USAF Light Attack Decision in November?

A U.S. Army general today dropped a bit of interesting news about a U.S. Air Force program today. The air service will decide the winner of the Light Air Support — or COIN plane — contest in November, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller told bloggers this morning.

For years now, the Air Force has been looking to buy a handful of light, turboprop-driven planes that can be used to train foreign pilots and carry out light attack missions. Embraer’s Super Tucano, already used throughout Latin America for these missions is a perfect example of this type of plane.

The Super T has been pitted against Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 (shown above) in the competition for up to 20 birds to help train the nascent Afghan National Army Air Force.

However, the program has been scaled back considerably since early 2010 and seemed stalled out when original the June 2011 contract award date came and went without a peep from the air service. Then, last month, news surfaced that the Air Force was to choose a winning plane in September.

Here’s what Fuller, deputy commander of programs for NATO’s effort to build the Afghan military and police, said today when DT asked for an update on the Afghan air force:

They have asked for a fighter jet, the F-16 specifically. Instead, we’re going to provide them a close air support, turboprop aircraft and it’s in source selection right now with the U.S. Air Force. The U.S Air Force is going to buy that same aircraft and when the U.S. Air Force decides what aircraft they’re going to procure, we’ll buy the same aircraft. So, sometime in November they should complete that source selection and we’ll start fielding them in about the 2014-2015 time-frame.

(I’ll let you know what the Air Force says about this when we hear back from them.)

Fuller was explaining how the U.S. is guiding the Afghan air force toward buy the right, aka cost effective airplanes such as the light attack fighter and 20 of the twin-engine C-27A Spartan transport despite the fact that local officials sometimes want to buy expensive hardware like F-16s or brand new C-130Js. “They have asked for the C-130 and we said, you can’t afford a very expensive aircraft,” said Fuller.

The same goes for ISR gear, according to the two-star.

They couldn’t afford it; there’s a big infrastructure associated with ISR. That goes back to Afghan-right, Afghan-first, Afghan-like. This is Afghan-right. This is where they have to negotiate with the U.S. government and other countries to say, ‘I still need some additional capability can you provide that for me?’ Instead of buying jet aircraft why don’t they negotiate with us and other countries to have us provide some air support that’s located here on a temporary basis or a rotational basis.

The whole premise behind Fuller’s Afghan-right concept is to give the nation equipment that will meet its security needs but won’t break the bank — especially important given the fact that the country is trying to build its civil infrastructure.

Every now and then I’ll hear the comment when I’m talking to a senior leader here [where they] say they need tanks and jets. I said, ‘you can’t afford that and what we need to think about is how do you afford this because, in the future, I don’t believe the U.S. government is going to be interested in paying a really high sustainment cost because we gave you tanks and jets and they’re very expensive to operate.’ So, they’re starting to understand what’s appropriate for this country because if you have to spend all your cash just to sustain your military force then what about the schools?

If we have them spend all of their available cash on maintaining this big force that we could potentially put here, they’re not going to be able to afford schools, they’re not going to be able to afford medical care. So we’re trying to be very good stewards of your tax dollars and my tax dollars and ensure that we do the right thing for Afghanistan and give them the capability that they need.


  • Commisar

    Hmm, both are great aircraft for their role, the only issue I see is tht the AT-6 has no built in guns, unlike the Super Tucano. But I have a feeling that the AT-6 will win this one due to logistics, since the Airforce already flies the T-6 Texan 2

  • bubba birner

    well if you think about it using the propeller type aircraft they are able to make more maneuverable turns and they will be more able to get in tight areas. pretty smart of the airforce i think.

    • chaos0xomega

      Back during ‘nam we used them (ground attack turboprops) as heavily armed escorts for rescue helo’s. Would be nice to see the Sandy’s get (what I consider to be) an upgrade, especially since PJ’s are becoming increasingly important to our operations.

    • 8up1977

      I’d love to see Scaled Composite’s ARES fill this role.

  • chaos0xomega

    Dear Air Force,

    For my birthday (late November) I would be most pleased if you would pick a quality turboprop aircraft, and then decide to procure a realistic quantity of them, say a Wing’s worth.

    With Love,


  • The_Hand

    Is it just me or are the stats for the AT-6 and the Super Tucano inferior to those of the P-51?

  • Jayson

    “we’re trying to be very good stewards of your tax dollars and my tax dollars and ensure that we do the right thing for Afghanistan”

    Wow that’s something you don’t read nor hear about everyday. Defiantly don’t see it everyday, particularly back home much less over there.

    I say 2-5 of each then they can decide on their own what’s best for them and they can form a force with their choice of craft. Just one way for them to stand on their own 2 feet and handle affairs and us able to step back.

  • William Van Der Ven

    So what happened to the Super Bronco program? When we flew the original OV-10 out of Thailand that was a sweetheart aircraft that would fit well into the close-air support AND recon missions for the Afgani Airforce.

    • FormerDirtDart

      The Super Bronco program was never more than a piece of paper

  • bob

    Dumb question and I apologize in advance but … didn’t we choose the F-35 because we decided that a single plane could do everything. Oh wait .. now we need a light aircraft for this specific scenario (totally agree with it btw). How can we be so sure that we won’t have another special need next year?

    Doesn’t it show that the concept of one aircraft doing it all is just not working?

  • William

    Based on the article, it appears that we are trying to maintain a budget restriction for the Afghanis. Hell one F-35 would break the bank until the next poppy crop matured.

  • jamesb

    Ok….Am I missing something….

    This 411 is from a ARMY General?
    Second …
    Yea..It does seem like the US military has decided to dial down the Afghan’s….
    Next…..Is the US Army gonna get any of those C-27J’s the Air Force ain’t in a hurry to buy after stealing the order from the Army?

    Last…Is this guy implying that the ARMY is gonna but some light attack a/c since if it’s up to the Air Force you ain’t never going see a ‘anything’ that isn’t a JET fIghter that goes fast!

  • jamesb

    maybe the Marines can steal this stuff from the Army….

    Everybody else is picking their pockets…….

    • major.rod

      The Marines have been touched the least. Air Force lost a slew of F22s and is fighting tooth and nail to keep F35 production. The Navy has lost ships and took some cuts with the latest ship in development along with some real shoddy work on two new “configurable” ships putting the whole class at risk. The Army lost FCS, a HUGE program (and rightly so it wasn’t going to happen). This is after losing the Crusader, Comanche, ARH70 and Land Warrior.

      The Marines lost the EFV. Hardly paying the same price as the other services.

  • Kski

    Better idea. Just reinstate OV-10 Broncos back into service. It fits all the criteria and is battle tested from Vietnam to Desert Storm. Just need some modifications for Hellfires and JDAMS and you got a kick ass and take names turbo prop. A elementary solution I say.

  • Big Guy

    I am naive here, but why not make new A-10s to replace the aging ones? The Air Force seems to hate that bird.

  • wallpatrol

    When I was in Nam, the 0v-10 was referred to as a flying coffin and nobody wanted the dastardly beast, especially if you had ot crash land one, it would fold up in a wad of scrap.

  • itfunk

    Like Iraq we are trying to keep Afghanistan’s government weak by limiting the equipment we send to them. Probably a good idea since Kabul will fall the month after we leave. But it’s still a slap in the face to our supposed allies.

    • Mastro

      Afghanistan can’t swing a fleet of F16’s and sure can’t support them. If its a slap in the face- buy me an Indy car for my commute.

      F16’s for COIN is stupid anyway- Tucanos or Broncos would be better if we had them.

      figures that we will will- just as we are leaving.

  • Don Sooby

    Give the Douglas Skyraider (A1E) an engine upgrade… there must be hundreds of these aircraft mothballed somewhere. Great weapons platform and versatility.

  • drball

    Not, they are gone….Besides they where worn out by the end of the 1970’s. As for the OV-10X VX-9 tested an Updated OV-10D+ in the early 1990’s it had Mavericks etc and was not bought…..But I guess the real winner will be the AT-6A and why do you ask ? Because Congress will not allow any one else to get the contract…

    • major.rod


  • Will

    Amateurs talk about antiques, pros talk about fuel consumption, maintenance hours, and spare parts.

  • grnich

    Real pros talk about matching equipment with identified requirements

  • Musson

    Better an aircraft that flies and fights than one that sits on the ground because you cannot maintain it – or are too afraid to risk it in combat.

  • Sgy Jmack

    Why not simply give them a bunch of hang gliders and Ultra lights. It worked in Mad Max…

  • Sgy Jmack

    Built in STEALTH too…

  • Lance

    Dont get it. A A-10 can do all of that and carry more ammo and munitions than a prop plane. If you want a prop plane goto a A-1H Skyraider they worked well and did NOT use problem proned turboprop engines like a AT-6A. With cuts comming I dont see this going very far since all the money the USAF will have will go to save the F-35 anyway.

  • TMB

    So I’m reading this right – the Afghan government that couldn’t pay or buy radios and body armor for the police I trained this year thinks it can afford a fleet of $30 million aircraft?

    • Infidel4LIFE

      Yeah, our 30 million. Wat a money pit. We are being bled white financially..

  • Infidel4LIFE

    Shouldn’t this plane be a 2 seater, a pilot and WSO? It has to have hardpoints for weapons, fuel, and modern weapons systems. Im no flyboy, but flying low and slow, dodging fire, a WSO can handle the weapons, like PGM’s and Mavericks Hellfire or SDB’s. Pls build this in the US, NOT Brazil.

  • commando

    As a Vietnam vet, I agree we should give them the A-1H Skyraider. It worked well in Vietnam…

  • purpleslog

    Shouldn’t a UAV per pursued instead?

  • flatwoodsflyer

    Guess whos going to pay for these A/C letting the Afganistans fly a kite is dangerous, just give them the A/C and get our troops the hell outta there, this war is a no win, didn`t we learn anything from the Russians, read my lips “get em the hell outta there”

  • flatwoodsflyer

    God I hate the rhe “Rag Heads”

  • seeker6079

    Note the ever-lengthening timeline. That’s deliberate. The USAF is trying to drag the buy out to the very end of the Afghan mission as to minimize the number of planes that it will need to buy: “oh, we don’t need that now that we’re out of Iraq and Afghanistan”, sliding past the fact that they prevented the buy while in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • RedLeg6

    Oh, B.S. with the lightweight crap. Bring back the A-1 Skyraider.

  • CARL


  • Krazy K

    All I have to say is do a google search for AT802U and see an affordable close air support platform that reminds me of the Skyraider from back in Vietnam. Nobody seems to like it because its slow and doesnt have ejection seats and can carry tons of ammo.

  • Mark Carver

    Wouldn’t this aircraft be easy to shoot down with the shoulder mounted surface to air missiles Iran is providing the Taliban?

  • drball

    Chaff and flare and a towable decoy any one……I’d be more afirad of all those MANPADS that Libya lost…Coming to an air port near you…To bad our airlines did not buy the defense’s like they where supposed to…….