I just read this whole thread. Thanks for writing it ..
Reading the thread, one would think that attack helo's are doomed. They are slower, and lower, than any light attack plane. I understand one can hide behind a hill in a helo,
1) but at some point you will need to expose your self for long enough to acquire a target (and the enemy can acquire you)
2) in a confused environment, one might hide behind the wrong hill or fall into an enemy trap.
What do the people opposed to the light attack plane think of the attack helo?
The attack helo has a place but in a near peer engagement that place is FEBA and no further. Even then I’d expect the attack helo units to take significant casualties.
I don't think that's the right picture. But I'm so willing to be educated.
An A-27 is not a replacement for an F-35. One could buy and operate four A-27's for the price of an F-35. If there are four A-27's then each one is twice as close. And that should help response time. Heck, if the closest F-35 is busy helping others, then having four A-27's in the area is much better than one F-35.
We could both craft plenty of scenarios that benefited either the F-35 or the A-27. Response time does play an important role in CAS today over Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria. If you looked at both of those AOs though you see potentially different issues. Iraq/Syria is a more dynamic threat picture with fast emerging contact and time sensitive targeting required in what is probably a higher threat environment. Afghanistan, even though the US are dropped more weapons this last year than all previous years, is less time sensitive and more responsive TIC scenarios. Afghanistan is of course land locked so a logistically much more difficult situation and a geographically more diverse operating environment.
Basing becomes a big issue for positioning assets closer to the fight. All well and good to have four times the number of CAS aircraft available but in doing so you need to base them somewhere and if you want them to match the response timing then you likely need more bases. Bases cost money, are difficult to defend and place additional lives at risk because of the threat.
You also need more pilots to equip the additional aircraft. The USAF is already critically short of pilots for its primary mission aircraft and adding additional low intensity trained pilots to the mix doesn’t improve overall USAF ability to fight and win a conflict in all threat environments.
Of course I agree that there are things an F-35 can do that four A-27s cannot, but I think the opposite is also true. Like be in two places at once. Or carry more than four times as many rounds for the gun. Or have four sets of eyes in the air.
Also agree there are things an A-27 is likely better suited to than an F-35. Fighters, and bombers, make great show of force assets compared to small turbo prop CAS aircraft and not every TIC requires a weapon to be dropped. The number of rounds is somewhat immaterial, the gun is little used in CAS today compared to dropping PGMs.
Fighters jets, while costing more, also have other benefits like lifting higher quantities of munitions, flying those munitions further, being refueled in the aircraft to extend mission timing and most importantly, being able to operate in higher intensity conflicts where an A-27 simply wouldn’t be survivable. That threshold isn’t high, once suitable and sufficient AAA/MANPADS enter the threat environment a fast jet becomes significantly more survivable and the turbo prop CAS planes and attack helos go home. (pretty sure I have quoted the post Vietnam report in this thread demonstrating how an increased air threat forced these aircraft out of the CAS role).
I always wonder if the US forces have lost all institutional memory of Vietnam.
Nope, plenty of knowledge and understanding of Vietnam. The USAF has been fighting a CAS war for the last 19 years. They have a very good understanding of CAS and have developed their systems and doctrine to be very effective in that environment.
The old P-47/Skyraider/A-10 job of manned fixed wing support is something the USAF has long been loath to invest in, I am glad this is moving forward, if even as a mostly export program. To your point Seahawk, no, I don’t think much ‘memory’ of the challenges of CAS using F-105’s, F-4’s and yes Cessnas and A-1’s/C-47’s exists at this point; the US Military limits the actual force to in truth 20-30 year careers; I think the last Vietnam vet left the pentagon over 5 years ago.
I don’t agree. The USAF is tasked with winning air campaigns that cover both high and low intensity conflicts. Lacking the budgets of the Cold War I can see why they fight the CAS conflict the way they do. You have one USN aviator who has shot down an adversary aircraft since 2003, while you have literally thousands of aviators/pilots who have dropped A2G weapons. The USAF has multiple exercises every year based on CAS scenarios, is a strong proponent of the JTAC scheme which is pivotal to CAS operations today and for most USAF fighter units CAS proficiency is a key training outcome. Additionally the amount of money and knowledge that flowed into ISR to support the CAS fight should also demonstrate how important the USAF saw this role.
SOCOM is actually very, very motivated to provide support for their operators, and exceptional Helo pilots. Less beurocracy/over-perfect spec’s, they will get the radios working and delivering ordinance where needed.
I wouldn’t expect the solution to the SOCOM requirement to necessarily be an AT-6/A-27. USAF Light Attack via OA-X is now dead and buried but armed overwatch, as defined below, being run by SOCOM will be a different competition with different intent.
https://www.janes.com/article/94311/top ... -overwatch
Armed overwatch will provide special operators deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling close air support (CAS); precision strike; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments. It will also fulfil armed reconnaissance, strike co-ordination and reconnaissance, and airborne forward air control.