The House Armed Services Committee is requesting the Air Force submit a report on its plans for the ongoing light attack aircraft experiment while fully funding the service’s fiscal year 2020 budget request in the committee’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Air Force requested $35 million in research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds as part of the FY ’20 Presidential Budget request released March 12, to procure a small number of off-the-shelf aircraft and continue studies of new platforms that could serve light attack and close-air support missions in permissive environments.
The Chairman’s mark, which will be voted on by the full committee June 12 before tentatively being considered on the House floor the week of July 8, authorizes that funding, but will also request a report be submitted that details the next phase of the light attack experimentation plan, a committee staff member told reporters June 7.
The committee supports the Air Force’s “methodical approach” to the rapid development program, which was launched in 2017. “We just ask them to come talk to us,” the staffer said.
Earlier this year, the Air Force announced it plans to procure around six turboprop aircraft, to include the Sierra Nevada Corp. [SNC] and Embraer-built A-29 Super Tucano and Textron Aviation’s [TXT] AT-6 Wolverine. Those aircraft would be split between Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and Hurlbert Air Field, Florida, where Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is located (Defense Daily, March 13).
This led to lawmakers expressing some confusion over the service’s seemingly abrupt decision to not move forward with a selection between the AT-6 and the A-29, but announced its desire to experiment further with new platforms for the mission areas, such as unmanned aircraft (Defense Daily, May 22).
A notice of intent to sole-source the A-29 was released via FedBizOpps in May (Defense Daily, May 8). A similar notice related to procuring the AT-6 is expected to follow, but has not yet been released.