The Air Force has been very sensitive about its image over the last eight years of fighting, concerned the country did not appreciate its role in the several wars we are waging.
As part of his effort to make the Air Force a bigger joint player and ensure the service can play an important part in this age of hybrid warfare, Gen. Norton Schwartz, is considering the need for a light propeller driven aircraft for a strike role, similar to aircraft used against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
"There is a legitimate need to talk about the light strike role and the building partner capacity role, and we certainly intend to have that discussion in the coming months," the Air Force Chief of Staff said at the Brookings Institution today. Schwartz said the Air Force would consider this and the development of a counter-insurgency or irregular warfare wing in June.
Schwartz added that the best approach might be to make the primary trainer aircraft something that "could be easily reconfigured into a light strike platform."
The Hawker Beechcraft T-6 is the Air Force's current primary trainer aircraft. Its maker has proposed a modified plane with machine guns and the ability to carry a variety of PGMs so it would seem a natural candidate for this role.
Schwartz said such a plane might be deployed as part of the counter-insurgency wing. To ensure the service gets the most from both its personnel and its equipment, the instructors "could sort of make that transition quickly to a building partner capacity role in the same airplane, and the same crew, and perhaps folks who we have arranged to have language skills that's a part of their repertoire -- that is a very attractive way to solve this problem," Schwartz said.