The US Special forces wants lights aircraft

The US Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.

According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.

“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.

If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.

The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.

In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.

The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.

The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.

He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base and and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field.

The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”

But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.

The service first held a series of light attack experimental fly-offs and maneuvers at Hollman Air Force Base, in 2017 in a two-phase approach. The experiment involved four aircraft. The Airtractor and L3s AT-802L Longswood. Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano, and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine.

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That’s cool. Kind of like a modern P58

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You done did it again😂

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A-29’s should be back in the springs here soon. Love seeing these awesome attack aircraft.

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Just an update to this story, the Air Force has said they are not going be buying any light aircraft. In a statement to Defense News, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek confirmed that the service will not move forward with a program of record for light attack planes.

Instead, U.S. Special Operations Command has requested $106 million in the fiscal 2021 defense budget for its armed overwatch requirement, according to Defense Department budget materials. As part of that program, SOCOM is set to acquire as many as 75 light attack aircraft, the command stated in a Feb. 3 solicitation.

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