House lawmakers have included two amendments that affect the Air Force’s ongoing light attack experiment to be considered for inclusion in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The lower chamber will consider over 400 amendments to the NDAA over the rest of this week before voting upon H.R. 2500, the full FY ’20 NDAA.
The first light attack-related amendment, introduced by Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), provides procurement authority to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for new light attack aircraft in support of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The language specifies that the SOCOM commander wait 60 days to procure those aircraft after certifying to congressional defense committees “that a mission capability gap and special-operations-forces-peculiar acquisition requirement exists” which would benefit from new light attack platforms.
Rutherford’s amendment also maintains the Air Force secretary’s authority to procure light attack aircraft to service Air Combat Command’s (ACC) Air Ground Operations School and for AFSOC Combat Air Advisor mission support. A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rutherford has previously expressed his frustration with the way the Air Force has handled the light attack experiment’s progress, even suggesting in May that the Army could potentially take over the program (Defense Daily, May 22).
A second light attack-related amendment introduced by Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) reads that the Air Force secretary shall provide for and conduct military-type certifications for light attack experiment aircraft as needed.
The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) version of the FY ’20 NDAA – which passed out of committee June 12 – included a request for the Air Force to submit a report on its plans for the ongoing light attack aircraft experiment (Defense Daily, June 10). ACC Commander Gen. Mike Holmes told reporters last month that his command and AFSOC plan to submit a joint plan on the future of the light attack experiment by this fall (Defense Daily, June 19).
The HASC bill also fully funded the service’s budget request of $35 million in research-and-development funds to procure a small number of off-the-shelf aircraft, and continue studies for new assets to perform light attack and close-air support missions. The House Appropriations Committee’s mark of the FY ’20 defense appropriations bill also fully funded the Air Force’s request.
The Air Force has previously expressed plans to acquire about six light attack aircraft with a mix of Sierra Nevada Corp. [SNC] and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano and Textron Aviation’s [TXT] AT-6 Wolverine after performing a series of tests on off-the-shelf turboprops and jets in 2017 and 2018. Inside Defense previously reported that the Defense Department submitted a reprogramming request to Congress that included leftover FY ‘18 and FY ’19 funds to procure these aircraft, among other military equipment requests.