The Air Force released a final request for proposals Oct. 24 to procure no more than six light attack aircraft by the end of the year.
The service has planned to buy four to six Textron Aviation [TXT] AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corp. [SNC]/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft since early 2019. It launched the light attack experiment – also known as OA-X – in 2017 by testing four off-the-shelf aircraft, including the A-29 and AT-6, at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, but of late has received skepticism from lawmakers as the scope of the program has significantly decreased (Defense Daily, Sept. 27).
Now, the Air Force wants to take advantage of unused fiscal year 2018 or fiscal year 2019 funds to procure the aircraft, which would be split evenly between the AT-6 and A-29. Contract award is expected by the end of the year for the A-29 and in early 2020 for the AT-6. The Air Force said it worked closely with industry to finalize the requests for proposals details.
The Super Tucano will be used at Hurlburt Field, Florida, by AFSOC to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance. The Wolverine will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis AFB, Nevada, for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve inter-operability with international partners.
In a Friday statement, new Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett expressed support for continuing the effort.
“Over the last two years, I watched as the Air Force experimented with light attack aircraft to discover alternate, cost-effective options to deliver airpower and build partner capacity around the globe,” she said. “I look forward to this next phase.”