Light Attack Aircraft – Cheap & Effective
Seemingly always in short supply in combat situations, Close Air Support (CAS) is especially lacking for US partner nations around the world. Often the USAF is able to guarantee air superiority in a region, but then still must utilize high-power, high-performance assets like the A-10 Thunderbolt II to provide support for troops on the ground.
In an ideal world envisioned by the USAF, light attack aircraft like the A-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, would take on the brunt of the CAS mission, reducing the burden on the costly A-10. This light CAS capacity could be provided directly by Allied Air Forces, much more effectively and at lower costs than the existing model.
A similar setup to this is already under observation in Afghanistan. The Afghan Air Force took delivery of some A-29 aircraft a few years ago, and have been flying combat missions in partnership with US forces. The arrangement so far has few critics.
To kick off this program, the USAF announced this week it plans to order 2-3 aircraft from each manufacturer, in order to begin testing and building a light attack aircraft development and training program.
While it’s currently unclear how likely the USAF is to develop a full fleet of its own light attack aircraft, it’s seeming very likely that funding and support for Allied nations to do so will be available and encouraged.
A-29 In Action over Afghanistan
Check out the A-29 Super Tucano in action with the Afghan Air Force. Some impressive performance and capabilities from this aircraft considering the cost.
We’ll continue providing coverage of developments with the light attack aircraft program in the USAF. It will be interesting to see if the Air Force decides to develop its own light attack fleet.