Mattis Still Supports Light COIN Plane Air Force Wants Dead

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week, newly nominated Central Command head Gen. James Mattis reaffirmed his support for a turboprop aircraft to provide ground pounders with long loitering time, on-call recon and strike. The project called “Imminent Fury” was run out of the Navy’s irregular warfare office.

Mattis described it as a test program to see if inexpensive turboprops could replace the much more costly jets currently used in counterinsurgency battles. As we’ve described it before, the sought after design falls somewhere between the Vietnam era OV-10 Bronco and A-1 Skyraider.

While the Navy’s request for additional funds for the program was recently denied, Mattis said he’s still trying to build support for the concept, to at least gather data that could inform future spending decisions.

He’s going to have his work cut out for him as sources from the Navy’s irregular warfare community recently told Defense Tech the program is as dead as Julius Caesar. Who killed it? The Air Force, we’re told, and its powerful fighter community, which was not at all interested in sticking their pilots in a low and slow ground support aircraft. The Air Force is still having trouble choking down the “drone driver” mission.

As we wrote a couple of months ago, Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, shot down his own idea for an irregular warfare wing, arguing that the current, and future, inventory of jet aircraft can perform any and all close air support missions that a new, light strike fighter could. He could not envision replacing existing F-15, F-16 and A-10, or future F-35s for that matter, with a light strike aircraft.

Mattis made an important point in front of the SASC earlier this year:

“Today’s approach of loitering multi-million dollar aircraft and using a system of systems procedure for the approval and employment of airpower is not the most effective use of aviation fires in this irregular fight,”

Yet, without Air Force buy-in, it’s hard to see this effort goes anywhere. I’m not sure Mattis’ powers of persuasion will have much impact on the Air Force’s dominant constituency.

— Greg Grant

(hat tip: Bill Gertz)

  • Mark

    We need a 21st Century P-51! If we can piss out money for the JF35, then we can spend 1/10th that for a prop job that can do the same type job job.

    • yesjb

      I’d prefer a 21st century P47 :-). Late versions had better armament, protection, air-cooled engine…could withstand sever punishment and despite their size, handled very well even at low altitude. Used for that very purpose after 1944.

    • CQUIROZ

      piper enforcer p-48 old school

  • Charley

    Again the AF doesn’t play well with others. The fighter jocks don’t want the plane, but will fight to not let others develop the aircraft when the need exists. Do they think that their F-35A is threatened by an AT-6B? Yea, they probably do. The answer is to let the Army or the Navy (Marines) take on the challenge - they are the ones who are doing the dying. The AF just doesn’t get it.

  • William C.

    Enough with the USAF bashing. In truth, what does this COIN plane provide that the titanium armored A-10C cannot?

    • Roger Thompson

      Yeah, and how much does th AF love the A-10. They wanted to replace it with an F-16, but it proved itself to be more effective at what it was designed to do. I say give the ground support missions to the Army and the Marines and let them fly the A-10s.

    • Nidi

      A much lower cost, not only to build, but also to operate and, if necessary, replace.

      • praetorian

        Sure a lower cost to operate, but what about development cost. Because even though
        AT6 turboprop is an actual aircraft I bet the DoD will change specs and have to
        re-develop the aircraft. not to mention we spent a ton of money up grading the A-10
        to keep it flying until 2025. Sniper pods, glass cockpit , wing improvments…

      • citanon

        Cheaper to replace huh? And the pilot?

    • Doog62

      Oh! Now the Air Force considers the A10 a viable CAS platform. Surely not the same plane the AF called antiquated, obsolete, and irrelevant and tried so hard to scrap pre-2003.

      Considering you could fly and maintain an AT6 turboprop type aircraft at a fraction of the cost of a twin engine jet. Deploy from anything resembling a flat field, Train Afghans or any indigenous forces to fly and maintain with a modest budget. I really don’t see any advantage whatsoever.

    • Johan

      For starters the coin has a way longer on scene loiter time not to mention less cost to maintain and operate. Let the dogfaces and leather necks have full control of the program from the funding to the manning. Nobody knows the need of close air support like a fellow ground pounder

    • mat

      I it provides all the A-10 capability sans huge cannon at fraction of operating cost ,but provides much more than f 15 or 16 do at even higher cost and their short range limits the time on station or require a fllet of tankers on station,fully bombed up F16 requres refuleing cca every 30 minutes ,the war is so expensive because among other things you have 750.000$ per sortie B1 flying overhead doing a job that 5000$ per sortie coin aircraft could do.Also its not just the fighter jets that cost it the complete support tanker and gound crew that cost much more than for a coin turboprop. We are in situation where we cat afford to fight a war.

    • Cquiroz

      I did my time in the army and the AF,red horse ,sea bee’s build airfleld up close, real close A-7,A-10,C-130 G/S,PIPER ENFORCE, T-6b kill them close,kill them nasty !

    • @nomar04x

      a saving in fuel and parts, longer loiteing time and smaller support assets

  • AyeGuy

    Isn’t this a job a UAV should be doing, anyway?

    • @nomar04x

      Indeed. They could put the electronics of an UAV inside that plane and the result will be a more versatile platform that can deliver bigger payload than a Predator, have more loitering time than a F-22, A-10 or JSF and will be cheaper to operate than both. Plus the Army is developing airships to replace the UAV in their reconnaissance mission and I bet the will have a surplus of UAVs which electronics probably could be modified with a little American ingenuity to operate the COIN plane creating at the same time one of the first Combat Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

  • Dean

    The ‘separate’ air force has obviously not worked out well. They have forgotten where they came from and why they exist. They should be folded back into the Army.

  • chaos0xomega

    The seperate Air Force concept has actually worked out very well. Just like the other service branches (Navy Shipbuilding, Marine amphibious concepts, etc.) they are very much insistent on buying the shiniest new toys so they can keep fighting the Cold War. Thats where the problem lies, and truth be told, the Air Force leadership needs to be bitchslapped and replaced from the top down with people that weren’t pilots.

  • Johns381

    They should fold all the A-10s, CAS aircraft and UAVs into the ARMY and keep the Air Force as a Air Superiority and Strategic Bombing wing. That’s all they want to do so let the ARMY do all the ground support related missions.

    • MCQknight

      Statements like these are ignorant, because they assume that UAV’s, the A-10, AC-130’s, and the like are ONLY used for close air support. They’re not. While CAS is a major mission for these platforms, they also support traditional Air Force missions as well, like Wild Weasle missions, interdiction, and (in the case of UAV’s) surveillance and strategic bombing (in the form of targeted killings). If these platforms were to be transferred to the Army, then CAS WOULD be the only mission they would perform, which would be a waste of capability. If the Army wants these platforms so badly, there’s no reason why both services can’t operate them. The Air Force has operated the same aircraft (RQ-4, UH-60, UH-53, MV-22, F-4, A-1, OV-10, A-7, etc.) as the Navy and Marines in the past to fulfill different missions. There’s simply no need to make the “Take away all the Air Force’s CAS assets and give them to the Army!” argument, when the better argument is “Let the Army operate some CAS assets in conjunction with the Air Force.”

      • elgatoso

        I like your Idea!!!

    • Cquiroz

      P-48 PIPER (ENFORCER) MID,1970s

  • MCQknight

    I think it’s time to stop blaming the fighter pilot mentality in the Air Force for killing this program. Firstly, A-10 pilots have been in the service for years now and many hold high ranking positions. This has created a culture where the close air support mission is more accepted and respected than it was twenty years ago, as well as the appreciation for a “low and slow” ground support aircraft.

    Secondly, Norman Schwartz comes from the spec ops field, and flew AC-130’s. If there ever was an Air Force Chief of Staff who’s NOT part of the “fighter mafia”, it’s this guy.

  • MCQknight

    And finally, many Air Force pilots are WAY more excited about the prospect of flying a turboprop into combat than a UAV. Getting a chance to fly any combat aircraft that’s not a UAV will get many pilots excited.

    So why is the program dead? Money. The Air Force doesn’t think that any new acquisitions will be approved in full, and why should they? They couldn’t even get the number of C-27’s they wanted, a type of aircraft that’s tailor made for low intensity conflicts like the ones we find ourselves in. In fact, I think the slashing of the C-27 budget convinced Air Force leaders that funding for any significant quantity of light strike fighters would not materialize. The brass is focussed right now on preserving what they view as their most critical acquisitions programs, in this case being KC-X and the F-35. Of couse, if they really want to save money they should just scrap the F-35 program and buy “4.5 generation” fighters to recapitalize the fleet. Buying a new 5th generation fighter is simply not a luxury we can afford with the current state of our economy.

  • rmhitchens

    Alas, my old service — a successful 20th century organization — is adrift in the postmodern, post-9/11 world in which we find ourselves. They need to 1) get serious about UAV operators as a distinctive career track not requiring UPT graduates, and 2) grab any manned aircraft opportunities that come along. Like this turbo-COIN machine. As some guy said a few years ago, the times they are a changin’.

  • Matt Musson

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_PA-48_Enforcer

    Here is the Mustang frame with a RollsRoyce turboprop COIN aircraft.

  • JEFF

    *sigh* AF is being difficult again. When we don’t “really” need to wory about air supremacy what’s the point of an AF but to provide close air support of ground troops. Yet the AF is shies away. If the AF doesn’t want to be in the business of serving the Army in this capacity maybe they should get out of the way and let someone else.

  • STemplar

    Schwartz was worried about bells and whistles getting hung on the turbo prop option and its cost shooting up. I seem to recall an article where he mentioned things like ejection seats and defense systems that aren’t necessarily included on the existing baseline turbo prop attack plane options out there. Although even if you took the AT6 or Super Tucano and doubled their price tags to like $20 million, seems like that would still be a pretty cheap option for a capability everyone seems to agree we lack. It’s not like we need 2,000 of them.

    • MCQknight

      Schwartz never said any of those things. The article you are referencing (I believe from this site) merely hypothesized that this was the reason it was cancelled. Considering that the ONLY company out there whose aircraft wasn’t designed with ejector seats was AirTractor, I think it’s a safe bet that they were the ones voicing the “bells and wistles” complaint. Seriously, designing a close air supprt aircraft that’s going to experience lots of small arms fire, as well as be threatened by MANPADS, without an ejection seat is just irresonsible.

      Oh, and the T-6 and Super Tucano both already have ejection seats, yet I don’t think anyone thinks those are gold-plated platforms.

  • David

    I am a Major in the Air Force attending school with the Army and here are some of my own thoughts. To what extent do we invest into an aircraft that is only good at doing one mission. We will not be on the ground forever in Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond those two locations (currently) the aircraft is obsolete. Platforms that are in country have the capability to support the troops on the gorund at will and will continue to do so on a day to day basis. If that is a UAS providing ISR or an F-16 and A-10 proving CAS.

    • chaos0xomega

      A COIN craft would be invaluable in helping patrol our borders. Replace the bombs/rockets/missiles/guns with a sensor package and they can provide invaluable surveillance of illegal immigrants, smugglers and drug runner attempting to gain entry into our nation while relaying that info back to border patrol agents on the ground.

      Besides that, its only a matter of time before we get involved in another low intensity conflict. Mexico is dangerously close to having a revolution on its hands, and I suspect that if that does occur, the US will most likely be involved, as the last thing we want is a narco-state next door.

      COIN craft would be far more useful in such a situation than fast movers. Not just that, but most of the potential near-future hot-spots could see good use from COIN craft. If there is a conflict in Iran, that will start out fairly high intensity, but it’ll probably end up being very much like Iraq, as we will most likely have to remove their government in order to prevent future attempts at the bomb. If the fighting finally does spill over into Pakistan, COIN craft will again be useful, it’ll also be useful in Colombia/Venezuela, any African nation we end up being involved in, and possibly even North Korea.

      The pattern for warfare in the 21st century seems to suggest a shift to low intensity conflicts and nation building/occupation, COIN aircraft are perfect in both situations.

    • RVN11B

      With respect Major this line of thought is the same as what was considered back in the sixties. That line of thought was that since we had such a potent arsenal of air-to-air missiles that guns were no longer needed on fighters. It was soon apparent that old, low-tech weapons are still viable in any conflict.

  • @Earlydawn

    Given the advantages of UAVs, aren’t they a better investment for COIN air support then bushplanes? UAVs ride the fence between conventional and COIN operations, while bushplanes are really pretty exclusive to counter-insurgency.

    • CQUIROZ

      ov-10,a-7, a-10 , piper enforcer,t-6,c-130 g/s long live counter-insurgency. bushplanes? YOU ARE NOT OLD SCHOOL.

  • STemplar

    I think the arguments Ive read for manned COIN planes is the ability to interact with the FACs on the ground. As good as UAVs are currently they arent as responsive or provide the amount of information to the guy on the trigger as a pair of eyeballs.

    Having said that, are there A10s in the boneyard that could be dusted off and converted to a COINcentric configuration for like $20 million? If so, seems like that would give more of what we need while retaining some multi-role capability.

    • @Earlydawn

      I like that idea.

    • Alan

      How about some OV-10’s do we still have any of them in mothballs. Seems to me that they did a good job in Nam.

  • Jacob

    I was just having the thought….the A-6’s and A-7’s that we retired back in the 90’s would have been perfect for the sort of loitering bomb truck missions that we’re flying in Afghanistan. Why are we using Strike Eagles and Super Hornets for the job?

  • Bob

    No can do. there is an ancient law or agreement somewere that says the Army cannot own or fly armed fixed wing aircraft. That would be poaching on the AF turf, and maybe the Army might get a bigger slice of the budget at the AF’s expense. We couldn’t let that happen, now could we?

    • Engineer

      You are correct - that agreement is just that; and agreement, and it’s time for the SECDEF to through it out the window. It dates back to the ’60 and it was ment to protect the “young” Air Force. They don’t need protecting anymore and aren’t interested in supporting the troops on the ground. Eight year in Afghanistan have proven that! It is high time for the Army to retake the CAS mission - the Air Force won’t miss it!!

  • Mark

    I am one of dave’s fellow Air Force classmates and thought I could comment as well. The AT-6 provides only one additional capability that is not currently provided by USAF aircraft in the AOR, which I will get to shortly. CAS and FAC(A)??? A-10s and F-16s have it covered. Target ID??? a modern targeting pod on current fighter aircraft is the same technology as the one proposed for the AT-6. All of them much better than the naked eye making “getting down amongst ’em” obsolete. Homeland defense??? An AT-6 is not going to run down a drug laden biz jet.

    • chaos0xomega

      I don’t think drug smugglers make such extensive use of business jets…

      As for austere airfields, I can’t name any, but I know that C-17s make use of them regularly when airlifting cargo to FOBs. We’re not always going to have proper paved runways available to us, an aircraft capable of operating out of such an environment would be plugging a potential gap we may encounter in the future. And from what I have been lead to understand, targeting pods, while useful in their own right, are not the same as actually getting eyes on the target. They will not necessarily aid with target recognition and acquisition, they will help with actually putting the munition on target. Again, I’ve never operated one, so I can’t say, but this is what I was told by people who have.

    • Bill

      Mark,
      Beg to differ, this aircraft is EXACTLY what is needed for COIN period. I assume a LITENING or SNIPER pod is your reference to a modern targeting pod and if so, there is no comparison between the optics of those pods and the Wescam family of sensors i.e MX-15i/D (D for Designator, Laser that is). It’s one thing to track a target with a pod, it is quite another to develop atmospherics and pattern of life, then turn around and terminally guide your own weapons onto the target area that you’ve just spent the last 4 hours developing the target and having ultimate SA on. I have run the stack and tasked sensors prior to the JTAC hitting the ground. Tasking fighter sensors was limited to a few options because targeting Pods are limited to two fields of view- wide or narrow, no in-between. In other words either look at high speed avenues of approach or the door to a building. Its like comparing the Hubble telescope to a land-based system. I could go on at length about this little beauty of an aircraft that can actually help boost the Air Force’s piss-poor standing in the SecDef’s ISR world. I can absolutely guarantee that the assaulters on the ground would fall in love with this platform because it would cause the pilots to have to collect and report information first, in doing so they would not only develop total SA, but they would develop a pattern of life and a feel for the atmospherics, in other words, “getting down amongst them”. You get involved to a more personal level, you share ownership, the first time you understand what is really going down and are able to lean forward and pass immediate actionable intelligence that saves a soldier’s life, you get hooked, you start to build rapport with the assaulters, you start to feel what CAS pilots and tactical ISR sensor operators should feel, responsible for their safety, you are their eyes and ears, the oracle. Unless you’ve done that on a regular basis, you will never know how sweet that is. If the top brass understood this, they’d put more priority on the boots on the ground than the next generation fighter because “we fighter pilots must protect our history and tradition, even if it costs lives.”
      Oh well, it’d be more fun to do this over a few beers.

      • Bill

        I think that was a little harsher than I meant it to be. Fighter pilots have saved my butt many a time when I was on the ground a s JTAC. An honorable group, many of whom I call friend. My respect for them, immense.
        Bill

    • Robert A. Fritts

      Dave and Mark, I would like to invite you to spend 3-6 months with a infantry company in Eastern Afghanistan. Air Farce Officers helo in and out for one-two day visits and proclaim “all is well in the Fast Mover world”. It takes a few weeks on the ground or 4 minutes talking to the E-6s and below in the USAF TACP to know how wrong things are in CAS. Which is why these “real fighting Airman” love AH-64s.If you have ever been tainted by flying or just hanging around “real” jet fighters you know absolutely nothing.2 Bns leaving Ft. Riley after X-mas. I’m sure with all of your pilot training they can find something for you to do. Or go on the TACP blogs and listen to the USAF ground punders, no on else in the USAF does.

  • Mark

    Finally, the austere airfield capability. Name one austere airfield in Afghanistan? Name one austere airfield with AvGas available? Name one austere airfield with rockets, rounds, and bombs to reload? I don’t know of any. So the AT-6 would RTB to the same airfield as the F-16s and A-10s, only slower….
    The one capability the AT-6 has over the fast jets? Afghans may be able to afford them, and we could train Afghan pilots.

  • Mark

    “The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force, department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.”

  • STemplar

    Very little drugs are moved by aircraft across the border. Most of it is driven or carried from Mexico.

    I also agree that whether we or not we buy a turbo prop we are definitely going to have a need for some COIN oriented option beyond Stan. We are very likely to be involved in Africa, the Arabian peninsula, for some time to come. The level of conflict is unknown, but I am pretty sure we won’t need stealthy hypersonic bombers, or F22s, or F35s much in Somalia.

    I also agree that a collapse in Mexico is a distinct possibility. So did the Pentagon in last years threat assessment, when they pegged a collapse in Pakistan and Mexico as a two most likely near term fiasco’s we would have to address.

  • pedestrian

    Just give the program to the Marines, not the Air Force, and have the prop operate under Marines. The Air Force will be happy to get rid of their own, and the Marines will get another CAS.

    • ustechray

      The only COIN/CAS/ ISR single turboprop designed for the mission was the A67 but the AF killed it for fear of loosing F22 money. The wars of today and tomorrow are ground wars needing this A/C designed for this mission, Let the fast movers take control of the airspace and turn it over to the low cost air to ground aircraft for the next ten years. If you win in a country what do you give them for an AF? Not F16’s
      1 F22 = 70 A67 w/ guns and hellfires, fast as A10, 12 hrs loiter. Army loved it , AF said no way we dont buy prop planes. We are the modern AF

  • Jerry

    I see that Mark did not read that article about the value of T-6s, or perhaps he doesn’t understand it. Using his logic, we don’t need UAVs either.

    What about costs per hour? How slow can a jet fly? Does he realize the value of a back seater? Can 20 T-6s provide better support than one F-15? It is very expensive to fly fuel to Afghanistan, something like $400 a gallon. With T-6s you need fewer convoys. There are many cases where GIs died waiting for support, because there were no austere bases nearby. Why, because the USAF had no aircraft that can fly from them.
    We had jets in Vietnam, so why did stupid grunts prefer the slow turboprops?

  • tom

    We’d be much better off without super duper targeting pods in Afghanistan. The USAF has slaughtered thousands of Afghan civilians and enraged the nation with its high-tech whiz bang stuff. We need slow fliers that can fly low and slow and see what is what, not B-1s and F-15s flying from luxury bases hundreds of miles away that want to dump their load on “something” so they can zoom home.

  • Maybe-I-know

    “Light attack aircraft” = cheap. Pilot = not cheap. There is no benefit for a “light attack aircraft”. Good CAS = survivable, long loiter, lots of firepower. There is no way we can get this for cheap. Absolutely no way. The AF should continue investing in the AC-130 or A-10 platform (don’t think we can afford all nor do I think it makes sense). Find ways to improve the A-10s loiter time or the AC-130s survivability and you got yourself an excellent CAS platform for low to medium intensity conflicts. This will allow the fighters and bombers do what they do best.

  • STemplar

    If we do have some A10s in storage suitable for conversion, and if it wasn’t cost prohibitive, I would think maybe pulling the 30mm in favor of smaller caliber like a 25mm or even 20mm, and use the corresponding weight/space savings for additional ammo and fuel, would make for a dandy COIN variant A10. It would have longer loiter time, more bullets, plus still retain a degree of lethality in addressing armor in a conventional conflict. Maybe even skip an internal gun completely in favor of more fuel, and then just use a gun pod if needed.

    • chaos0xomega

      This would be a good move. Don’t get me wrong, I love the GAU cannon that its got, and while still useful in an anti-personnel role, I think it could be better served by a smaller gun with a greater ammunition capacity, increased fuel load to increase loiter, and bolt on a more advanced sensor pod. Better yet if they made it a 2-seater variant (like the proposed night attack variant).

      It might not make for a true COIN aircraft, but it may just be ‘good enough’ (although I would prefer to build new copies of the variant rather than convert existing ones, I know Fairchild Republic is dead and buried, but someone has to be able to build them with some pre-installed upgrades, etc. without a significant increase in cost. They cost only what 20mil a copy in todays dollars when they were built back in the 70s?)

  • sooperfly

    What’s readed is an upgraded A-10 STUKA that can do ground support throughout the spectrum. The A-10 has shown itself to be reliable, tought and able to stay on station to support. We don’t need a turbo prop, just a newer more capable A-10 type aerial platform.

  • DaleAS

    The Air Force has a long history of fighting any attempts to involve it in direct ground support missions and relevant aircraft. Preferring strategic missions and platforms, interceptor/fighter missions that generally take place at higher altitudes and their platforms has been the Air Forces pattern for many decades.

    They fought the A-7 Corsair, the A-10 and similar platforms, preferring to to stay high and fast rather than get down in the dirt with the ground support missions and the platforms they bring.

    Ask any Viet Nam Era (or since) combat arms Marine (or soldier) who their first preference for close air support was when they needed on time, on target (fast response/low and slow) air to ground weapons delivery when it hit the fan and they will usually say Marine or Navy.

    That’s why the Marines, much to the chagrin and displeasure of the Air Force have always insisted on organic close air support and the acquisition of true air support aircraft. The Air Force on the other hand choses the previously high visibility strategic missions like nuclear, cargo, long range high altitude bombers and fighters and avoiding the in their mind less prestigious and more dangerous low and slow mission of close air support that brings less funding and visibility in congressional hearings.

    To their credit they do those missions pretty well, but it is a shame to let the AF have the big vote that denies ground forces adequate close air support. In this day of fewer dollars (the usual during Democratic funding control, i.e.. Carter, Clinton, etc.) and shared/dual and multiple mission platforms the grunt on the ground gets the shaft.

    The Marines never forget that you can bomb all day, launch missiles all night, but until a grunt goes in and takes/holds the real estate in question, you haven’t achieved anything. That’s why every Marine regardless of job, from computer programmer to disbursing clerk or intelligence analyst to nuclear weapons team member knows that ultimately the only reason for their being is to support that guy with the gun on the ground.

    And the AF hates that, preferring to drop bombs from 10,000 feet while Marine and Navy pilots get shrapnel damage from their own weapons deliveries if necessary, willing to get in the weeds to make sure the grunts get it on target - on time.

    In a war like Afghanistan, when the infantry is under fire and calls for close air support, they should get what they need and if that means a low dollar, low prestige single engine single seat prop job, right now from a position in loiter, then that’s what should happen. Not wait until it’s too late for a snoopy scarf above the clouds to finally get there and drop close counts from above the clouds.

    Weapons and weapons platforms and their underlying technology have changed and for the better but in the end, it’s all about the grunt in the sh-t with the gun and the AF never has understood it. After 30 years in the Navy and Marines and numerous tours with on aboard AF bases and units, the basics remain the same. The equipment and missions change, but the attitudes and people haven’t.

    Bottom line: Mattis is a combat Marine, a Marines Marine and if he says Marines and soldiers need this relatively cheap and more functional aircraft, at least to give it a try, then he should be given deference over a bunch of desk jockies and high fliers, most of which probably don’t know the true meaning of “CLOSE AIR SUPPORT”.

    • chaos0xomega

      Well put. Also important to remember (this means you, naysayers) that the Navy is currently field testing this program right now in-theater, and appears to be having some success with it, otherwise Mattis wouldn’t be pushing for it. You can’t argue with results, no matter how much you might try.

  • Dean

    All you air force types making excuses need to go sit in the corner, put on your dunce cap and shut the hell up.
    -The ONLY reason the A-10 is still around is because Congress says so. the air force would’ve gotten rid of it years of ago if they had their way
    -You say the F-16 is doing a fine job of close support-you must be smoking some good stuff
    -I say let the Army/Marines have this COIN platform, it will get lots of use for years to come and it will save lots of lives and hopefully end this stupid war quicker
    -Lastly, the world doesn’t revolve around shiny go fast jets, and stealth bombers, the world does revolve around the soldier and Marines on the ground.

    • chaos0xomega

      Dean, I AM an “Air Force type” as you put it, and I am glad that Congress is forcing the A-10 on the AF, I acknowledge that the F-16 is not good enough, and if you look through all my comments in response to this blog entry, you will see that I am very much an advocate of the COIN concept. Please refrain from lumping us all together like that, I am sure you wouldn’t enjoy it if I lumped together every member of your service branch (assuming you are in the service) for whatever stupid moves your branches leadership has made.

  • Weaponhead

    I’m not sure that using a T-6 (or similar) is a good idea in any conflict. It was never designed to survive combat. The A-10 is a good example of what is needed to survive combat and even they get shot down.

    So the best solution may be a combat variant of the T-X trainer that the USAF wants (if they can ever dig out of the F-35 money pit) to replace the T-38. Of course they still need a new bomber, new fighters for the ANG, a standoff jammer…

  • Art

    Given the air force’s unwillingness to fly low and slow enough to do close air support effectively it is time to give the army back their fixed wing aircraft.

    I’d like to see a updated version of the venerable OV-10 Bronco. The Marines were getting good results from a Bronco with a belly mounted gun turret shortly before the program was canceled and there was a promising version with a 105mm recoilless rifle slung underneath. Just the thing for low-intensity conflicts where you want to blast a single hut, not the whole village.
    http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/ov-10.htm

    The bottom line is that the air force can’t play astronaut and do the sort of close air support that the army and marines need at the same time. Time to cancel one or more of the air force’s programs and and use the money to let the army buy a dedicated close air support arm of their own.

  • @Earlydawn

    How would those of you who’ve been on the ground feel about taking the money and putting it into a lighter attack helicopter for the Army? Not as light as the Kiowa, but not as burdened with the tank-killing sensibilities of the Apache. Something closer to a Cobra, perhaps.

  • Maybe-I-know

    How about a “one way ticket” drone? The unit cost of a shadow 200 is $275,000. It has a speed of about 100mph, a range of about 65 miles with 6 hr loiter time and a payload of about 100 lbs. I can easily see somebody playing with the design to get the unit cost down (perhaps low tens of thousands?) and stick a decent size warhead in it with some basic comm and navigation equipment. This type of fire support will have super long range, low maintenance and no dirt road/airfield required. You can have some serious fire support coming out of remote outposts. Use this system when out of artillery range and want to decrease the use of system of systems CAS from jets and decrease the use of small arms vulnerable maintenance intensive helicopters.

  • Eric Holdaway

    I’m also an Air Force officer, with 5 years of “purple” time under my belt, including at CENTCOM, and plenty of downrange time.
    1) Stop trying to build a force to fight in Afghanistan, since by the time we get these things we’ll have either won or been withdrawn, and the next fight won’t be like this one.
    2) That said, we do need to hedge our bets, so arm the MC-12, maybe buy a few more, and be done with it. It has plenty of loiter time, and with the FMV ball and potentially other sensor capabilities, dedicated crew for combat ID, and integration into the larger reconnaissance-strike complex, it’ll be vastly more effective in a COIN fight than an AT-6 or Tucano. Also cheaper, since we won’t have to acquire a whole new aircraft with its own training and logistical tail.

  • StevenDDeacon

    For this type of mission the A-1 SkyRaider’s credentials were pretty darn demonstrative. The A-1 SkyRaiders flew in so many conflicts and were so highly effective that they were flown till they were completely worn out. The Air Force has been trying discontinue the Fairchild A10 Thuderbolt II air ground attack and support asset for decades even after its sterling record in Gulf War of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and Iragi Freedom, as well as other sandbox operations. An aircraft as the venerable A-1 SkyRaider with modern technology and avionics would be a significant asset for loitering, targeting, and attacking enemy ground as well as targeting enemy ground assets for our jet air ground attack assets. A state of of the art A-1 SkyRaider would also have an excellent ability to track down and identify our downed aviators for extraction.

  • MCQknight

    I don’t get where everyone’s getting this “The Air Force hates the A-10” stuff from. Show me one quote where a high ranking Air Force officer badmouths the plane, and I’ll show you a hundred were top brass sings its praises. Additionally, out of the hundreds of fighters the Air Force is about to retire, only like 6 are A-10’s. If the Air Force so despised the A-10, then they wouldn’t be going through the trouble giving the entire fleet new avionics and new wings in order to push their perfomance as far out into the future as possible.

    • StevenDDeacon

      Agreed. But the Air Force only began singing praises for the A10 Thunderbolt II after Desert Storm and Iragi Freedom. Before that there were continued rumors that the A10 was going to be retired because it did not belong in a modern jet fighter ground attack air force.

  • ohwilleke

    One of the best things the administration could do with be to redraw the Key West agreement to give the Army its own ground support and logistics Air Force. At the same time, the Marines ought to get full charge of the ships they use and responsibility for sea based fire support for themselves.

    • Dean

      The Navy/Marine team is on paper two different services but in reality they are one service. The Navy gave birth to the Marines (in 1775) and they raise them up (same schools, both Navy and Marine officers go to the the Naval academy, both attend the same aviation training, and they share the same airplanes) to be “Naval” infantry from the sea therefore they are called Marines. The SecNav is in charge of both. The Marines is a component of the Navy much like the submarine, surface, and Navy air forces are. The only platform Marines don’t serve on (except for special forces) are submarines. Even though I was in the Navy my drill instructor was a Marine! The Navy wouldn’t be the Navy without the Marines and visa versa, so your suggestion is a bit ‘uneducated.’ Whereas, the Air Force was physically seperated from the Army because of it’s own doing.

  • joebad

    Bad news AF bashers - AF didn’t kill this program. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Phil Nuffer

    In reading the previous entries, I see that most everyone is fighting the last war. With the overwhelming proliferation of hand held anti-aircraft devices, any low-and-slow aircraft would be a death trap. Loitering in one area is no longer viable due to the destructive capabilities of the enemy ground troops. The Russians found this out in Afghanistan and left. As has been mentioned previously, helicopters are too vulnerable to ground fire, and so too would be any slow flier. Planes are relatively cheap at hundreds of thousands of dollars, but pilots are not. Even a turboprop pilot costs millions of dollars to train…not counting the costs to his/her family when they are lost. No, warfare cannot be considered safe, but losses in personnel should be minimized if possible in completing the mission.
    I don’t think that state of the art has given us a possible solution at this time, but, for the present, the UAV, the helicopter, and the A-10 seem to be the best we can come up with.

  • Tom

    Any Why is the Navy running his program??? Most of this will be conducted over land not water…lets get back into our lanes in the road…

    If you are involved in Naval irragular warfare, make sure it involves water somewhere…

  • Prof.Marley, Col.ret

    Sure, the Prop-driven aircraft are slower than jets—which give the pilots time to hone-in on their targets with full visual time while firing their weapons. The old Vought-Corsairs give us plenty of air-cover during ground combat in Korea (1950s) and the jets could not use their guns as long. “Loitering-time” is givng the pilot enough time to do a job that needs time to get it done right. General Mattis knows what he is talking about. Unfortunately, the politicians do NOT want to listen to their Generals.

  • Prof.Marley, Col.ret

    Prop-driven fighter-bombers did well during the 1950s in Korea. The old Vought-Corsairs, driven by Marine Pilots—brought the fight-to-the-fight, whereas the jets could never come in close and long enough to be as effective during ground combat. General Mattis knows what he is talking about. Unfortunately, the ‘politicians’ do NOT—as they do NOT want to listen to their Generals.

  • Robert A. Fritts

    My dad was a grenedier on the russian front in 1943, got wounded and then learned to fly. He flew He-219s at the end of WW2, came to the US as a 17year old POW, stay as a minor and enlisted in the USAF in 1948. He became a officer and flew Mustangs then A-26s in Korea. Because of his background he flew was always assigned to odd aircraft. But he never forgot being a grunt. I’ve done 2 tours in Iraq and 4 in A-stan and I truely believe that the USAF(and most USN and even alot of USMC pilots) have forgotten the GRUNTS.

    Maybe the wild comments on this page about making a strategic air command and rolling the rest of the USAF into the Army is not such a crazy idea. No pilot training until you have served in a leadership position in a Combat Arms Unit. Let the Strat boys fly around in shiny jets and let warfighters fight wars.
    also just a note the order of preference in most of my A-stan tours for support was AH-64, B-1B, British Harrier and then French Mirage2000.
    just my 2cents.