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US Air Force to buy handful of light attack aircraft

13 March 2019
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Textron Aviation Defense would offer its Scorpion aircraft if the USAF opens its LAE to turbojet aircraft. Source: Textron

Key Points

  • The US Air Force will buy two to three aircraft from each of its previous Light Attack Experiment participants
  • The service was previously non-committal on procuring aircraft

The US Air Force (USAF) will buy two to three aircraft each from Light Attack Experiment (LAE) participants Textron Aviation and Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), but it is unclear exactly when those aircraft will be procured.

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said on 13 March that the service is procuring aircraft as part of its LAE expansion beyond only turboprop aircraft. The Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the SNC/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, both turboprops, were the only two aircraft to participate in the LAE in the past two years.

USAF Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said on 13 March that these procured LAE aircraft will be placed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and Hurlburt Air Force Base, Florida. Nellis Air Force Base, he said, is home to USAF conventional training while Hurlburt Air Force Base is home to the service's special operations. Gen Goldfein also said the US Marine Corps (USMC) will join the LAE, but he did not provide specifics. The USMC did not return a request for comment prior to publication.

The USAF requested USD35 million for LAE in its fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020) budget request. Service spokesperson Ann Stefanek said on 13 March that the USAF plans to use FY 2019 funds to procure these LAE aircraft from Textron Aviation and SNC. She did not respond when asked when, exactly, the USAF would procure these aircraft.

The USAF said Congress has appropriated about USD200 million for LAE so far and that there is roughly USD60 million left in FY 2019 research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funds and USD100 million in FY 2019 procurement funds.

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