USAF Re-Opens Light Attack Contest.

Well, the Air Force’s effort to buy a fleet of 20 or so light attack turboprops has kicked off once again. Yup, several months after a ‘paperwork error’ caused the service to tear up the $355 million contract that it gave Embraer and Sierra Nevada for 20 Brazilian-made Super Tucanos in February, the effort is back.

Once again, the service is pitting Embraer’s Super T against Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 Texan with the aim of awarding a contract nearly next year with aircraft arriving in Afghanistan by 2014, according to the Air Force’s May 4 Light Air Support Request for Proposals. Given the fact that this effort has been bouncing around since oh, 2008, it would be nice if the service could get the tiny fleet of planes to Afghanistan before the war is over.

Click here to read more about the light attack effort and here to read the latest RfP.

  • Andy

    Why do we need this? Drone can do a better job…..what a waste.

    • SJE

      The planes are to go to the AFGHAN airforce. It needs to be sufficiently low tech and robust for them to operate and maintain, and not give away any of our technology. Do you really want to be transferring our best drone technology to the Afghanis?

      • Andy

        go to the AFGHAN airforce.??? WHAT ?? OUR STRIP DOWN huey helicopter NOT GOOD ENOUGHT? We’ll create job here in the US and we can also sanction parts if needed.

    • majr0d

      Drones do a better job as COIN aircraft? Uh, no. Drones are great. They aren’t better. Just in payload and the application of guns your argument turns to dust.

    • dddd

      This is the first headline that has made me burst out laughing in quite awhile.

      • Andy

        Go to the AFGHAN airforce.??? WHAT ?? OUR STRIP DOWN huey helicopter NOT GOOD ENOUGHT? We’ll create job here in the US and we can also sanction parts if needed.

        • Mastro

          Really shouldn’t respond- but no- Huey’s are NOT good enough- too slow- probably can’t reach altitude in the mountains.

          • Andy


          • archangel

            umm yeah i think lots should care because allies tend to get pissed if u dont help them…..hueys arent very fast and can get shot down easier.. also, less weapons payload…

  • Black Owl

    This is the first thing the USAF has done that has made sense in the past 3 years. The F-35 cannot replace the A-10.

    • A. Nonymous

      True, but why does that matter to the light attack competition? The Super Tucano and AT-6 are also not capable of replacing the A-10. This competition is not meant to field a replacement for the A-10.

      • SJE

        Yep. You don’t need a flying tank to do CAS against enemy infantry.

      • Black Owl

        No, but a Super Tucano is a step in the right direction. It’s cheap, rugged, doesn’t contain highly classified tech and can be decently armed and remain on station for a good amount of time. This is something that we can use with little risk and provide decent firepower.

        • majr0d

          The Texan is cheaper and nearly identical in performance.

          • kim

            And it’s American, which I suspect will be the deciding factor. The farce surrounding the tanker deal comes to mind.

          • DanS

            Which always amuses that we even have these stupid “competitions”. Does anyone think the French, Germans or British even consider a Boeing product over an Airbus one? Every other country in the industrialized world has an industrial policy. Playing by our own set of rules is killing us.

          • majr0d

            A bit of the “buy American” argument can be countered by the Super Tucano being manufactured here though the Texan II does have a stronger presence here in the states. The key to the argument is that it’s in the system already.

            The biggest challenge is Embraer’s propaganda game. Already got a bunch of negatives with little commentary.

            Check out the article fans……

          • Cranky Observer

            Actually I believe it is Swiss, although the version currently on offer is built in the US by Hawker Beechcraft.


          • BAJ15

            The Hawker Beechcraft that filed chapter 11 last week no less…

          • Magus

            Except that the Super Tucano is superior in payload and endurance. Those being the two primary factors in the CAS mission. Not to mention that it has seen actual combat use against drug lords in South America, who operate in a rather similar manner to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists that it would be used against in Afghanistan. The Texan has never been used as anything other than a trainer.

          • majr0d

            Saying the Super Tuc is superior in payload and endurance is midleading. The AT6B’s stats aren’t published yet (the T6A is). So comparing apples and oranges doesn’t fly?

            25 Columbian airplanes and ONE published CAS mission is hardly a “proven combat record”. We’ve bought HUNDREDS of T6A’s and own over a dozen T6Bs.

            I’m open to a fair comparison but making stuff up because the Super Tuc is one’s BFF airplane is hardly a convincing argument.

    • Nicky

      On top of that It’s been combat Proven and you get references from Brazil and Columbia on the combat proven Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano. Which is perfect for the US Air force to have a mix of High and low end CAS bird.

      • majr0d

        What’s the combat record? Who have the Brazilians been fighting? The dozen or so in use in Columbia don’t have a HUGE combat record.

        The Tucano isn’t a bad plane. It’s just not the hands down winner its fans try to make it. Payload, speed, endurance…

    • William C.

      This can’t (and won’t) replace the A-10 either. That was never the intent of this program.

  • Jeff

    How much money has been wasted just trying to get this on contract?

  • Sgt_Buffy

    The P-51 was spectacular in its ability to support the ground units in WW2, so I have high hopes for the return of the Light Attack field.
    Though I have doubts about the 2014 date.

    • SJE

      Heh! Good point. It seems we are going back to the past with a lot of other things: we are still using B-52 bombers and U-2 spyplanes, and re-embracing 7.62 rounds.

    • Sgt_Buffy

      What I meant by that was that 2014 is only 2 years away, a rush order by the time the contract is awarded and that new tech is not always “better”, and few things can bust a bunker like a low and slow airplane. That’s why the A-10 was such a success for the USA. So I am excited about how they will fare in the new world.

      • SJE

        Got it. You would HOPE that the brass could get this done a lot faster. Its off-the shelf technology. Somehow, I expect any decision to be after November 2012.

      • tiger

        The P-51 was more hype than dominator. Came late to the war. Never domninated In Europe or the Pacific. Other planes like the F6F had more kills.

    • William

      Sorry to burst your bubble, the P-51 was an extremely good fighter, but a VERY bad ground attack aircraft. Its nose mounted radiator cooling system was extremely vulnerable to (light) ground fire and any damage to the radiator would almost certainly overheat and wreck the liquid cooled Merlin within minutes. A lot of pilots got unnecessarily killed while attacking ground targets with their P-51’s.
      Aircraft with air cooled engines like the P-47 and F4U could take a lot more damage from ground fire and still keep flying.

      • kim

        A pity then that it is not the P-47, but the P-51 that is so popular amongst warbirds enthusiasts, that you can literally build new ones from the cottage industri helping them to stay in the air.

        • blight_

          Because the P-51 has a mythology and history, which builds up fans and people willing to get tooling to crank out your parts. The P-47 will die in obscurity, just like Thunderbolt II.

          • kim

            Not to mention the fact that the P-47 was way more espensive to build and to fly than the P-51. Can’t see why it or the Warthog will die in obscurity, though - they are both great aircraft.

          • blight_

            Wikipedia gives the Tbolt’s at-the-time cost as 85k vs the Mustang’s 50k. It’s possible that the Mustang’s cost dropped with economy of scale, especially as Tbolt was rapidly shelved as a front line fighter due to lack of range, whereas the Mustang would’ve received a priority in resources due to the need for a good escort for 8th AAF.

        • Sgt_Buffy

          Consider it Burst. I understand it was mostly an escort fighter, and that the P-47 Thunderbolt (my favorite plane) was more suited to that. But (if you read my post) my central point was that I am hopeful for that type of aircraft back in the battlefield.

    • Noha307

      The interesting thing is that you weren’t the first to think of this.

      Check this out:

    • Pat

      Except that several rounds or flak fragments into the cooling system and down they went. That was their one vulnerability. The P-47 and F4U were much better for ground attack due to their radial engines which could keep on working even with several cylinders shot out and had stronger wings that could take more damage than the P-51s thinner laminar flow wings.

  • John Moore

    Who’s paying I wanna know?

    • EJ257

      Afghanistan is paying for it…they will pay with lithium.

  • Rohan

    In my opinion drones are the next fighter pilots !!!

    • jamFRIDGE

      The problem with that is they lack the instant response time a human pilot would have.

  • Musson

    A cheap flexible aircraft that is easy to fly. Why do I get the feeling that the aircraft will never get fielded - but will be surplused for cents on the dollar like those helicopters we recently sold to Canada.

  • Cris

    I hope they go with Embraer again… it will bring some needed jobs to my hometown. And the Tucano is a very versatile and effective aircraft… not to mention a very survivable low-level aircraft which is important in its intended operating environment.

    • majr0d

      The Texan wil also do the job and is cheaper.

      • majr0d

        Judging by the negatives there must be a lot of Braziians here.

        The Super Tucano has the press but it doesn’t outperform the Texan II (payload, speed, endurance). Price goes to the Texan II. Its been made in the US for awhile. Every US pilot has flown it and is cheaper.

        • tiger

          Just a better plane & not a warmed over trainer. Lose the flag waving.

          • majr0d

            Payload, endurance, speed, price…

            Sharktooth paint jobs don’t influence me.

  • majr0d

    Anyone have any details on why the last competition was axed and there were rumors of a criminal investigation? Seemed to be more significant than a paper error like the author implies here.

    • Vaporhead

      Something to do with the contractors CEO also being the spouse of the lead procurement officer for the USAF. Seems minor. (insert sarcasm here.) ;-) By the way Maj, you also post on the forums?

      • majr0d

        Thanks for the nugget and yes.

        • Vaporhead

          I was kidding about the CEO and procurement officer thing by the way.

          • majr0d

            HAHA, I was believing you though I wouldn’t have repeated it unless I could confirm.

            Strange that nothing’s come out.

  • Pave Low John

    For Chrissakes, stop the insanity. Really, here is what the USAF needs to do to fix this mess.

    Step 1: Train an advisory team on the Super Tucano (preferably from the 6th SOS, they already have a former A-10 pilot there who has helped train the Filipino Air Force on advanced OV-10 ops for the past 6 years).

    Step 2: Assist the Afghan Air Force in purchasing, modifying and training their own Afghan personnel in the use of the Super Tucano.

    Step 3: Let the Afghans do the flying and fighting in their own country with their own assets. It’s called ‘Aviation FID’ and it has worked in Columbia, El Salvador, the UAE and other allied Partner Nations.

    You would think General Schwartz (USAF Chief of Staff) would know this already, being an ex-AFSOC aviator and all, but he has hung out with the Fighter Mafia types too long and forgotten his roots. Too bad, I expected a lot more out of him….

    • majr0d

      Why? We already fly the Texan II?

      • Pave Low John

        The Texan II isn’t designed from the ground up to be a ground attack aircraft, while the Super Tucano is (for instance, the Super T has an internal gun, the Texan II doesn’t). The Super T is a bigger platform and much more suited for future modification.

        Biggest reason, though, is that a lot of foreign nations already use the Super T (I saw a couple in the Dominican Republic, being used by their AF) and they are built by the Brazilians. Therefore, the Afghans would probably purchase them without feeling like the U.S. is trying to cram some half-assed American aviation jobs program down their throat (a clumsy maneuver that we always try to pull on foreign nations. Hell, we tried to do back it in China during the late 1930s, resulting in a lot of suspicion and ill-ease between U.S. advisers and the Chinese nationalists).

        We (the USAF) don’t need to purchase Super Tucanos (or any other type of platform). We need to ASSESS, ADVISE, TRAIN and (if needed) ASSIST the Afghan Air Force with their mission, not do it for them for the next 5 or 10 or 20 years and then suddenly leave after making them completely depending on us for anything and everything.

        That is the whole idea behind aviation FID. You train and advise the Partner Nation so they can fight their own battles, instead of having a massive U.S. presence there for 10+ years, making a mess of things. But hey, why send 20 men now when you can send 20,000 later, right? It worked so well in SE Asia, lets just stay in Afghanistan forever, flying AT-6s and doing High Value Target hits every night for the next decade….

      • majr0d

        Pave - Both the Texan and the Tocano come from a training plane. Internal guns are an advantage but it’s about the only one and it isn’t a deal breaker, you can still mount guns.

        The Texan is cheaper. That’s important to a third world country and the fact that it’s American is a good thing from the perspective of foreign policy AND we’ll likely to be paying for them anyway.

        Don’t think it’s likely the Afghans are going to be doing joint ops with the Dominicans, Brazilians, Columbians and Ecuadorians though they will be flying with us and our pilots are already checked out on Texans.

        I also disagree we don’t need them but that’s a whole other discussion. The facts are the planes are nearly identical in payload, speed and performance. Endurance and price go to the Texan. Internal guns go to the Tuc. One’s a largely American plane the other isn’t. This isn’t an emotional decision.

        • tiger

          Hawker beechcraft is no more “American” than Ford or GM are any more.

        • Pedro

          Why hasn’t the Texan II won the competition then? And how is it’s endurance when you mount wing guns, increasing weight and drag ?

          • majr0d

            Why hasn’t the Tex II won? Why hasn’t the Tuc won? Why did the original competition have to be redone and a criminal investigation initiated? Did something criminal happen resulting in the Tuc’s first win and the Tex II not even being considered? Hmmmmmm…

            Good endurance question. Look it up and let us know.

  • Lance

    Waste of money! Let Afghan Air Force Generals pick and BUY there own plane. Enough of giving money to a government who has its members kill our solders/ Marines and play victim when anything happens to there government.

  • Nicky

    My bet is that the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano will beat out the AT-6 Texan. It’s a combat proven Aircraft that is cost effective, easily to operate and to Maintain. It’s perfect for Air forces that want to start out or have a COIN bird or a CAS bird. Even for the US Air force it is a perfect for CAS, COIN, special forces support platform. It’s also perfect for border patrol as well. I can also see Air National guard units that had A-10’s getting this as a CAS, COIN, Special ops support, border patrol and even pilot training.

    • majr0d

      The Super Tucano has the press but it doesn’t outperform the Texan II (payload, speed, endurance). Price goes to the Texan II. Its been made in the US for awhile. Every US pilot has flown it and is cheaper.

      • Nicky

        The problem with the Texan II is that they don’t have the combat record that the Super Tucano has. The Super Tucano is a Combat proven aircraft and you can get references on that from Brazil and Columbia. I would rather take a combat proven aircraft over and unproven aircraft.

        • majr0d

          Really? What’s the combat record? Who have the Brazilians been fighting? The dozen or so in use in Columbia don’t have a HUGE combat record.

          The Tucano isn’t a bad plane. It’s just not the hands down winner its fans try to make it. Payload, speed, endurance…

          • Nicky

            Go ask Brazil that use the Super Tucano in the Amazon Rain forest. Go ask Columbia who uses them against FARC. I think the Combat record is enough to sell the Aircraft. The plane has a proven combat use.

          • majr0d

            You ask Brazil. You’re flaunting the combat record you can’t cite. Who is Brazil fighting in the rain forest? Tree poachers?

            The FARC, yes but not a huge history. (How many battles you read about lately?) I’ll give you that the Super Tuc has been in combat. “Combat proven record” is more talking point than fact.

            What can the Super Tuc do that the Texan can’t? The blind support to Embraer is entertaining but endurance, payload and speed are nearly identical yet the Texan is cheaper.

          • tiger

            For one thing, the Super Tucano’s guns are built into the aircraft, whereas the AT-6 has to mount guns externally in pods, leaving less room under the wing for bombs. Being bigger also allows larger control surfaces – rudders, flaps, tail – so, they say, the Super Tucano is more stable in flight, which is helpful for low-level bombing and strafing runs. The longer fuselage also means the Super Tucano’s landing gear are further apart, an advantage in landing on dirt airstrips in rugged places like Afghanistan. There more abilty to Modify the Super Tucano.

          • majr0d

            Guns are inside. Fine. Ammo counts towards payload on both planes and there are still other hardpoints on the Texan to carry bombs. The Texan is a smaller plane with the same power as the Super Tuc that translates to more endurance.

            More manueverable remains to be seen. Keep in mind the Texan is serving as a training aircraft. Some might consider that a black mark, actually it’s a plus! Training aircraft tend to be pretty stable forgiving aircraft so you can train pilots (also making a pretty good bombing platform) and that landing gear is pretty tough to handle clumsy and repeated landings. If the Texan was as dainty as Embraer would like us to believe we’d be flying Tocanos as trainers. Yes, they competed against each other.

            Modify the aircraft? With what? Sounds like the “proven combat record” point? Ask the questions, don’t just accept the talking point?

            I’m not going to be upset if the Super Tuc wins but the propaganda and Super Tuc love/flag waving is over the top.

          • tiger

            We had a compettion. The best plane won. The rest is DC lobby efforts & USAF procurement contract failures. Other Air Forces are more than happy with it.

          • majr0d

            You mean the competition that’s under investigation for potential criminal activity and where the Texan wasn’t even considered?

            Yeah, that’s a fair comparison between aircraft. Trying to understand what you’re afraid of.

  • 240project

    If you want a platform to support ground troops, then there is only one choice: AirTractor 802U. With an 8,000 lb weapons load, and a 10 hour loiter time, two pilots, observation gear, and a proven tract record, the other two mentioned above just don’t come close. Of course all of this should have been done years ago, when the Afgan conflict was in its infancy, but chalk it up to our military and government bureaucracy to dawdle and bicker and, in the end, blow it. First, by not even giving the contract, and then canceling it; and, second, by not giving it to AirTractor in the first place. It’s a mini-A-10 for Chrissakes, and which is exactly what is needed. There isn’t going to be any dog fighting in these things. It’s pure ground slaughter that you are looking for.

    • SJE

      I’m not sold on the AT802U, but I noticed that the UAE have been operating a small force of ATs for about a year now. Any reports? I would think that the UAE’s operating environment is closer to Afghanistan’s than the jungles of South America.

      • d. kellogg

        Problem with the 802 is that it’s no faster than any current helicopter,
        and only has a one-man crew.
        Load up with that theoretical 8,000 pound payload, and it’ll be sluggish as a dog.
        Then mention to the pilot the several hours of endurance, struggling with a cumbersome aircraft, and it’s doubtful he/she wants to stay up there for that long.

        802 offers nothing (and less, actually) a helicopter gunship doesn’t already have.
        Base the estimates off cheaper costs, people say?
        Is that per airframe off the production floor, or does it factor in contractor support for the first several years, and an expensive logistics chain for a limited product platfor.
        Apaches, even USMC Cobras, already have well-established, well-understood supply chains and maintenance programs, run mostly by military personnel, not high-dollar contractors.

        • SJE

          I’ll bet that an Airtractor is a helluva lot cheaper and simpler to operate than any helicopter. We are giving these planes to the Afghans, and they need something that they can operate and maintain on limited budgets.

    • tiger

      Well they lost & were dropped from concideration. Sorry, AT is not in the same class.

  • Justin

    I like the idea of this, but more than anything, it looks really fun to fly!

  • Joe

    They should call it Sky Raider II and give three squadrons worth to AFSOC (1 active 1 reserve, 1 arizona notional guard)

    Thend develop a B version that has folding wings for duty on gator carriers an/or transport by C-5. Marines might be interested in buying it when the F-35B is grounded due to imitation airplane parts from china.

    Long live the Spad!!!

  • TMB

    AOL Defense has a different take on this whole episode. Here’s the title of the article and the issue in a nutshell:

    Super Tucano Supporters In Shock: AF To Pick Tucano Or AT-6 Without Flying Either

    • blight_

      “The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 (pictured) is derived from the familiar T-6 used to train both Air Force and Navy pilots, but the basic trainer is significantly different from the combat version, of which only two working models exist.”

      That complicates things. “Significantly different”..?

  • d. kellogg

    Am I missing a pic?
    Because the one at the top of this article is a Super Tuc (right down to the Brazilian-style camo).…

    The AT-6 has a distinct wing dihedral.

    As to “significant differences”,
    BAE has successfully produced dozens of Hawk variants (totalling hundreds of aircraft), everything from the original trainer to LIFT types, light combat platforms, and even the USN’s carrier-configured T-45 Goshawks.
    No one at BAE ever seemed to cry and moan over the multitude of variations in the Hawk.

  • jamesb

    Here we go AGAIN….

    This a/c is for the Afghan AF ….
    The US now has a deal and knows unlike in Iraq they’ll be around for a while…
    Is this a way for us to get to BUY American?
    Could the Army borrow a couple ?

  • TGR

    So what are the Vegas odds that this contract will get screwed up as well?

    This aircraft was needed like 9 years ago. We could have saved billions in fuel costs alone. Google “Logistical Fratricide.” by Pietrucha to know what I mean.

  • Robert Fritts

    The Air Force is reopening another competition? I wonder if that Boeing Tanker will win this one too.

  • Pat

    Why not give them the F-4? At least it has somewhat of a better chance…

  • ltfunk

    Bailing out a bankrupt uncompetetive Beechcraft is the name of the game. Just as the tanker contracts primarly goal was to jkeep an obsolete Boeing production line going.

    • tiger

      Exactly. The biz jet market is dead & they have lobby help in DC.

  • George F.

    This competition would have had some meaning ten years ago. This type of aircraft is putting experienced, irreplaceable pilots at harm’s way for very little benefit at the battlefield. Remember that the A-10 was purpose-built to stem the tide of Soviet armor in Western Europe, and the goal justified high attrition rates, even then the pilot was well-protected. In protracted low-intensity wars there will be an unacceptable accumulative rate of casualties among the pilots for end results that could be handled by larger drones.

    • SJE

      This is for the AFGHAN airforce, for use against insurgent ground forces.

  • guest

    this is silly

  • DGR

    Lots of people are not understanding that this plane will NOT be flown by the USAF. We are buying them, and giving them away to Afghanistan. This is not a A-10 replacement, we will not see it coming to a Air Force base near you, and at $17mil a pop its very overpriced for what it is. They dont need all the fancy toys, they need something that flys and drops bombs.

    • George F.

      Precisely why drones will be more efficient. Squandering what little flying talent Afghanistan has into flying peashooters 24/7 will leave a large gap where real pilots are needed; transport planes and helos, combat and medevac helos. Drones can be used from day one with our support, without any losses to ourselves, and gradually be taken over by Afghanis. Training pilots to fly Tucanos and replacing them regularly is a tremendous cost.

    • tiger

      There is a place for a plane like this in the US. Sending F-16’s to chase Cessnas over Airspace like DC make no sense. As a FAC, it would be more useful scout choppers.

  • Mastro

    If the AF can’t manage this program- we might as well just become pacifists.

  • Bill

    Bring back the A1E.

    • tiger

      Bring back the A6!

  • Mark the German

    Maybe the AF could keep up re-opening the contest until the war is over THAT will save a lot of tax money. What about that Cessna 208B intended to fly over Iraq armed with Hellfires? Could do light cargo duty as well…

  • JackBlack

    F-22 replacement nevar looked betar.

  • Rajarata

    Are’nt these perfect target practice for a a guy with Manpads folks ?

    • tiger

      No more than any other plane.

  • Chet Resko

    If you think the super tacano is a superior aircraft, you either haven’t done your homework or are just ignorant of the T-6’s abilities, which outshine the tacano’s in every category.

    • tiger

      So outshining that it lost the deal.

      • majr0d

        Yes the deal where it was disqualified from even competing because the paperwork was sent to the wrong address and then the whole result was thrown out while the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT investigates.

        Nothing wrong there!

  • JoeB

    Interesting, I was over at the Nellis golf course last week and saw a flight of 4 or 5 such aircraft come in for the break. From the distance could not tell whether they were AT-6’s or Embraer aircraft. Maybe the USAF is hosting a foreign service for training?

    • James

      You saw t-6’s, from the u.s. but they had nothing to do with this article.

  • spastic88

    This is one of the best idea’s I’ve seen in a while as long as it’s used correctly. It’s hard to chase down a target when your planes stall speed is faster than your targets maximum speed. No one is pretending that this planes will see combat against other jets. But for CAS, and chasing down Cessnas, choppers, etc. It’s just plain stupid to be using a $150 million F22 or F35 to chase down some drug runners or Taliban. We’ve seen in plenty of past wars that having the fastest, most advanced technology doesn’t always put as at the advantage

  • todd007

    Yup we’ll give ’em those, but we should make some of these for us! PIPER PA 48 ENFORCER

    Back in 1983 the USAF tested some…..didn’t buy. Would be Great-Grandson of a P-51!

  • mp_19


  • Dustin

    Uhhh….whats wrong with a newer, better, version of the OV-10 Bronco?
    Awesome little aircraft.