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AF Light Air Support Aircraft

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Folding wing wouldn't fit in with the point of light-attack...This plane needs to be as uncomplicated as possible IMHO and the ass pain of ferrying them to overseas locations (can we say 10-day tour across the world?) is less then the ass pain of teaching a foreign mechanic how to service a crazy folding-wing contraption.

Not complicated at all, wing swings down/unfold, the crew chief locks it into place, off ya go.

Watch some Discover/History Channel sometime and watch the Hellcats, Wildcats, etc... launch off the carriers these guys just started engines, taxied, unfolded wings, launched, spanked (sts) some Zeros, went back to the boat. Repeat as required. Wait for nukes, VJ Day, go home, start baby-boom.

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Cleared Hot,

I'd have to disagree

The USAF decided to go to the A-1 during Vietnam because it had much more capability down low and slow in the flak heavy environment of CSAR and COIN. Granted in its primary form, it is a maintenance heavy nightmare but if you update the platform replacing airframe aluminum and steel with titanium, composites and kevlar, vacuum tube avionics with digital avionics, comms and weapons systems and the radial engine with one or two (via coupled turboshaft) turbo prop engines then you would have a lighter, faster, more robust aircraft with the ability to operate in all environments. The short pole would of course be the requirement for air supremacy or at least air superiority.

With regard to the weapons, granted ECM pods and GBUs are not necessary in the COIN environment. However, if your replace these heavy weapons with rockets, hellfire, maverick missiles, cluster bombs and 30mm gun pods, you would have a killer weapons system that could stay long, carry a heavy load and handle the small arms air threat that characterizes the COIN battlespace. In fact, the Turbo-Skyraider could take the Sandy Role back from the A-10 and in some cases (threat dependent) support SCAR and AFAC missions.

Bottom line, old becomes new in the aviation all the time. The first tilt rotors were tested in the 50's. The F-4E was built with a gun because because the USAF realized that it still needed to dog-fight in close. The F-4D had issues in close...

Maybe its time to bring the A-1 back with 21st century technology... It would be a killer COIN/CSAR/AFAC aircraft in the right hands.

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Cleared Hot,

I'd have to disagree

The USAF decided to go to the A-1 during Vietnam because it had much more capability down low and slow in the flak heavy environment of CSAR and COIN. Granted in its primary form, it is a maintenance heavy nightmare but if you update the platform replacing airframe aluminum and steel with titanium, composites and kevlar, vacuum tube avionics with digital avionics, comms and weapons systems and the radial engine with one or two (via coupled turboshaft) turbo prop engines then you would have a lighter, faster, more robust aircraft with the ability to operate in all environments. The short pole would of course be the requirement for air supremacy or at least air superiority.

With regard to the weapons, granted ECM pods and GBUs are not necessary in the COIN environment. However, if your replace these heavy weapons with rockets, hellfire, maverick missiles, cluster bombs and 30mm gun pods, you would have a killer weapons system that could stay long, carry a heavy load and handle the small arms air threat that characterizes the COIN battlespace. In fact, the Turbo-Skyraider could take the Sandy Role back from the A-10 and in some cases (threat dependent) support SCAR and AFAC missions.

Bottom line, old becomes new in the aviation all the time. The first tilt rotors were tested in the 50's. The F-4E was built with a gun because because the USAF realized that it still needed to dog-fight in close. The F-4D had issues in close...

Maybe its time to bring the A-1 back with 21st century technology... It would be a killer COIN/CSAR/AFAC aircraft in the right hands.

COIN aircraft do NOT necessarily have to carry the weapons load of the A-1 or the A-10, in fact, carrying that much stuff to the fight is part of the efficiency issue. Modern PGMs mean that I don't need to carry 16,000lbs of stuff around all the time. The solution to COIN is CHEAP, SMALL, and AFFORDABLE.

Still unsure why everyone assumes a COIN aircraft will be down in the mud...completely disagree with that assessment. Presence is almost as effective as fires once operations begin and there is a certain unexplored value to giving partner nations their own ISR capability. Parking a AT-6B at 14,000' over the battle for multiple hours at a time with a great sensor will change the fight. The best part to partner nations is they can operate this platform for less than $500.00 an hour. Load up a turbo A-1 with tons of iron just does not fit the model and it can't be done that cheap. With regard to the A-1, where would you get the airframes? How much would you spend repairing and modernizing the ones in the boneyard,...if there are any left? At-6B and the Super T are proven AND in production. Build it now and get this stuff to the fight rather than pursuing a romantic notion of the Hobos and Sandys flying home with the big blue scarf in the slipstream after a successful save.

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I heard of some article speculating that recent UPT grads who got tagged for Preds would make good candidates for AT-6B pilots should the Air Force ever procure some. Anyone read something along those lines?

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I heard of some article speculating that recent UPT grads who got tagged for Preds would make good candidates for AT-6B pilots should the Air Force ever procure some. Anyone read something along those lines?

Which is the problem...

Big Blue views AT-6B as a way to season new pilots...that is NOT COIN.

Every BRACed A-10 and F-16 unit wants a piece of this program so they can stay in the manned aircraft business.

What is needed is a squadron dedicated (or four), dedicated to COIN operations. As cadre of various ranked who live and breath COIN for more than one tour of "seasoning".

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I heard of some article speculating that recent UPT grads who got tagged for Preds would make good candidates for AT-6B pilots should the Air Force ever procure some. Anyone read something along those lines?

I read an article that stated this, but it was written by someone who wasn't involved in the process in any way whatsoever -- it was his speculation on why the T-6 would be the best platform for the COIN role.

Unfortunately, fresh UPT grads are not the "good candidates" for this platform. Initially, at least, this platform needs seasoned CAS and FAC pilots, with ISR, PGM, strafe, and NVG experience.

The fighter porch assignments guy at AFPC said that there is a line "a mile long" of experienced fighter guys who are climbing all over each other to get assigned to this platform when it comes out.

Good luck to the Pred guys to get thrown a bone, but I highly doubt this will be that bone. If it is, it will be a huge mistake.

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I read an article that stated this, but it was written by someone who wasn't involved in the process in any way whatsoever -- it was his speculation on why the T-6 would be the best platform for the COIN role.

Unfortunately, fresh UPT grads are not the "good candidates" for this platform. Initially, at least, this platform needs seasoned CAS and FAC pilots, with ISR, PGM, strafe, and NVG experience.

The fighter porch assignments guy at AFPC said that there is a line "a mile long" of experienced fighter guys who are climbing all over each other to get assigned to this platform when it comes out.

Good luck to the Pred guys to get thrown a bone, but I highly doubt this will be that bone. If it is, it will be a huge mistake.

Will they use WSOs in the back seat (w/the weapons/sensors/CAS experience)?

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While first assignment pred dudes with cold hands may not be ideal for the COIN role, having a fleet of AT-6's dedicated to ACE, exposing sensor operators to manned flying, and SF support would be extremely beneficial. Leave the COIN to the old heads but these things are cheap enough for a huge order. New UPT grads are a depreciating asset and need to keep up their flying currency (along with everyone else). What better way to use these aircraft, than throw a crew together and go support ground pounders on Joint exercises, teaching them how to integrate UAV's in the battle space? Seems like it would be a lot easier to fly a T-6 to Fort Bragg than tear down a GCS, truck it across the country, and set up everything on arrival. And what about the MORALE? This would be a huge boost to morale and motivation, as well as attract more volunteers to UAV's. Of course, leadership sentiment as of late appears to be, "if you have time for ACE, you have time for another orbit" so who knows.....

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Any argument that deals with Pred pilot morale or adds a non-combat mission to an undermanned and over tasked community will fall on deaf ears.

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Spouting the company sales pitch...

Not sure how "training and a limited operational capability" equates into proven COIN capability.

Sensor package, avionics, armor, weight, weight, weight, more weight...

The AT-6B is beginning to sound more like a F-16, albeit with a prop and without the ability to air-to-air refuel.

edit for sarcasm

Edited by contraildash

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Guest flyguysteve

Spouting the company sales pitch...

Not sure how "training and a limited operational capability" equates into proven COIN capability.

Sensor package, avionics, armor, weight, weight, weight, more weight...

The AT-6B is beginning to sound more like a F-16, albeit with a prop and the ability to air-to-air refuel.

It's the Air Force way... Try to make a great idea/ weapons platform a multi-role player while making it less effective for its' intended purpose. Focus on the "LIGHT" and make it a maneuverable striker with a glass cockpit... If only we had John Boyd and the "Fighter Mafia" fighting for this one!!!!

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The fact that this aircraft was discussed in an ACSC paper makes me weep for the future of Air Force acquisitions. See attachment.

Epic typo on page 4, line 2. "Skyradier's role."

Skyraider. Comon.

Edited by dontshavemyhead

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Unfortunately, fresh UPT grads are not the "good candidates" for this platform. Initially, at least, this platform needs seasoned CAS and FAC pilots, with ISR, PGM, strafe, and NVG experience.

Good luck to the Pred guys to get thrown a bone, but I highly doubt this will be that bone. If it is, it will be a huge mistake.

Agree in general with the new guy thing, but there are lots of folks in this squadron that have extensive experience in all kinda aspects that would be perfect, the F-15E WIC guy we just got, I am pretty sure his experience in the jet and now UAV would bring nothing but positive influence to the future with regards to an airframe with so many different options, the same could be said for our A-10, AC-130, F-16 etc...we have folks from all over. Eventually they will get another assignment (look ma, positive outlook!)

Of course, leadership sentiment as of late appears to be, "if you have time for ACE, you have time for another orbit" so who knows.....

That's all that matters.

Any argument that deals with Pred pilot morale or adds a non-combat mission to an undermanned and over tasked community will fall on deaf ears.

In order to fall on deaf ears, it has to be made. But you are totally right.

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Guest Scribe

Looking like the 100 Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance aircraft may not be for USAF afterall:

Schwartz Clarifies LAAR: The primary reason why the Air Force is pursuing the light attack armed reconnaissance (LAAR) aircraft is to have the capability resident in its general-purpose echelons to build partnership capacity with allied air forces, says Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Speaking Thursday at a Center for National Policy-sponsored event in Washington, D.C., Schwartz said LAAR will give the service the ability to transfer the skills for operating light attack airplanes to the airmen of maturing air forces in partner nations. The Air Force plans to choose the industry supplier this November and buy 15 LAAR airframes in Fiscal 2011. While the Air Force isn't looking at LAAR to perform close air support in its own ranks, the service has identified "a limited need" for a light platform to serve in that role, said Schwartz. Accordingly, Air Combat Command is pursuing a concept called OA-X

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I remember watching the miniseries documentary about the Blue Angels with Russ Bartlett as their CO. Did he get out early to work at Hawker/Beechcraft? I'm just curious.

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He's got a little bit of a strange theoretical implementation plan.

The OA-X squadrons established at F-15E bases are unique in that a select number of crews dual-qualify in both the F-15E and the OA-X. This program sought to provide a companion aircraft to mission-ready crews and allow them to meet sortie requirements for proficiency while flying a less expensive airplane. As a side benefit, it allowed the F-15E wings to increase their ability to absorb new aircrews. Although successful enough to continue, the program has not expanded to other aircraft types. Essentially, the F-15E crews have divided into two bands of capability within the squadrons. On the one hand, crews that fly the F-15E exclusively tend to become instructors faster in that aircraft, and only those crews can maintain proficiency in certain weapons, including the GBU-15, AGM-130, and GBU-28. Crews qualified in both the OA-X and the F-15E, on the other hand, have an opportunity to accrue flying hours and obtain combat experience faster—an attractive prospect. The OA-X crews maintain proficiency as forward air controllers (airborne) (FAC[A]), which the F-15E Strike Eagles could not support; the F-15Es’ FAC(A)-qualified crews are all dual-qualified.

This whole idea supposes that there is some kind of excess time and manpower in the F-15E world that could be filled by the addition of OA-X. In my experience, F-15E squadrons, just like every other squadron, struggle to fill the flying lines that they have while maintaining their queep at the same time. Guys are all ready flying their asses off -- it wasn't unusual on my latest tour to see guys tag 1,000 hours on their FIRST FLYING TOUR because of all the deployment flying. That was completely unheard of during my first spin through the F-15E community. In short, there's not some lack of flying that's plaguing the community that could be filled by OA-X.

On top of that, aircrew qualification and proficiency would be a nightmare. It is tough enough to stay somewhat "proficient" in all of the various missions and weapons we all ready have, especially given the current spinup-deployment-reconstitution-upgrades cycle. Again, the author supposes the creation of two separate classes of crews...I think he'd find that there all ready is such a division, and those lesser qualified crews are called "attached" and filling those OSS, Group, and Wing jobs while staying BMC in the squadron instead of CMR.

To add a completely different aircraft, and all of it's missions and weapons, into the mix will dilute the capabilities of both aircraft.

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Perhaps he is talking about the future when the deployments die down and the flying hour program suffers due to the impending cuts.

At any rate, I think we ought to press ahead with the OA-X. Using F-15Es, B-1s, F-16s, etc. in Afghanistan is like using a Superbowl team to play high school ball. They are overcapable for what's required, still age just the same, and cost way too much for what's needed and then when the Superbowl rolls around (i.e. Taiwan Straits), they aren't available 'cuz we wore them out. But I guess we can't do the OA-X because that would counter our message of being "all in"...

Edited by pbar

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He's got a little bit of a strange theoretical implementation plan.

No shit. Fail.

Using F-15Es, B-1s, F-16s, etc. in Afghanistan is like using a Superbowl team to play high school ball. They are overcapable for what's required, still age just the same, and cost way too much for what's needed and then when the Superbowl rolls around (i.e. Taiwan Straits), they aren't available 'cuz we wore them out.

Flawed logic. The airplanes you mention are not "overcapable" for the mission.

Proper allocation of airpower and application of capabilities is what needs to happen.

You don't save your best weapons/tactics for the end of the war. You plan for sustainment to meet all tasking.

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I've read your reply over a "few" times and still have no idea what it means. Must be the Budweiser...I would switch the cap from pocket to pocket to spread out the wear on the braid...when it got too bad I would trade for a new one at the entrance to the nearest O' club

No shit. Fail.

Flawed logic. The airplanes you mention are not "overcapable" for the mission.

Proper allocation of airpower and application of capabilities is what needs to happen.

You don't save your best weapons/tactics for the end of the war. You plan for sustainment to meet all tasking.

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The author has a vision for an extremely large fleet of these aircraft. Way more than I think is warranted.

This platform is better served as a FID aircraft to help stand up partner nations and to provide SOF support in a semi-permissive environment. It would also be easier to support small scale expeditionary type endeavors from small austere type airfields.

Using it in PACAF? Not so much.

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Using it in PACAF? Not so much.

Except for our FID efforts in the Philippines and the potential to use low-footprint light-strike/recce against JI et. al. that have attacked us in the past...

I get what you're saying though. 100 aircraft = a shit-ton of support and personnel that don't exist right now and probably won't in the future considering our budget situation. You can get a lot of bang for your buck when you utilize a niche capability correctly and the OA-X could fill a smaller role really well for a lot less long-term cost.

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