Small Wars Journal

The Case for Light-Attack Aircraft

The Case for Light-Attack Aircraft by Rep. Michael Waltz – Military Times

Congress is finalizing the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and one of the key issues is the future of the Air Force’s meager light-attack aircraft program. It’s a program that has struggled to gain traction with Air Force leadership since the first iteration appeared in 2009 despite major engagements in irregular warfare in austere locales all over the world.

Small teams of special operators on the ground engage in unconventional warfare in very remote locations, partnered with local allies to provide our nation a strategic economy of force. Their success depends on the immediate ability to synchronize on-call combat power to overwhelm the enemy at the critical point and time. A key component of that combat power is American airpower.

Without it, those same special operators have with them only what they carry on their backs.

Today’s special operators’ missions still demand a rugged, highly maneuverable plane that can loiter and throttle-down so low and slow that pilots can visually acquire a target and destroy it with highly controllable fire if necessary. Why? Because brave American special operators will be on the ground in very close proximity to that target. Light-attack planes can operate on remote airstrips with little maintenance very close to these isolated forces.

But the Air Force recently terminated its program to acquire an affordable light-attack plane optimized for these types of missions. Instead, the Air Force intends instead to purchase three planes from two different manufactures to continue further experimentation and evaluation…

Read on.