The COIN Plane Race Heats Up

Call it a kick butt cure for a strong case of "Next-War-itis"...

Sick of F-22s, Ospreys, VH-71s and JSFs? Well, then the Combat Air Truck is the plane for you.

Built by Air Tractor, a premier designer and builder of crop dusting planes, the CAT is set to debut at the Paris Air Show coming up in the middle of this month. Built as a purpose-designed counter insurgency aircraft, the CAT sports extremely short take off and landing capability (150-200 feet) with very long loiter (10 hours with fuel bladders) and plenty of lift to carry rockets, GAUs and pods in expeditionary environments.

A source who's flacking the plane tells me the main benefit is the plane's lack of logistics footprint..."everything can be fixed with a wrench and screwdriver," he said, eliminating the need for expensive spare parts, maintenance bays and teams of techs to keep the thing up and running. The Combat Air TruckView Photo SlideshowMake a Free Flash Slideshow

The plane could provide low-cost, long-loiter CAS, convoy escort and FID missions for US troops, allies and contractors flying out of areas as small as battalion -- or even company-level FOBS.

"This is about having breakfast with a convoy commander before launching to provide him with route recon, battlefield overwatch, and if necessary precise and withering fires on anything that gets in the way," my source sent me.

I'm bullish on COIN aircraft and with a USAF chief of staff who's keen on the idea of cheaper, longer loiter, less maintenance intensive aircraft for the current fight and for allies who can't afford $10 million aircraft, this capability is going to be increasingly attractive.

-- Christian

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