U.S. Air Force (USAF) Light Attack Experiment (OA-X) is underway at Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), N.M..
As told by Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern, 49th Wing Public Affairs, in the article Innovative experiment brings AF senior leaders to Holloman, OA-X intent is to determine if industry-provided aircraft can meet many of the sustained demands for combat airpower the Air Force has been experiencing for 25 years and to evaluate their utility in future force structure.
“We want to meet the demands of more permissive environments at lower cost, we want to develop capabilities for contested environments, and use this experiment to evaluate the military utility of these kinds of aircraft and the manufacturing feasibility of these kinds of aircraft,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
During the month long experiment, Air Force pilots are flying basic surface attack missions in Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine turboprop and Scorpion jet, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano, along with the L3 Platform Integration Division’s AT-802L Longsword.
“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Working with industry and building on the Combat Dragon series of tests, we are determining whether a commercial off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”
Highlighted missions include close air support (CAS), air interdiction (AI), combat search and rescue (CSAR) and strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR).
“It’s also about how we do things; we are looking for new ways to do business, new ways to get ideas from the lab bench to the flight line faster, new ways to get capabilities to Airmen who need them today and can’t wait two or three years for a normal acquisition process and the way they were forced to do things in the past,” Wilson explained.
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command (ACC), was also at the experiment and provided ACC’s perspective.
“We are particularly interested in it because as [Gen. Goldfein] has said, we are half way into a generational struggle,” Holmes said. “We are going to continue to fly missions in support of both U.S. ground forces and coalition ground forces to fill in the gaps. We want to find a way to do it affectively, and a way we can afford and in a way that won’t get in the way of us trying to regain our readiness in that most complex threat environment.”
Depending on the results of this assessment, a potential phase two could occur as early as 2018. Phase two is pre-decisional and might involve an Air Combat Command-led and U.S. Central Command-coordinated combat demonstration.
As we have previously reported Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas, director of Air Force public affairs, explained that OA-X program is aimed to find a cheaper CAS platform that would be needed to perform the mission over permissive environments which don’t require F-22 or F-35 stealth fighters. However it must be noted that OA-X program is not focused on finding an aircraft to replace the iconic A-10 Thunderbolt II but rather on finding a light attack aircraft to complement the Hog in CAS missions.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Alexis Docherty / U.S. Air Force and Textron AirLand Facebook Page
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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