Military Capabilities

USAF mulls real-world OA-X combat demonstration

07 November 2017
The AT-6B Wolverine was one of the four platforms to be demonstrated during Phase 1 of the OA-X experiment. The USAF will decide if a real-world combat demonstration, perhaps in the Middle East, will take place under Phase 2. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) is considering a second phase of its OA-X light attack experiment that could involve a real-world combat demonstration, perhaps somewhere in the Middle East, a senior service official said on 7 November.

Speaking under the Chatham House rule, the official said that with the first phase having been completed earlier this year, a follow-on demonstration along the lines of the recently completed Combat Dragon II experiment conducted by the US Navy is being looked at.

“We could do a combat demonstration downrange, maybe in the Middle East somewhere,” the official said, adding, “No decision has been made yet, but it is something that we will look at once all of the results of Phase 1 are in.”

OA-X has been launched by the USAF to explore cost-effective attack platform options for the vast majority of combat missions that it has flown since the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1991. “For the past 26 years the USAF has been continuously deployed in a combat environment. During this time, 99% of all our missions have been flown in a permissive environment, and the [OA-X] light Attack experimentation campaign has been born out of this,” the official said. “Is there an opportunity to do things differently in the future – a concept to meet all of our mission capabilities while adding additional capacity that is more flexible?”

Phase 1 for OA-X took place in August, and involved the Textron AT-6B Wolverine, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano (designated A-29 by the US government), 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.

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