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On 2/11/2020 at 4:49 PM, tac airlifter said:

There is a plan to man 75 armed overwatch aircraft by divesting some current platforms.  It will be an AFSOC program partially funded by SOCOM, a similar construct to an existing program.
 

 

https://www.airforcemag.com/socoms-armed-overwatch-expected-to-replace-the-afsoc-u-28-fleet/

Well there ya go. @tac airlifter with the solid gouge as always!

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1 hour ago, Clark Griswold said:


Yeah, if they’re not going to buy new iron


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I think even if they do buy new hardware they are going to go with something along those lines. It’s a easier transition those crews than to find pointy nose types to put in cockpits and both light ISR fleets were intended to be “temporary”. They now have been around for some time and are getting up there in airframe hours. 
 

There is also a significant reduction in risk operating out of the small arm/manpad environment and using PGMs. It’s a trade off because you are loosing gun capes 

A light gunship could be a option but cost is going to be significantly higher per tail than getting AT-6/Super T or hanging some sensors and hellfire racks on a modified already in production civilian airframe. 

Edited by viper154

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1 hour ago, viper154 said:

I think even if they do buy new hardware they are going to go with something along those lines. It’s a easier transition those crews than to find pointy nose types to put in cockpits and both light ISR fleets were intended to be “temporary”. They now have been around for some time and are getting up there in airframe hours. 
 

There is also a significant reduction in risk operating out of the small arm/manpad environment and using PGMs. It’s a trade off because you are loosing gun capes 

A light gunship could be a option but cost is going to be significantly higher per tail than getting AT-6/Super T or hanging some sensors and hellfire racks on a modified already in production civilian airframe. 

Agree, both turbos (AT-6 and A-29) have guns / gun pod capability but methinks this platform (if acquired for reals) will primarily employ APKWS, Hellfire, JAGM, SDB or like PGMs when called to go kinetic 

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USAF 101 and effects based planning...what effect are we after? Is it the ability to provide “armed overwatch” of SOF teams in far flung places and over a long period of time? If it is, I think the AT-6/A-29 just aren’t the best solution due primarily to loiter time considerations. 

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6 minutes ago, Danger41 said:

USAF 101 and effects based planning...what effect are we after? Is it the ability to provide “armed overwatch” of SOF teams in far flung places and over a long period of time? If it is, I think the AT-6/A-29 just aren’t the best solution due primarily to loiter time considerations. 

Good question

@tac airlifter and anyone else who can speak to this (OPSEC and NDAs considered), are the SOCOM requirements the same as the LAAR program's from 2009?

From wiki (reference link bent):

Rough field operations. The RFI requires that the aircraft be capable of operating from semi-prepared runways such as grass or dirt surfaces.
Defensive package. The aircraft will have to include several defensive measures, including a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), a Radar warning receiver (RWR), and chaff and flare dispensers.
Armored cockpit and engine.
Long loiter time. The aircraft must be able to fly 5 hour sorties (with 30 minute fuel reserves).
Range. The aircraft must have a 900 nautical mile (1600 km) ferry range.
Data link capability. The aircraft is required to have a line-of-sight data link (with beyond line-of-sight desired) capability of transmitting and receiving still and video images.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The aircraft will have to laser track and designate targets, as well as track targets using electro-optical and infrared video/still images.
Weaponry. The LAAR aircraft will need at least 4 weapons stores capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including 500 lb bombs, 2.75-inch rockets, rail-launched missiles, and illumination flares. The aircraft will also be capable of aerial gunnery, either with an integrated or pylon mounted gun.

 

Desired traits (but not requirements) included:

Infrared signature suppression for the engine(s).
30,000 ft (9000 m) operational ceiling.
6,000 ft (1800 m) takeoff and landing distance.
Aerobatic capabilities capable of maneuvers such as the Immelmann turn, Cuban eight, and Split S.

I agree with @Danger41 that the fight has moved on (Grey Zone, Hybrid op environments) and a platform for  purely permissive at relatively short ranges is not viable for the on-going and likely future COIN / LIC theaters.

 

Edited by Clark Griswold

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The U-28 has a little more life in it than the statement portends but it is something that should we discuss recap now would be a smart idea. I for one, hope we don’t go with Johns Hopkins to study this again.

 

The platform will have to be very carefully determined because we can’t just generate A-29 or AT-6 pilots at a 1:1 replacement.

 

5 years is 1 year after I retire. I cannot believe I am that old.

 

 

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21 hours ago, Clark Griswold said:

Good question

@tac airlifter and anyone else who can speak to this (OPSEC and NDAs considered), are the SOCOM requirements the same as the LAAR program's from 2009?

From wiki (reference link bent):

Rough field operations. The RFI requires that the aircraft be capable of operating from semi-prepared runways such as grass or dirt surfaces.
Defensive package. The aircraft will have to include several defensive measures, including a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), a Radar warning receiver (RWR), and chaff and flare dispensers.
Armored cockpit and engine.
Long loiter time. The aircraft must be able to fly 5 hour sorties (with 30 minute fuel reserves).
Range. The aircraft must have a 900 nautical mile (1600 km) ferry range.
Data link capability. The aircraft is required to have a line-of-sight data link (with beyond line-of-sight desired) capability of transmitting and receiving still and video images.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The aircraft will have to laser track and designate targets, as well as track targets using electro-optical and infrared video/still images.
Weaponry. The LAAR aircraft will need at least 4 weapons stores capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including 500 lb bombs, 2.75-inch rockets, rail-launched missiles, and illumination flares. The aircraft will also be capable of aerial gunnery, either with an integrated or pylon mounted gun.

 

Desired traits (but not requirements) included:

Infrared signature suppression for the engine(s).
30,000 ft (9000 m) operational ceiling.
6,000 ft (1800 m) takeoff and landing distance.
Aerobatic capabilities capable of maneuvers such as the Immelmann turn, Cuban eight, and Split S.

I agree with @Danger41 that the fight has moved on (Grey Zone, Hybrid op environments) and a platform for  purely permissive at relatively short ranges is not viable for the on-going and likely future COIN / LIC theaters.

 

If only there was an aircraft in the Air Force inventory that checks all the boxes, (besides loiter time, which a slick T-6 can’t even do) is designed purely for attacking stuff on the ground, has a significantly longer endurance than any pointy nose, with a proven track record dominating in the COIN and traditional environment. But lets cut their funding and scrap 44 of them.

More armed drones sound like a much better use of money than a single engine prop plane that’ll have no standoff and realistically carry maybe 1 or 2 bombs to even make TOLD seeing as it cant AR after takeoff.

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1 hour ago, Hawg15 said:

If only there was an aircraft in the Air Force inventory that checks all the boxes, (besides loiter time, which a slick T-6 can’t even do) is designed purely for attacking stuff on the ground, has a significantly longer endurance than any pointy nose, with a proven track record dominating in the COIN and traditional environment. But lets cut their funding and scrap 44 of them.

More armed drones sound like a much better use of money than a single engine prop plane that’ll have no standoff and realistically carry maybe 1 or 2 bombs to even make TOLD seeing as it cant AR after takeoff.

I hear ya but I think SOCOM is looking for a platform with a lighter footprint logistically and financially.  Light Attack vs Heavy Attack.

More RPAs could be a solution but honestly it sounds like overkill when you consider the full footprint to bring that capability to bear.  Physical and telecommunications infrastructure, PED, contingency planning, integration/deconfliction with manned aircraft (civ & mil), etc...

Not hating on RPAs but sometimes it's just easier to send a manned platform for a specific mission to support a specific team/unit for a specific time vs everything needed to have a platform to deliver persistent ISR/Strike.  Just my two cents, RPAs bring a capability more suited for a campaign or long-term operation, then the costs justify the capes brought to that long(er) term fight.  

Likely, this could be solved with a split buy of manned and more unmanned but then economics of a small specialized fleet(s) rears it's ugly head.  Then if you want a tailored solution for specific requirements or additional capability, you have to develop or modify an existing design and you bump into more money, time and risk to develop.

Again, what are they looking for?  How much capability and up to what cost?  

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RPA's, we are finding out, are a nightmare to deploy anywhere besides CENTCOM. Turns out, countries with developed Telecom infrastructure dont like it when you want to come in and consume huge portions of their highly limited spectrum. Especially in the middle of a global economic race to develop wireless broadband networks (i.e. 5G) . 

Furthermore, if people could see the SATCOM bill for RPAs you would remove any sense in your brain about them being a low cost option. It's absolutely insane what bandwidth costs! 

Edited by FLEA
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If only there was an aircraft in the Air Force inventory that checks all the boxes, (besides loiter time, which a slick T-6 can’t even do) is designed purely for attacking stuff on the ground, has a significantly longer endurance than any pointy nose, with a proven track record dominating in the COIN and traditional environment. But lets cut their funding and scrap 44 of them.

More armed drones sound like a much better use of money than a single engine prop plane that’ll have no standoff and realistically carry maybe 1 or 2 bombs to even make TOLD seeing as it cant AR after takeoff.

 

It could seek a rough field requirement and operate with a deliberate planning cycle to find/make one for prolonged ops. Something akin to what the expectation with 130s is.

 

Fly in the gas when needed. A 47 or even a CV-22 acting as a FARP is 10k lbs of give easy. Heavier than that is possible, but requires a bit more thought. It wouldn’t even need to stay there as you could YoYo your FARP to a 130 and keep it airborne hold, Gas on call with an expected set up time.

 

We already have this TTP for using RW CAS in the kind of fight we are talking about. We would just need a more restrictive set of requirements when seeking a site for it.

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, FLEA said:

The fact they think a MQ-9 can loiter for 30+ hours shows they know absolutely nothing about what they are talking about. 
 

MQ-9 is great for ISR whack a mole in permissive environments, for a variety of reasons it is horrible for “armed overwatch” CAS, light attack or whatever buzzword label of the day is. 

Edited by viper154

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Well there ya go. @tac airlifter with the solid gouge as always!

Key to the discussion is COMAFSOC’s comment from the article, “SOCOM needs the aircraft to provide responsive fire support “right there where they need it,” meaning it must operate with a small footprint in an austere deployed location alongside the troops it will support.”. That doesn’t read to me like a centralized low-density asset.

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3 hours ago, HU&W said:

Key to the discussion is COMAFSOC’s comment from the article, “SOCOM needs the aircraft to provide responsive fire support “right there where they need it,” meaning it must operate with a small footprint in an austere deployed location alongside the troops it will support.”. That doesn’t read to me like a centralized low-density asset.

If only there were an asset doing literally, exactly this right now 🧐

Maybe we should just update/upgrade/re-platform that capability and call it good.

And it doesn’t have to be either/or when it comes to operating forward with a low footprint and being “centralized low-density.”

SOF assets in other services are great examples where they are ADCON controlled by a handful of home station units/installations, are low density compared to conventional forces, yet operate very forward with little non-organic logistical support required. 

Edited by nsplayr

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