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,


    • My birthday is in the beginning of November and I had the same thing on my list! Except instead having a hybrid P51/P47, something we can get under $10 mil per unit and build dozens. It can be done…but only by a company like Lockheed in the 50’s without all the red tape and cost overruns! Come on America…the innovation and know how is out there to be the best again…what we really want for (All of Our) birthday is a country that knows how to get some Bang for its tax dollar Buck!

      P.S. For Christmas how bout some videos of gun strafing runs on the taliban ! lol we could only wish

  • 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?

    • major.rod

      Nobody’s building P51s and the turboprop is a better engine.

      • steve

        Maintaenace is not so easy on any Turboprop as it is for liquid cooled or air cooled engine? Your correct in saying nobody builds the best oldie anymore, so it would have to be one already avail, or easily produced…Afghanis want the best for nothing, which as been their motto to date, so why stop now huh? If we could give, or make one avail, that runs on a rubberband, it would easier for them to learn until their education system catches up with this Century.?

    • nsl

      P-51 would def. be cooler, but would need new engine and all sorts of new gadgets to modernize it a bit more. But I would love to see it make a come-back

    • David

      I would love to see comeback of P-51 or P-38 too. Just using modern lighter materials for construction would give them great performance, not to mention 3000+ HP turboprop engine…

    • The_Hand

      I don’t actually care about bringing the Mustang back, I’m questioning why a 21st century COIN platform has inferior performance characteristics to a WWII era fighter.

      • major.rod

        Check the specs. The Mustang is a little faster, less payload, about the same range and carries one less pilot. Couple that with creating a completely new manufacture base and the avionics the Super Tocano and AT-6B make A LOT more sense.

      • blight

        They’re designed for different missions.

        Then again, I wonder if the P-47 has a better statline than the Tucano.

  • 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?

    • nsl

      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.

      On one hand, it is good to implement multiple technologies and whatnot but as you said, you can’t replace everything with a single thing.

      I think most of us know that already, but we still try to maximize the capabilites of any aircraft or equipment we get. And I wouldn’t worry about getting another new thing – defense cuts are coming and they’ll hit hard.

    • jumper

      I agree with you that the one size fits all concept has never panned out, and the F-35 looks like it may end up being another example of that. But, the light attack aircraft makes sense from a cost vs performace perspective. In theory these can be fielded quickly and make a major impact in the field immidiately. The realitive cheapness of the aircraft makes sense… something like this won’t be a factor against a well equiped enemy but for insurgent type wars it fits the bill.

    • Captain J

      Operating costs are another justification–even if the F-35 can do the job as well as a turbo-prop, the cost of operating and purchasing jets is much greater than that of turbo-props. Put another way, if the turbo-prop can do the job as well or better than the F-35, why pay more than we need to? It also frees up F-35s for other missions, reducing the strain on those pilots and airframes.

  • 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!

    • major.rod

      The Army General is in charge of training the Afghans hence his visibility on the issue.

      The Army can only wish to get its own fixed wing. Sadly it has to get by with the biggest helicopter fleet and some UAVs.

      • blight

        Key West, Key West, Key West.

    • MHM

      He is the Deputy of Programs at NTM-A, he holds the purse strings for training the Afghan Security Forces. USAF Action Officers within the Security Assistance Office and NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan work with an Air Force program office stateside to work the procurements for the Afghan Air Force.

      • MHM

        BTW…the C-27s he speaks of are really former Italian Air Force G222s that we are refurbishing and calling them C-27s for ease of recognition.

  • 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.

      • Mastro

        They should be forced to sell Camp Pendleton- only about $800 billion in the best shore front real estate in the world.

        But no- they need it to practice amphib landings.

        • blight

          Cleaning Camp Pendleton adds to the “price” a developer would have to pay. I forget how much it cost to finish up at Fort Ord.

          • AC434

            Still costing. I was in Monterey this last weekend, visiting my mom, and Ft. Ord ranges are still there as well as the bunker/tunnels leading down range. The old barracks are still there, a lot of empty buildings with broken windows

      • GunnyJames

        If you only look at the number of programs cancelled, the good ol’ USMC made out like bandits. However, if you look at it as “what part of the overall operational budget was affected?”, we really took it in the shorts. The LAAV-7s don’t have many more places to put the bubblegum, duct tape, and bandaides to keep ’em running. Real hard to be ambibious when all you have is 12 ton anchors.

  • 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.

    • EJ257

      While I would love to see new A-10s for the USAF, I don’t think the Afghan Air Force can afford them right now – same reason they’re not getting F-16s and C-130Js. Plus from the sound of it the USAF is really getting these COIN plans to train other nations air force – not really to use them in actual combat conditions. We have enough A-10s and armed UAVs for that role.

  • 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.

    • William

      Tell THAT to all the FACs and backseate recces that swore by the aircraft…

  • 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.

    • Gaffer

      Sadly we gave almost all of the old Sandy’s to the RVN forty years ago. Those that are left are hulks moldering away in corners of airbases scattered around what used to be South Vietnam.

  • 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

      Plus the upkeep/maintenance and knowledge to fly one of these is on the cheap…

    • crackedlenses

      Uh, we actually want the pilots to come back alive and in good health; the world’s not ending yet…..

  • 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.

    • MHM

      Both aircraft are 2 seaters….6 of the 20 aircraft will be used as advanced trainers

  • 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…….