Got a note from a friend of mine the other day who's a big proponent of so-called "Counterinsurgency Aircraft."
Truth be told, he nixed his cash-out career as a lobbyist to work for a COIN plane-making company, but the former Marine Hornet driver knows of what he speaks.
It's a shame the Air Force seemingly deferred a decision on COIN planes and a COIN wing or squadron or whatever Mike Vickers said they were going to outline in the QDR.
I would like to get the "real" cost of doing business with a Predator, when you factor in additional Sat's, people, ground stations, etc...I agree whole heartedly. I know those grunts waiting for the balloon to go up in Marjah would like nothing more than a couple Spads and Spectres to give the bad guys holed up there a what for.
Compares pretty badly to the the Air Tractor - $5-$6 mil fully decked out, 10 hours time on station - from the austere strip at the FOB (or Camp Belleau Wood if it were there today) with no transit time. Imagine the difference if LtCol Christmas was able to brief face to face with the pilot and forward observer who would fly cover over his battlespace - for 10 hours at a time - one crew, feeding targets and imagery to each Cobra, Harrier and Hornet coming in for close air support.
We had that kind of long duration, manned capability in Vietnam in the O-1 Bird Dog, the O-2 Mohawk and the OV-10 Bronco. About time we had it again.
Bottom line, is that no sensor today can give a pilot the same situational awareness when he is in a trailer north of Vegas looking at a few flat screen TV's. For Airborne Forward Air Controller and Forward Observer duties a good man, with a lot of time on station, sensors and weapons can save dozens of lives.