Are Low-Cost “COIN” Air Forces The Future of Tactical Air Power? By Tom Demerly, The Aviationist
Small, inexpensive, easy to operate combat aircraft with precision strike capability and long loiter times to provide close air support.
Versatile, scalable rotary wing assets that do double duty as gunships and utility/rescue helicopters.
Aircraft that can be disbursed to unimproved airfields and operated from roadways or even fields while being concealed on the ground.
In the era of the multi-billion dollar Gen 5+ superfighter and hundred-million dollar stealth bombers, is the low-cost counterinsurgency or “COIN” air force the next big defense trend? Many aircraft and systems manufacturers, along with their nation-clients, are betting “yes”.
As countries like Iraq and Afghanistan emerge from the long Global War on Terror and develop their own indigenous air forces the trend for local area defense and simple tactical air solutions is growing quickly. At the same time, strategic air combat capabilities, such as long-range heavy bombing, low observable long-range precision strike and long-range intelligence gathering have fallen to nations with much larger economies like the United States, Russia, England, France and China.
The emerging industry in light, inexpensive, adaptable, scalable and integrated tactical air arsenals is booming, while massively expensive projects like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are under constant criticism and scrutiny from budget concerns…