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Air Platforms

USAF axes planned light attack combat demo

04 February 2018
Seen here in Afghan service, the Super Tucano was one of two light strike platforms along with the AT-6B Wolverine the USAF was expected to demonstrate in a real-world combat environment. Source: 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

The US Air Force (USAF) has decided against holding a real-world demonstration as part of its light attack aircraft experiment.

The service had previously said it would take a number of the light strike aircraft that were participating in what was previously referred to as OA-X to an undisclosed combat zone, probably in the Middle East. However, on 2 February the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said this event would not now take place.

“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 [Textron] AT-6 Wolverine and the [SNC-Embraer] A-29 Super Tucano,” said Wilson. “This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement.”

Phase 1 for OA-X took place in August 2017, and involved the AT-6B Wolverine, A-29 Super Tucano, Textron Scorpion, and L3 Technologies-Air Tractor AT-802L Longsword. As the official noted, the first two platforms were designated as Tier 1 for meeting all of the USAF’s requirements, while the latter two were classed as being Tier 2 for meeting some of them. During this phase, USAF officials as well as those from Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Uruguay assessed the aircraft through a series of representative close air support (CAS) tasks that involved machine gun strafing as well as freefall and guided-munition drops.

The secretary’s comments came about three months after a senior USAF official, speaking to Jane’s and other defence media under the Chatham House rule, said the planned combat demonstration was to take place as part of Phase 2 of OA-X.

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