Every war we have had - the need to have them has been proven. In peace - the fighter mafia has killed them. Why can't we have them?
From The Economist;
JET fighters may be sexy in a Tom Cruise-ish sort of way, but for guerilla warefare—in which the enemy rarely has an air force of his own with which to dogfight—they are often not the tool for the job. Pilotless drones can help fill the gap. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a pilot on the scene, however, so modern air forces are starting to turn to a technology from the yesteryear of flying: the turboprop.The worst argument against this I hear has to do with "career path" issues. What a bunch of BS. We have hundreds of very good LCDR and CDR pilots who will never fly again who would be more than happy to do this for a few years. Rankings be damned - they're terminal, they know it, they don't care. Ditto hundreds of LTs who don't want to make the USN a career but are doing busy work on shore duty as the clock ticks down. Flying LDO/CWO - you'd have to beat them off with a stick to keep them out of this job. USNR? Why not have a few squadrons.
So-called light-attack turboprops are cheap both to build and to fly. A fighter jet can cost $80m. By contrast the 208B Caravan, a light-attack turboprop made by Cessna, costs barely $2m. It also costs as little as $500 a hour to run when it is in the air, compared with $10,000 or more for a fighter jet. And, unlike jets, turboprops can use roads and fields for takeoff and landing.
In aerial combat, then, low tech may be the new high tech. And there is one other advantage that the turboprop has over the jet, at least according to Mr Read—who flew turboprops on combat missions in Cambodia during the 1970s. It is that you can use a loudspeaker to talk to potential targets before deciding whether to attack them. As Winston Churchill so memorably put it: “When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.”
Sure, there are plenty of foreign examples out there from the Super Tucano to the AT-6 - but what would I find the most interesting ... well ... what do you think about the Air Tractor® AT-802U? "What?", you say - you think it looks like a crop duster? Well, because it is. But ponder this.
The Air Tractor® AT-802U is an economical single engine turboprop aircraft designed for surveillance, precision strike, and rugged dirt strip utility missions. The AT-802U combines an 8,000-lb. (3,629 kg) payload and 10-hour ISR mission capability with the flexibility and responsiveness of a manned weapon system – for a fraction of the cost of unmanned aerial vehicle systems.Proven - I've got your proven hang'n.
» Real-time eye in the sky for ground troop support
» Integrated fire control system
» Training-focused force support
» Small logistics footprint
(when the unarmed version has been conducting counter drug missions) Despite the planes’ having been hit by more than 200 rounds, though, neither an aircraft nor a pilot has been lost.Beats the h311 using a F-35 to do the work.
In part, this is because of the robust mechanics of turboprops and in part because Air Tractor’s fuel tanks have rubber membranes which close around bullet holes to slow leaks. Add extra fuel tanks, which let the plane stay aloft for ten hours, six 225kg precision-guided bombs and more than 2,000kg of missiles, rockets and ammunition for two 50-calibre machineguns, and you have the AT-802U, a formidable yet reasonably cheap (at $5m) warplane.
$5 million a copy to do that? At $100 mil a copy, one F-35 would give you 20 AT-802U.
Air Tractor At-802u Brochure