the F-16 in the lightweight fighter competition years before. There were two “almost-orders” by Bahrain and Jordan, but Bahrain’s request for four aircraft wasn’t worthwhile for Northrop and Jordan made its order contingent on a U.S. Air Force buy.

    The Carter administration’s restrictions on the sale of front-line U.S. combat aircraft to foreign partners (excepting NATO members and Israel) led Northrop to believe there was a market for a fighter designed specifically for export. Those same conditions led General Dynamics to offer the F-16/79, a stripped-down F-16 powered by the F-4’s General Electric J-79 turbojet instead of the Pratt & Whitney F-100 turbofans powering U.S. Air Force F-16s. The 1980 election of Ronald Reagan resulted in the easing of the Carter-era export restrictions, ensuring that the market for both export fighters was limited. In 1984 and 1985, two of the three F-20 prototypes crashed during flight demonstrations, which further threatened the program. In 1985, Northrop offered the U.S. Air Force a deal — 396 F-20s for a cost of $15 million per unit, which was not accepted. The State Department denied a request to sell production tooling to Taiwan (already an F-5 user), and in 1986 Northrop terminated the program, having spent over a billion dollars.

    Both the F-16/79 and the F-20 fell victim to the F-16, which, once approved for foreign sales, became one of the most successful fighter programs of all time. Had the F-20 aircraft been available years earlier to compete against the YF-16 and YF-17 prototypes for the lightweight fighter program, it might have remained competitive, but as a latecomer in an established market, the odds against its success were steep. The F-20 was a modern, capable aircraft with a long and successful ancestry behind it, but it was unattractive because the United States never intended to use it or provide it under the Military Assistance Program. The F-20 experience remains a cautionary tale for those who believe that the United States can sell fighters it does not operate.

    The Export Battle
    Often overlooked in the success of the F-5 export fighters is that these aircraft were often given away to low-tier air forces. Not only were they given away, but the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union ensured that foreign aid would often take the form of aircraft, and the F-5 was provided to partners on five continents. F-5Es were provided in large numbers to the South Vietnamese Air Force (and more than 100 were captured by the North Vietnamese Army). F-5 sales to Ethiopia in 1966 were provided as part of an aid package to ensure American access to the Kagnew electronic listening post — and to offset Soviet-supported Somalia. They were followed by more F-5s in 1975. When Ethiopia changed policy to favor the Soviets, F-5s were sold to neighboring Sudan. Libya got F-5s a year before the coup that brought Muammar Qaddafi to power. Kenya received F-5s shortly after neighboring Uganda received MiG-21s.

    Apart from hardware, the provision of aircraft to small air forces is the beginning of a long process, not the end. Advisory efforts can take decades and may not bear fruit at all. The Air Force advisory effort in Iraq was a modest success, based as it was in a country that had long possessed an independent air force. The NATO effort in Afghanistan has been less successful, despite almost two decades of investment. There is no realistic possibility that the Afghan Air Force could stand on its own, as the country’s financial position remains dire. The advisory effort in Vietnam started with Operation Farm Gate in 1962 and didn’t end until Saigon was overrun. Advisory work was often of secondary importance to an effort that often served as cover for U.S. combat operations. Success or failure aside, the provision of combat aircraft requires a sustained, manpower-intensive and expensive effort to turn those aircraft into an effective fighting force, and success is not guaranteed. The United States has to be particularly cautious with what capabilities it offers to foreign air forces. American aviators can be prone to offering technologies they do not need as solutions for problems they do not have, using techniques they do not use.

    From the standpoint of a partner nation, it’s not about the aircraft. Anyone who wants a light attack aircraft today can buy the A-29 Super Tucano from Brazil or the AT-6 from Textron. Indeed, Embraer has consistently sold one to two dozen aircraft per year for almost two decades. But it is the relationship that counts — countries find a partnership with the United States valuable, and U.S. military equipment comes with a long-term relationship in terms of advisory support, training, and logistics. That’s a two-way street, and is why the F-20 and F-16/79 failed — with no American military employment, the opportunity to build a relationship through training and other support was not realistically offered with the aircraft.

    The evidence of almost a century of exporting combat aircraft strongly suggests that foreign sales of light attack aircraft will not happen without a significant and long-term commitment by U.S. conventional forces to those same aircraft — or an unlooked-for increase in the foreign aid budget. All of the historical examples in which American combat aircraft have been purchased by foreign customers involve aircraft that were in service in significant numbers by the United States, even in cases where foreign manufacturing agreements were in place. The export fighters, F-5A Freedom Fighter and F-5E Tiger II, were intended to be funded by security assistance monies provided by the United States. The two cases where a U.S.-developed aircraft was not supported by security assistance or a U.S. Air Force commitment are the F-20 Tigershark and the F-16/79, both of which failed. The F-20 case was a commercial disaster for Northrop, costing over a billion dollars in unrecouped costs, while the F-16 went on to success by fielding export variants that were substantially similar to the U.S. version, which was purchased in large numbers.

    The evidence doesn’t support the supposition that the small Air Force purchase of OA-X aircraft allowed by current funding levels is enough to encourage foreign partners to purchase them. The historical record also suggests that foreign partners will be interested in purchasing a combat capability provided by conventional forces, and not a niche capability used by special operations. The conditions are changed only when the U.S. provides the aircraft as foreign assistance, which also seems unlikely in the case of the OA-X. Only the establishment of a real, credible and combat-effective OA-X capability can support the goal of expanding Air Force offerings to include an affordable, exportable combat aircraft.


    Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently assigned to Air Combat Command.

    The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.

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