If, like me, you believe the future is one filled with lots of small irregular, what we used to call “brushfire wars,” when they all seemed to be located in Africa, then you’ll find common ground in this latest from RAND’s Project Air Force that calls for a serious cultural shift away from the fast mover mafia’s all air-superiority all the time so that becoming an irregular warfare expert isn’t the “kiss of death” (RAND’s words) for airmen.
With all this being debated, I have to say I am impressed with air chief Gen. Norton Schwartz’s efforts to drag his service into the 21st century with the Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) aircraft initiative, which might, just might, see an order placed this year. RAND says standing up a dedicated COIN wing with about 100 of the light attack planes would go far to help shift that Air Force mindset.
Earlier this week, Hawker Beechcraft tested a beefed up version of its venerable T-6 Trainer single prop it plans to compete in the LAAR fly-off expected this summer. Designated the AT-6, the two-seater features a new 1600 horse power Pratt & Whitney engine that will give the aircraft a larger weapons and electronic surveillance load out.
A beefed up trainer seems just the sort of thing the Air Force needs for the LAAR; nothing too fancy, just effective and low-cost. But I’m still awaiting a high-wing entrant like the Vietnam era OV-10 Bronco. Every bush plane I’ve ever flown on in Africa, where ground observability is key, was a high-wing.