The Air Force is requesting money to perform its upcoming light attack aircraft experiment, the service’s chief of staff, Gen. David Goldfein, said Thursday.
The Air Force is planning an experiment to see what type of off-the-shelf aircraft could fulfill a light attack aircraft requirement. While an Air Force spokesman said earlier this year that the service was planning for this experiment in the spring, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek would only say Thursday that the service was looking to perform this experiment later this year. The service is open to remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) participating in the experiment, Goldfein said.
Goldfein said he would be requesting money for the experiment, but Stefanek said the service is still awaiting the budget amendment, commonly known as the supplemental, which is due at the end of February. She said the experiment was still in the planning phase and that she would not provide further details. Goldfein said that it’s not a “lot of money” to perform an experiment, for which he said service chiefs received authorization in the new legislation.
Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said in late January that the experiment would be by invitation only and that the service would test out light attack scenarios for the low end fight like close air support, personnel recovery and air interdiction. A Lockheed Martin [LMT] spokesperson said the company hadn’t heard from the Air Force about the light attack experiment. The company, along with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is offering a light attack type aircraft called the T-50 for the Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training, or T-X, competition, and could be a participant in the experiment.
Textron [TXT] with its Scorpion aircraft is another possible participant. Company spokeswoman Nikki Riemen said Thursday the Air Force has not issued a final set of requirements for the experiment. She said once these are issued, Textron will assess them to see whether its platforms will be a good fit. Scorpion has yet to find a buyer.
Teal Group Vice President of Analysis Richard Aboulafia said Thursday he was skeptical of the Air Force’s intention to procure light attack aircraft, believing that it was more of the service protecting itself due to its A-10 retirement effort. He believes procuring light attack aircraft would only make sense if the Pentagon thought it would continue fighting “brush wars,” or wars against enemies with no surface-to-air or air-to-air weaponry.
Aboulafia said whoever won the T-X competition might put in an effort toward the light attack experiment. Boeing [BA] and Saab are offering a clean sheet design for the aircraft portion of T-X. Other likely aircraft, he said, include Scorpion and Embraer’s [ERJ] Super Tucano, of which Aboulafia said would definitely play a role.