Air Force narrows light attack selection...

That and it was probably the most expensive option. I was really impressed with the Scorpion and I was really hoping it was going to get selected, but when you compare it to the others, it was going to be beaten. The USAF wants something that doesn’t cost much because if it doesn’t work out, they don’t want to have wasted money on something we can actually use when they could’ve spent it on a much more expensive product that is complete overkill.

EDIT: Yep. Just looked around, per unit cost of the Scorpion (fly-away) is just under $20M per while the Wolverine comes in at a little over $5M per bird. 3-4 planes for the price of one? Sold.


There’s also a pretty good known quantity with the two remaining products. Both have established parts and maintenance programs and inventories. The Scorpion was a “green sheet” design right…? So parts and engineering problems could drive the ultimate cost up significantly as problems are encountered. Both the T-6 and Tucano are fairly well shaken out…


Nothing sells like reliability. Beach has an excellent point. Embraer and Beech have both been churning out these aircraft for a while. That means both the OEM supply chain and aftermarket parts for both are well-established. Air forces like it when stuff is easy to get your hands on. I think there’s almost 1000 units made in the case of the Texan II and Embraer’s turned out about 250 units of the Super Tucano.

Personally, I think the Super Tucano is sexier than the Texan II, but I think it’s going to lose. Beechcraft has home-field advantage, has made more aircraft, and already has an agreement to make the same type as a trainer, which means there’s a lot of parts compatibility. My bet is on the Texan II, but I am wrong all the time. Ask my wife.


While the Texan II has the advantages you mention, the Super Tucano is being used in the TAAC-Air program in Afghanistan. That might give it some foothold in interoperable role.


What better testing program…


All this talk about counterinsurgency after decades of being ill-equipped for it while our leaders prepared to defend fortress Europe from Soviet invasion has me worried. Because now we KNOW counterinsurgency. We are prepared for it and seem to be making purchases around it. That can only mean that the next thing will be the thing we are not prepared for: a major war with nukes, nerve gas, BW, and millions of troops on the move.

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Actually, in military circles, the “Fulda Gap” is still very much alive. The vast majority of the US DOD is quite focused on a huge conflict with a peer power, especially China and Russia. That’s why the OA-X is such a big deal; it represents a relatively large program that focuses on the more likely COIN future as opposed to the big F-35 focusing on a peer power.

Essentially, there’s big money and promotions involved with large, complex programs like the F-35, so both the military and the industry put a lot into thinking about how to use it and where to apply it. COIN is a far more difficult fight to prepare for because it’s far more involved in psychology and how people think as opposed to applying a big enough missile to blow up a target. Hence a light aircraft like the A-29 is more than adequate for COIN but is going to be cannon fodder in a peer conflict. It makes up for this by being exponentially cheaper to acquire and operate, making it far more ideal for a conflict less about raw military power and more about psychology.


The thing is, modern sensor picture of the area of operations (satellite imagery, ISR drones etc.) together with stand-off range precision munitions enable low-performance aircraft to perform operations against low-tech opponents with much less risk than would have been possible 10, 20, 30 years ago.

Back then you needed jet speed to get in an out of an unguided bomb run safely - nowadays you can get a nice live feed and a laser paint of the bad guys from a drone and lob a missile their way from a slow propeller plane without much risk. You still get the pilot’s SA and judgement, so its better than drones alone…but you also get propeller loiter time and operating costs. Quite an attractive combination for today’s limited conflict environment.


Yes and no; the issue remains that PGMs are expensive and a lot of them are kinda difficult to use with troops in contact. Coupled with the targets not being particularly valuable (I sincerely doubt most technicals are worth more than $500) and you’ve got a situation that calls for a pair of .50s, not a $250,000 missile.

The idea is to keep the PGM capability for the few incidents that demand it while supplementing them with alternatives that fit the situation at hand. APKWS is an example of this, as it’s a relatively cheap guidance section that can be put on most 70mm spec rockets. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot less dangerous to friendlies operating nearby than a 250lb bomb.


We could always buy a bunch of the OPHER IR guidance kits that snap on to the Mk80-series bombs and turn it into a cheap precision-guided munition. Elbit makes them and I think the Italians like them.

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Man those Super Tucano Afghan pilots speak perfect english! :wink:

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Aren’t F-16s Dirt Cheap now?

yeah comparatively to F-35s they are. still five figure per flight hour costs. Even scorpion claimed a ten-fold reduction in that to about 2.5k an hour.

Comparatively? Today, yes. It’s not really the flyaway cost, it’s the maintenance to keep them in the air that’s the killer.

You can run a squadron of AT-6s for what it might cost to keep a pair of Vipers mission-ready.

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Yup, exactly. Consider that the AH-64 has an all-up flight hour cost in the realm of $10,000, then consider that an F-16 is in the realm of $20,000, and well… That $1500-3000 hourly cost for an AT-6 starts lookin’ awful damn friendly.

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