The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself (Updated and Bumped)

25.04.09

Categorie: Air, Inter-Service Rivalry |

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The U.S. Navy has revealed that it has leased a Super Tucano propeller-driven light attack plane, pictured, to support U.S. Special Operations Forces, with another three on the way. “This is a close air support, manned aircraft with a pilot and sensor operator. The idea here is that SOF needs an organic capability that can stick with them while they’re doing their mission,” Captain Mark Mullins said, according to Defense News.

Mullins called the Brazilian-built Super Tucano a “fascinating piece of kit.” The plane has a six-hour endurance and can operate from rough fields and roads. “You can imagine the SOF guys and Marines really love this. The challenge here, and why it’s so contentious, is it falls into the seam where it’s really not clear whose bailiwick it is. It’s not a marinized aircraft. It doesn’t fly off the carrier.”

It doesn’t matter whose bailiwick it is. This capability is too important to let fall prey to inter-service rivalry. If the Air Force refuses to get on board with light attack, then the Navy should carry on alone.

U.S. combat aviation seems like all bad news these days. The F-22 program will deliver no more than 240 planes before it gets shuttered. The F-35 is late and over-budget and its program office seems intent on wrecking all other aircraft programs in order to protect its funding. F-15s are falling apart. A-10s are falling apart. Amid all this gloom, the Navy’s Super Tucano initiative is a bright ray of good news.

Close air support is arguably the most important tactical air mission, but the Pentagon has refused to make it a priority. The last time we built a dedicated CAS airplane was the mid-1980s, with the last batch of A-10s. The Super Tucano represents an almost breathtaking return to common sense.

Planes like this, plus armed drones, represent the future of U.S. air power for low-intensity warfare. Count on it. A decade from now, tiny fleets of F-22s and F-35s will form our conventional air deterent against major rivals, endlessly deploying on “show-of-force” missions, while Super Tucanos, Reapers, gunships and helicopters do all the actual work in the dull, dirty, distant wars that we’re likely to be fighting.

Update, 4/25/09: Air Force boss General Norton Schwartz said the air service will consider adding a light-attack plane to its planned “counter-insurgency wing.” “Schwartz added that the best approach might be to make the primary trainer aircraft something that ‘could be easily reconfigured into a light-strike platform,’” DoD Buzz reports.

That means AT-6s

(Photo: via defesanet.com)

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14 Responses to “The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself (Updated and Bumped)”

  1. [...] JSF Alternative-Super Tucano 2009 March 14 by Mike Burleson This is not just another fantasy of yours truly. David Axe reveals it as reality: The U.S. Navy has revealed that it has leased a Super Tucano propeller-driven light attack plane, pictured, to support U.S. Special Operations Forces, with another three on the way… [...]

  2. Aaron says:

    Yet another reminder why we should eliminate the air force. The problem here is that the army isnt supposed to operate fixed wing. thats air force territory. and the air force doesnt want to do CAS.
    eliminate the airforce. move the CAS and tactical bombing to the army. move air superiority to the navy. rename them the tactical force/strategic force.

  3. B.Smitty says:

    Aaron, should we also get rid of the Navy because they don’t want to buy patrol boats? No, of course not. All of the services are struggling with many, competing priorities and few dollars.

    There are certainly those in and around the USAF that want a COIN aircraft.

    http://excaliburrd.com/projects/AT6/

    This link is a COIN study done by a USAF Major in 2006,

    https://www.afresearch.org/skins/rims/q_mod_be0e99f3-fc56-4ccb-8dfe-670c0822a153/q_act_downloadpaper/q_obj_5c540578-3300-4acb-bf28-deb4dccf6f7a/display.aspx?rs=publishedsearch

    In it, he concludes that a small prop aircraft is not ideal. It is better to take a step up to a small jet.

    “Takeoff and landing performance on short, austere airstrips is listed as a desired capability of a COIN CAS aircraft; however, reality would indicate that this is a seldom used feature in a CAS aircraft. There are many reasons for this. Even a “cheap” CAS aircraft would cost $5 to $10 million, and would require sufficient force protection measures to guard against sabotage. Aircraft require frequent maintenance, spare parts, and fixed facilities to provide routine and non-routine maintenance. While an airbase commander is selecting a facility with sufficient force protection and maintenance facilities, he or she would most certainly chose a location that has a sufficiently long, hard-surfaced runway. Currently, A-10 aircraft in Afghanistan utilize Kandahar and Bagram Airbases, and are able to provide sufficient response times to CAS requests. Despite the ballyhoo of the vertical takeoff and landing of the AV-8 Harrier Aircraft, the Marines have seldom operated the aircraft from an austere forward location.
    In early 2004 this author visited 8 different outposts around Afghanistan. Several of these trips were conducted in Blackhawk helicopters with Apache escorts. Half of the outposts were located very close to a long landing strip and could support C-130 cargo aircraft landings. In all cases, including the trips in C-130s, the aircraft did not stay at the base waiting for us to complete our mission, despite the short (sometimes less than 2 hours) ground time required. At all bases, but especially the smaller outposts, force protection of the expensive helicopter was a concern. Additionally, the aircraft would often have another mission it could accomplish while waiting for us to complete our mission, and sometimes we would fly on one aircraft going to the outpost and a different aircraft on the return trip. In the rare occasion when the helicopter arrived early, it would orbit if it had sufficient fuel available or land but not shut down its engines. It was better to burn an extra few thousand pounds of fuel with an idling engine rather than to risk an engine that failed to restart and dealing with the difficulty of maintenance at a great distance from the main operating base. This experience suggests that dispersing CAS aircrafts to austere forward locations might actually create as many logistical problems as it solves with shortened response times.”

    He suggests using the proposed CitationJet JPATS aircraft as a starting point.

  4. Aaron says:

    Coastal patrol may be more appropriately moved to the Tactical Forces a/k/a -the Army.

  5. [...] Honorable mentions ripe for cuts include the Joint Strike Fighter which will likely cost as much as the more-capable Raptor when it finally enters service in the next decade (replacing it with Navy Super Hornets, prop planes for close air support, and UAVs), Ford class supercarriers (with over 20 large carriers, and Marine Harrier carriers in service, how many do we need?), and Burke class destroyers (over 60 of these modern battleships ordered). [...]

  6. rally says:

    why don’t we just bring back the old A-1 Skyraiders if we need a slow moving ground attack plane that can spot the enemy? Heck, the A-1 got 15 pods and can take a beating.

  7. [...] Let’s not quibble: this kind of quickly-fielded, just-in-time, just-good-enough modularity is the future of counter-insurgency air power. We’re seeing it with the Air Force’s MC-12W spy planes, quickly modified from King Air twin props. We’re seeing it with drone designs, like the Predator family, that can be bough cheaply and therefore continuously replaced with better models. Plus, the Air Force is talking about buying gun kits for its T-6 trainers to turn them into “instant” insurgent killers. [...]

  8. [...] Related: Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner Gates Budgetpalooza: Air Force Loses Altitude The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself F-22s versus Russia’s Rusting, Ramshackle Air Force Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 Getting the Most from Your New F-22 Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  9. [...] Faced with upgrading enemies and a hostile world, 20+ year old designs can’t pass muster. We fight dirty small wars now, but the future is not set. Our allies in the middle east are upgrading their missile defense with our latest weapons. Shouldn’t we upgrade our air force with the best and the latest air craft? Even Boeing does not believe that it’s Silent Eagle has a future. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } [...]

  10. [...] Related: The Amazing, Post-F-35, Photoshopped, Manned Fighters How to Turn a Drone into a Dogfighter Surveillance Orbits for From-Scratch Air Forces Murtha’s Air Force: More F-22s and Tankers, Delayed F-35 What’s Wrong with the F-22? Raptor Gets Congressional Reprieve Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner Gates Budgetpalooza: Air Force Loses Altitude The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  11. [...] The Army had its gold-plated Future Combat System mostly taken away, as did the USAF with its F-22 Raptor. These two services are now planning on how to contend with future COIN threats, with a lessened emphasis on the rare Great Power conflicts. Other than its overly-large and essentially useless DDG-1000 destroyer, the Navy hasn’t come under Gates’ close scrutiny as of yet. A while back we wrote on What the Raptor Cancellation Means for the Navy: [...]

  12. [...] (Photo: Bryan William Jones) Related: “Eve” Mother-Ship Could Form Basis of Future Warplane Flying with Iraq’s King Air Spy Planes Surveillance Orbits for From-Scratch Air Forces Meet the “New” U.S. Air Force Air Force Copies Marines’ “Bolt-On” Gunship Plan Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  13. [...] Related: Offiziere.ch: Imagining the Air Force After Next “Eve” Mother-Ship Could Form Basis of Future Warplane Flying with Iraq’s King Air Spy Planes Surveillance Orbits for From-Scratch Air Forces Meet the “New” U.S. Air Force Air Force Copies Marines’ “Bolt-On” Gunship Plan Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die This entry was posted on Sunday, September 13th, 2009 at 12:34 am and is filed under No War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed. [...]

  14. [...] View of Air Superiority What’s Wrong with the F-22? Gates Budgetpalooza: Air Force Loses Altitude The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself F-22s versus Russia’s Rusting, Ramshackle Air Force Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils [...]

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