Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I'll take a Wing please ....

Since 2001 this conversation has been going on; where are our COIN/Light Attack Aircraft?

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.

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.”
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.

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.

» Real-time eye in the sky for ground troop support
» Integrated fire control system
» Training-focused force support
» Small logistics footprint
Proven - I've got your proven hang'n.
(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.

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.
Beats the h311 using a F-35 to do the work.

$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


ewok40k said...

heck, pick any turboprop trainer from starting from Texan II
if you want 2 engines dedicated COIN:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FMA_IA_58_Pucar%C3%A1 if you want 2 engines

E_L_P said...

The military already has COIN aircraft that attack well--and at night. They are called Apaches AH-64s.  More $ per hour to operate? Yeah, however they bring two-aircrew and night  net-centric capability and enough power for hot-high. A salty capable varient of this aircraft would be useful for the Marines.... and the Navy. And the advanced new Cobras are very good.
Then there are the lighter helicopters out there. When the USMC pulls their head out of the sand and funds proper air solutions, maybe someday we will have the right kind of VTOL aircraft.
Advanced Cobra
Advanced Huey
53K for heavy lift
Super Hornet Block II F (two-seat) for carrier and land based ops (most Marine fast jet air these days is landbased on a hard runway.
Kill the F-35B

Byron said...

No offense, but no helo has either the loiter time or the lift to carry bombs and other ordanance to satisfy the needs of COIN. Only aircraft in the inventory now that fills the bill is the A-10 Warthog and the Air Force would love to kill the 'Hog. I say give it to the Army and let the pilots and ground crew lateral transfer. Oh...and screw the Key West agreement, it was a dumb idea then and needs to go away.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Alex, I will take Anti-helicopter devices for the daily double please.
The answer is "This $100 per unit rocket was successfully used in Somalia to negate the US Army's helicopters and recently able to bring down AH-64's over Iraq.
What is an RPG, Alex.

Southern Air Pirate said...

<span>Alex, I will take Anti-helicopter devices for a thousand please.  
The answer is "This $100 per unit rocket was successfully used in Somalia to negate the US Army's helicopters and recently able to bring down AH-64's over Iraq.  
What is an RPG, Alex</span>

UltimaRatioRegis said...

You gotta admit, painted with a camo pattern and maybe some shark's teeth, with a big MARINES down the side of the fuselage, it would be an evil-looking little f*cker. 

A long-endurance platform capable of route recce, being an AO platform for IDF, and carrying 250-lb LGBs would be a Bn FSC's dream.  Pushing one of these down to a company mission (if the pilot was FAC A qualified) would be a hell of a hip pocket punch.  When fires are needed for targets of opportunity, they are needed NOW, not after a 15 min strip alert bird has gotten off and into the AO and permission is obtained from everyone up to SECDEF to take out a dug-in squad of bad guys. 

If you do this right, Muhammed the Mortar Man would really grow to fear the sound of this thing.  And CFACC wouldn't always be trying to steal these sorties for some BS mission elsewhere.

xformed said...

And...when you're done putting warheads on foreheads, it doubles as a crop duster!  Oh, wait!  It does "spray" for "varmints!"

Many inexpensive, low, slow, STOL models around...Sorta like Riverene Warfare in Iraq...we're slow learners to figure out how to recycle what worked before.  Pride and Prejudice thing, methinks.

Anonymous said...

What's old is new again:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-1_Skyraider

Wow, and we've rediscovered self-sealing fuel tanks, just like P-47's had?  Color me shocked, but not surprised.

cv60 said...

Imagine an alternate history where Union officers wonder about  LT Cushing's career path if they him in command of a mere steam launch to sink the CSS Albemarle! 



The issue isn't career path, its mission effectiveness.  Sometimes small and cheap is more effective than big and expensive (I feel a LCS post coming on.....)

Steeljaw said...

I know plenty of E2/C2 folks who will never pass beyond DH or O-5 cmd because they aren't from the "pointy nose" crowd who would leap at an opportunity like this.  One of the best E-2 pilots I worked with came over from the OV-10 community where he'd had time in type over 'nam.  Unconventional career path?  sure -- but then what % of O-6 command/Flag types are VAW/VRC background anyway?

w/r, SJS

ender said...

Yes!  I was hoping someone would mention it.  Use the OV-10.  All weather, night capable, outstanding history, dual pilot, etc.  It was a winner before and a winner now.

Don't ever forget visibility too.  The OV-10 had a huge canopy.  Boyd pointed towards the canopy as one of the reasons F-86s dominated the Mig-15s.  Air to air only last seconds and air to ground lasts minutes.  COIN lasts hours and I want as much visibility as possible to see those nasty little smoke plumes of inbound rockets/MANPADS if I am on station for hours.

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>What's old is new again:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-1_Skyraider  
Wow, and we've rediscovered self-sealing fuel tanks, just like P-47's had?  Color me shocked, but not surprised.</span>

Salty Gator said...

I'm personally a larger fan of the Super Tucano...which is already being operationally tested in theater. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embraer_EMB_314_Super_Tucano

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

We have hashed this one out before over at Lex's, so it's time for me to advocate the digging out of the plans for the Douglas A2D SkyShark.  The only thing that killed it was the unreliable powerplants of the late 40's early 50's.  You can't help but like the idea of a turboprop Skyraider. Go after the nastys with a flying dump truck.  We have reliable turboprops now, and Boeing must have the plans somewhere in thier archives, unless they disposed of the McDonnell Douglas records.

There is an awful lot to be said for new production Broncos, though, I must grant you that.  A very, very cool little beast. 

Aubrey said...

Why on God's green earth could we not have warrant officers flying these? Or even, *gasp* well trained CPOs?

I'm going off the top of my head here, so please correct me if I am wrong, but something like half the IJN pilots at the start of WW2 were enlisted. As I recall, the problems Japan and the IJN had did not revolve around pilot skill (well, not until after Midway, and especially the Marianas).

Redeye80 said...

Come on, where's the tailhook?  Forget mission capability, when was the last fixed wing naval aircraft bought that didn't have a tailhook?  OV-10 maybe?

Unless IRCM has vastly improved, OV-10s were MANPAD magnets.  Same goes with AV-8s, but politics got involved over capability.

Bring back the Spads! 

Salty Gator said...

Mi-24s were MANPAD targets because they flew high and in formation.  This thing, operating alone, flying low through terrain, presents a much trickier solution for this generation of mujahedeen who have not had the benefit of training on MANPADS from CIA operatives.

Redeye80 said...

Kill the F-35B? Heresy!

Any naval fixed wing tactical aircraft bought without tailhook is a threat to the big decks and carrier mafia will always misdirect and kill if possible.

If anything, kill TAI!

Warrant Diver said...

Warrants flying COIN aircraft? That's crazy like Warrants doing deep dives and SOF undersea missions....oh, wait, we do that.

ewok40k said...

Regardless of exact type, for a fraction of modern jet fighter price we can have  CAS for the boots on the ground... certainly worth scratching a dozen or so F-35s to have 100 such machines.
If I would be young officer I'd kill to fly such plane instead of  shuffling papers.

LT Rusty said...

I see these guys - or the civilian version thereof - all the time doing cropdusting in this area.  I've always sorta fantasized about seeing them in lizard-camo, with daisy cutters, rockets and gun pods ...   :)

LT Rusty said...

This right here is another thing I wish had seen the light of day ... imagine how the Taliban would hate having Mustangs overhead.


Charley said...

I believe the T-6B is modified Swiss design manufactured in Kansas by Hawker Beechcraft, although the company is now owned by a Canadian private equity group.  

I'd go with the AT-6B over the AirTractor simply because of crew #2 - two sets of eyes....

11B40 said...


My favorite Platoon Sergeant once told me about a statue at the infantry training center at Fort Dix, NJ.  The statue depicted an infantryman with his bayoneted rifle and rucksack.  The title of the statue was "The Ultimate Weapon".  Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

AW1 Tim said...

Or warrants flting attack helos and other rotary wing platforms. The Army does that right now.

Wstr said...

<p>I have to admit I was a BIG fan of the Super Tucano, but was intrigued to note that an MQ-9 Reaper can now be had for about 10M USD compared to 9M USD (minus sensor turret) for a Super Tuc. For me this added an interesting tradeoff beyond the normal manned jets vs manned turboprops arguments.
</p><p>A Reaper has near similar payload, greater ceiling, greater range & endurance and is only 40kts slower. Both would suffer from the same 'looking through a drinking straw' limitations when deploying smart ordnance from altitude using an EO turret (even turboprop fans generally recognise that it doesn't have the speed or armour to go hedge-hopping), although a pilot would have greater local situation awareness around him when in normal flight (thus unlikely to see a cab-rank of close air support UAVs, unless tight formation software is added to their GCS suites).
</p><p>A UAV may (arguably!) be more deployable across a wide spectrum of threat levels where it is seen as more sacrificial.
</p><p>Of course with close point-here, point-there trading comparisons it does raise the question of if we are introducing a new role, whether we then -completely- break with the sexy traditional fighter like profile, manned or not, and go with something like the suggested 208B Caraven. With the right EO suite it could still deploy similar ordnance from on high. But unlike the Super Tuc or the Reaper it could also drop off advisors and other critical packages between FOBs and even resupply patrols in the field, using Copterbox or whatever comes out of the <span>Low Cost Low Altitude airdrop programme .</span>

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Hosenose anyone?

Jeff Gauch said...

But with 1/5th the top speed you'd need 25 times the number to be able to provide CAS to a given area in the same timeframe.  Combined with the increased compelxity of the support chain you're not going to see any cost savings.

Can these be modified for in-light refueling?  If not you'll need many more airfields, which would provide plenty of targets.  Speaking of targets, the durkas were able to modify RPG's to bring down helicopters.  They can be plenty ingenious when it comes to attacking us.  Jets have the ability to quickly get back to the safety of high altitude.

G-man said...

Well the hidden multiplier here is you can "dust" those jihadistas with some "TDC" (taliban dispersant compound).  My college roomie flew a cropduster before the turboprop days and he was awesome to behold when flying.  I had my fixed wing license and the funny thing was he couldn't fly a 172 or 182 worth a shi__.  Complained about lack of visual references. 

And count me in with the re-engined Spad group.  Turbo-dumpster it would be.  You always want more of what ain't left on the wing when the goons get close.

LT B said...

I was always a fan of the A1 Skyraider.  I'd love to see something fill that role.  I bet the ground troops would love to see a few over head during the day before the AC130 took over at night. 

ETRO said...

Several of the US pilots at Midway were CPOs

xbradtc said...

Well, RPGs aren't much threat to atk helos. They are a threat to slicks at the LZ. 

Otherwise, atk helos are no more vulnerable than any turbo-COIN aircraft would be.

xbradtc said...

Me? I'm in the OV-10 crowd. A military design, twin engines, two seats. Proven, reliable.  It would cost a bit more, but still be relatively cheap. 

But I'm not really concerned about what particular platform might be chosen. I'm concerned that here we are 9 years into two, count 'em, TWO low intensity conflicts with a permissive ADA environment, and this issue is just now bubbling up to the top. The Air Force has been doing their best to tamp down any move in this direction, lest anyone get any ideas about replacing fast-movers with cheap aircraft. 

xbradtc said...

A couple thoughts- whatever platform is chosen should be able to employ a fair range of guided weapons, such as Hellfire, and if the services would get off their butts, APKWS. But LGB/JDAM would be needed as well. 

Guns would be very, very nice to have as well. 

Operationally, despite the Air Force habit of centralized planning and the flexibility of airpower, these COIN aircraft would probably be best used in a habitual relationship with the supported units.  A large part of the effectiveness of FACs in Vietnam was because the crews routinely operated over the same terrain for extended periods, and were able to note subtle changes. The same would be true here. Also, long standing relationships between the air units, and the supported ground units would reduce friction.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Eric Brown wasn't very impressed with the Hosenose.  I respect the opinion of a man with 10K traps on RN and USN carriers.  He disliked the visibility from the cockpit, and the heaviness of the controls. He much prefered the F6F.

Old Soldier said...

No expert here, but just a thought:  eliminate the threat to where these things are based by using a CVE -- if we can convert a tanker into a hospital ship, why not a carrier for these things?  And think what effect this might have off Somalia?

isrousro said...

The Airtractor does have a optional WSO/GIB seat.

The Brickmuppet said...

Slightly off topic but related. The aircraft is advertised as carrying "over a ton" of ordinance.
This equates to at least 3 MK 54 torpedoes.
I don't suggest fitting the aircraft with any ASW sensors ( aside from perhaps pod mounted sonar buoys ) as that would defeat the cheap COIN purpose, but it could be used off a CV or LPH as a cheap way to deliver torpedoes to a contact made by escorts sonars, much like the old Westland Wasp. It can loiter on station waiting for an escort to make a contact for TEN HOURS.  This would give a flight of CAS aircraft an actual hot war use without adding to the basic platforms complexity.

I wonder if it could use a sharply angled temporary deck (to clear the stern superstructure) on a container ship?

Anonymous said...

ever wonder why, with our iMax technology, we can make such incredible movies but still get stuck looking through straws with our EO/IR cameras?  what about frickin panoramic cameras?  how about a Virtual reality headset for our operators?

Anonymous said...

there is already a warrant officer pilot program in the USN

Quartermaster said...

Well, Byron. You've been reading my posts after all :)

I agree with you on the Key West agreement and would like to see it go away. I say give the tactical AC to the Army and reform the USAF into a Strategic AF and make it a joint command alternately commanded by an Army General or a Navy Admiral. Make it a regular part of the rotation for the other three DOD services - just know you will spend one or more tours with StratCom as a pilot or something else that needs to be done. Leave the Air Superiority fighters with StratCom and detail them to theater level if that kind of force is needed and let TacAir fight with the boots on the ground. The StratCom stuff is all the AF really wants to do andway, so let them do it and distribute teh rest where it's needed.

Quartermaster said...

Who on earth thought the Cessna Caravan was an attack AC? It's a twin engine, fixed gear cargo plane, for Pete's sake. If IIRC, it's stressed for Utility which is inadequate for an attack AC. If we're going to go that route, just bring back the B-17 or B-24.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Well during some of the civil wars in places like the Congo, Angola, and the Frontline States in the late 60's and 70's saw Cessna Skyhawk 172's being field armed with underwing 3.5 bazooka set ups and m1919a3 guns to provide CAS. From what I have read a large number of those were setups that would scare not only an FAA inspector, but any compentant AO.

Southern Air Pirate said...

The problem is the camera systems. IMAX is a great for movies, but the cameras are large, bulky, and incredibly sensitive. So its usage on anything beyond some super costly and specialised rigs is out of the mind set of the intel folks

The other problem you have when you change to a panoramic camera or even a VR headset is the chance you could miss valuable intel from just too much information overload. Beyond that as well a panoramic camera is also very bulky as well and in the contrary to what your home digital camera can say it can do. Panoramic photograph causes serious distortion at the edges where you increase the chances of mis-identifying or even missing completely your target.

Anonymous said...


Caravan is equipped with but one engine...high wing,  great for jumping, too.  Can put a blister underneath for cargo runs.

Casey Tompkins said...

As of 2007, cost of the Ah-64D: $18 million. Cost to operate: nearly $3,000/hour.

And xbradtc, as for equivalent vulnerability, even at par it would far cheaper to lose a turboprop COIN craft than an Apache.

The COIN craft listed have higher speeds, longer ranges, and can carry more ordnance.

Using the Apache for COIN is like using B-1s or B-2s for JDAM missions. It works, but it's bloody expensive. The BUFFs are far more effective, and cheaper.

If you really want a rotary-wing craft for this, I think the advanced Cobra and advanced Huey would be better.

Wharf Rat said...

Remember that scene in 'Flight of the Intruder', where two Skyraiders roll in?  Now that's my type of CAS.

If we need this type of A/C, why are we reinventing the wheel?  We have multiple examples of incredible aircraft for CAS.  I suspect modern technologies and weapons can be adapted.

it also makes me wonder why we try and re-invent the shipbuilding 'wheel' - same thing - we have wonderful examples of heavy cruisers, etc that have worked before.  I don't understand why some of those designs, with some tweaking, won't work now.

Casey Tompkins said...

The Bronco was a great craft, and an excellent suggestion. It would be interesting to see how much it would cost Boeing to rebuild the plant, and the modern flyaway cost, especially after adding in all the latest glass cockpit goodies.

As with other suggested alternatives, the Bronco could carry 4,000 pounds of weapons compared to 9,000 pounds for the Air Tractor.

Question: is the A-10 assembly line still in operation, or is that shut down, now?

Casey Tompkins said...

Another point: the digital processing systems in use might not be able to handle all the data you'd get from a real-time IMAX video input.

Casey Tompkins said...

The assmbly lines for those craft have been out of operation for decades, in some cases. How much to build a new plant, how much to train the workers, how much to add modern electronics (possibly the largest single price-buster today), and how many would we have to build to achieve fly-away costs of designs available now?

Casey Tompkins said...

Just for laughs, I knocked out a table comparing aircraft of interest in this thread. Here's hoping it comes out ok.

  Air Tractor Super Tucano AT-6 OV-10 Piper Enforcer A-10 wing area 401 sq ft 209 sq ft 175 sq ft 291 sq ft 408 sq ft 506 sq ft empty weight 6,400 lbs 5,335 lb 4,900 lb 6,893 lb ? 24,959 lb loaded weight 16,000 lbs 7,937 lb 6,550 lb 14,444 lb 14,000 lb 47,094 (CAS) max speed 230 mph 346 mph 364 mph 281 mph 405 mph 439 mph range 1,841 mi 974 mi ? 576 mi 920 mi 288 (CAS) guns 2 .50" gun pods 2 x 12.7mm in pods ? 4x 7.61mm 6x .50 M2 optional 1x 30mm Avenger hardpoints 8, for up to 9k lbs 5 for up to 3.3k lbs ? 7 for up to 4k lbs 10 11, for up to 16k lbs rockets 38 2.75" Hydra "rocket pods" ?

7x or 9x 2.75" FFAR
2x or 4x 5" FFAR
? gobs missiles 8 Hellfire missiles 2x MAA-1 Piranha ? AIM-9 (wing pylons only) ? gobs cost/hour $400 ? ? ? ? ?

A recently retired guy said...

Are you a spokesman for the Fighter Mafia?

SCPO said...

So you are saying that the Navy can't trust enlisted to fly planes?   

Southern Air Pirate said...

A-10 is in remanufacture to upgrade it from the A-10A status to the A-10C status.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Yea but when you have a turbine diving at a target from over 5K down to a couple of hundred feet AGL, it might not be as noisy as a jet turbine helo running at a couple of hundred feet off the ground. So the suprise of an aircraft like the OV-10 or even the EMB 314 Super Tucano rolling in putting rockets on target and then pulling away before rounds go out means your chances are better.
Plus most good COIN aircraft (such as the AT-6 Texan, OV-10 Bronco, and the IA 58 Pucará) are STOL aircraft that have shown a capability to operate from very rough or unprepared fields. This combined with using FARP units, such as what the USMC has designed to support thier ACEs; means they can be a few miles behind the FEBA or hit a FARP unit to get a sip of gas and then get overhead of thier unit they are supporting. Oh, and lets not forget that in a COIN theater that the FEBA is where each of your patrols are, or even the airfield your operating at.

DM05 said...

Great concepts, but as our venerable host calls out, half the battle is with entrenched systems/ricebowls/promotion systems/DNA in the DNA - Dag nammed Navy. Flexible aircraft, flexible promotion and support systems, and innovation to actually kill the enemy, even in a non-sexy aircraft, fly in the face of entrenched bureaucracy, personified by the diversity laden choker white clad dinosaurs in the next post.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Well, how about a Bearcat?

Southern Air Pirate said...

Hmm using a Bearcat for COIN is like using Porsche 911GT3 RS to take the kids soccer team to games/pratice when you really just need a Ponatic 6000 or a Dodge Caravan.

USAF Mike said...

But the assembly line itself has been shut down for several decades.

USAF Mike said...

"<span>Another point: the digital processing systems in use might not be able to handle all the data you'd get from a real-time IMAX video input."</span>

This is something that is often forgotten in the "MORE MORE MORE" mentality some have developed regarding UAVs.  The issue (now) isn't so much that we don't have enough aircraft/crews to support the ridiculous amount of orbits the Army wants, it's that we don't have the support infrastructure in place to handle all the video they're generating, and that this isn't something you can spin up out of thin air (although we're trying.)

ewok40k said...

In 2008, the Colombian Air Force used a Super Tucano armed with Griffin bombs inside Ecuadorian airspace during "Operation Phoenix", destroying a guerrilla cell and killing the second-in-command chief of FARC, Raúl Reyes

Two Pucarás shot down a Royal Marines Scout helicopter with 7.62 mm machine gun fire on 28 May, while it was on a casualty evacuation mission. This was the only confirmed Argentine air-to-air victory of the war.<sup></sup><span>[</span>7<span>]</span>

USAF Mike said...

Air Force wants to kill the Hawg?  In the 1980s, maybe.  That's a tired old cliche that always gets trotted out and it's just not true, at least not for the past decade or two.  If we want to kill it so bad, why are we dumping $2 billion into rewinging them and another billion into new electronics, cockpit equipment, and the ability to carry MIL-STD-1760 munitions (JDAM/WCMD)?

As for the break up the Air Force discussion...where do assets like the C-17, which can do both strategic and tactical missions, go?  How about the F-16, for which the same applies?  F-15Es?  Same.  Hell, nowadays our strategic bombers are extremely capable CAS platforms thanks to MIL-STD-1760 munitions.  The issue is that the lines are not drawn very neatly between "tactical" and "strategic."

Not to mention that we're talking about ending the AF's existence as a separate service but no one seems to mind the Navy's army having their own air force.

USAF Mike said...

While the AF has been slow on it, saying that it is only now getting attention or that we're still actively avoiding this type of stuff isn't really fair...Project Liberty has been going on since ~2007 (http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123154150) and the LAAR program has been going on since last year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_Attack/Armed_Reconnaissance). 

The real issue is that the pressure to get more drone orbits has eaten up most of the service's money/attention regarding low-intensity conflict.

Wstr said...

</p><p>Granted -nothing- beats a jet for deploying at speed for 'fire-fighting' across an AO, but the turboprop debate started in earnest when US & NATO were air assaulting into new areas and the Taliban were exploiting the 'helicopter gap' between the length of the required mission and the endurance of the attack helicopters that had escorted them in. After that they could do a low tech version of 'shoot-n-scoot': engaging for 20-30mins and relocating between compounds or ditches before the scrambled jets arrived. 
</p><p>The suggestion was that a turboprop could stay on station so dash speed to an emergency was not an issue. Also given the casualty-adverse environment and the light armour on most types, even the majority of turboprop supporters see ordnance delivery beginning via smart weapons and EO sights (see AT-6B) and not .50cal gun runs on the deck; so inferior climb rate to altitude, compared to, jets shouldn't be a show-stopper either.


Redeye80 said...


Redeye80 said...

Spoken like true blue suit airpower zealot! 

Redeye80 said...

"The issue (now) isn't so much that we don't have enough aircraft/crews to support the ridiculous amount of orbits the Army wants...."

Ridiculous amounts of orbits?  By who's accounting?  What is needed is persistent ISR with more focus on surveilance.  Maybe an tethered airship would be a better solution.  Data travels down the tether and distributed from the ground.  Videos directly available to the end user.  Oh, but I guess no direct feed to the CAOC Director, so no micromanagement.  I guess that won't fly for the AF.

Redeye80 said...

No try on the redirect.  But as long as A-10 pilots can't tell the difference between a white pick-up and a AAV, the Corps will take care of it's own.

I believe it was Glasson or Horner that said during the Gulf War, and I paraphase, "there is nothing on the ground worth die for or losing an aircraft"  Yeah, except provding supoort for soldiers and Marines on the ground.  I haven't seen much shift in attutide.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

You obviously mean one of those one engine, one pilot, jet propelled, I have the need for speed, nothing less and nothing else, if you ain't supersonic you ain't squat guys.

If they would fly a two ship CAP and let the hoi poloi with grease under their fingernails, two engines, pilot and a bombadier/navigator who can actually hit the the target danger close all the time, you know - self sealing tanks, armor around the cockpit,  backup flight systems, haul many bombs and have long time on station to put warheads on foreheads guys, we might cut our casualty rate and increase the enemy's.

It's the old "my specialty code is the apex of evolution" delusion.  

You need enough of all kinds, well equipped....including the Dentists. If you don't believe me, ask the guy Halsey relieved in the Solomons.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

How long to reconstitute a NAVAL shipbuilding capacity and expertise? "Bout a generation to get the design and production (two very different but symbiotic skill sets) in place  to get the foundation in; after that, 36 months - if you are as tough, smart, and dedicated as the the 1940's guys and gals.  

It's that character/nature of the populace thing Mahan wrote about.  Not that many read him these days. 

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Oh and for the sky blue uniform supersonic aluminum vehicle crowd.....aviation and airplanes are a critical subset of NAVAL shipbuilding...although I've heard rumors that armies have uses for them too.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Well, there is some of that I suppose, but a ship designed by Grumman Ironworks that has a better rate of climb and more maneuverability for not that much more money, what's not to like?

Or so some folks might see it.

Byron said...

I'm sorry, sir, but ADM Ghormley is currently unavailable for comment....

Grandpa Bluewater said...

That would be why there are more Warrant divers looking for line officer aviators on the bottom of the ocean than line officer aviators looking for Warrant divers amidst the clouds, right? :)

Byron said...

Grandpa, the production side (if there's still a few old goats to do the leading and teaching around that still are willing to take the stress and BS)  could be done enough to get production going in a year, but the process would have to be draconian and don't let a union get within a mile of the yard if you really want to see ships going down the ways.

USAF Mike said...

Air power zealot?

Nah, just someone who thinks the strategic future of the U.S. lies in the maritime domain, as it always has...not on fighting several land wars in Asia.  We've got to look at force structure for the future, not just for the wars we are fighting today.  If you'll notice, I didn't shoot down the idea of buying them outright (I actually said it was absolutely necessary to buy some of them), I just said we don't need an entire wing of them...because we would only need a wing of them if we plan on getting bogged down in a large scale counterinsurgency war again anytime soon, and I just don't see that happening.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

End the air force?  Mmmm, might not be a bad thing.  Have an air force control Naval (including the Marine subset) Aviation, very bad thing.  Read "To War in a Stringbag"; that's what you would get. Obsolete and incapable. Even faster than we've been doing it to ourselves the last two decades, if that is possible...

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Byron, the old goats are definitely force multipliers, if you pick the right ones.

The Navy actually had an ED USN Ret-recalled Admiral who put together a team to go around and "improve" labor-management cooperation and management generally in disfunctional shipyards in WWII. He had a Marine Detachment of guys with purple hearts who might not be physically up to slugging it out with banzai charges for days on end , but were quite up to drop kicking recalcitrant union leg breakers and shipyard Group Sups out the front gate with verve and elan.

He maintained once you got rid of the malcontents (see above), put in a realistic safety program with teeth, and got management out from behind desks and actually talking to mechanics on the deck plates, and explained why the shipyard was crucial, the job took care of itself (of course, he had a fairly robust idea of "checking yards and docks").

It's the almost young formerly bucks in perfectly clean pressed $2000.00 suits and their 6 sigma silliness I worry about.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Old Soldier:  Actually, CVE's were a converted tanker design, I believe.  Of course, tankers were a lot smaller then.

Byron said...

Grandpa, I've never seen one of those "suits" with enough scars or healed broken fingers or dirty fingernails that impressed me worth a damn. The only thing they know how to do is screw things up and slow them down.

Byron said...

Reality has a funny way of exceeding your expectations...

ewok40k said...

well, one area where such turboprops can be soon useful is the Mexican border...

UltimaRatioRegis said...

USAF Mike,

A little perspective is necessary here.  Neither AFG nor Iraq involved "large amounts of US ground troops".  In fact, even at the height of Iraq, the number of US ground combat troops was roughly equivalent to MacArthur's efforts in New Guinea, New Britain, and the Admiraties.  Which was a small offensive in a secondary campaign in a secondary theater of war.  We just are told how large it is, and the same applies to AFG.  The "massive" assault on Marjah involved fewer than 6,000 Marines, roughly the size of a reconnaissance in force in the ETO. 

Second, these aricraft, like every other weapon system, is in support of, and not a replacement for, the infantryman.  How many times are we going to go down that road before we get it through our thick Douhet-clogged brains that air power is a very temporary and largely unsatisfactory economy of force measure?  The next jackass who calls attack helicopters a "maneuver element" should be tarred and feathered.

Quartermaster said...

I know it's a single. I don't know why I typed twin. And, I don't even drink either.

ewok40k said...

Overall its the time to stop creating planes to do all missions - while ww2 fighter-bombers (similar in performance to turboprop trainers/COIN of today) were good deal for the money, each consecutive year of the jet age has seen the scramble for better performance, avionics and weaponry pump up the fighter-bomber price to the point of F-35, while paradoxically reducing its CAS efficiency.  Maybe its time to consider splitting the tactical air force into dedicated fighters (F-22) and attack (A-10, COIN) units? 1500 of F-35s could be split into 500 F-22s (1000 F-35s cancelled), 1200 A-10s (400 F-35s cancelled) and 1000 COIN machines (100 F-35s cancelled). 2700 for the price of 1500 - Hi-Lo mix worth considering?

Casey Tompkins said...

Again, we would face the cost of rebuilding the jigs, building the factory, training the workers, redesign for a new engine, redesign for modern electronics (repeat again: modern electronics are VERY EXPENSIVE), and redesign for modern safety, environmental and other regulations.

That's all sunk costs, which need to be spread out over the production run. Then you need to build enough aircraft so that's not prohibitive. That was one of the deal-killers for the F-22; Congress kept reducing the production run to "save money," which made the price per plane skyrocket.

After all that, can you build a plane that's as good or better than what's available now, today, at competitive prices? That was one of 'Phib's main points above. The Air Tractor is relatively cheap for the performance. How much would a new Skyshark cost after all of the above, and what would be the cost of operation? Not to mention how long would it take to get aircraft flying out the door?

Casey Tompkins said...

I mucked this table up last night, let's see how it works now...

Air Tractor
Super Tucano
Piper Enforcer
wing area
401 sq ft
209 sq ft
175 sq ft
291 sq ft
408 sq ft
506 sq ft
empty weight
6,400 lbs
5,335 lb
4,900 lb
6,893 lb
24,959 lb
loaded weight
16,000 lbs
7,937 lb
6,550 lb
14,444 lb
14,000 lb
47,094 (CAS)
max speed
230 mph
346 mph
364 mph
281 mph
405 mph
439 mph
1,841 mi
974 mi
576 mi
920 mi
288 (CAS)
2 .50" gun pods
2 x 12.7mm in pods
4x 7.61mm
6x .50 M2 optional
1x 30mm Avenger
8, for up to 9k lbs
5 for up to 3.3k lbs
7 for up to 4k lbs
11, for up to 16k lbs
38 2.75" Hydra
"rocket pods"
7x or 9x 2.75" FFAR
2x or 4x 5" FFAR
8 Hellfire missiles
2x MAA-1 Piranha
AIM-9 (wing pylons only)

Andy said...

Starting with the Ault Report and continuing on there's a pretty direct correlation between two sets of eyes in a cockpit with trained cognition and the ability to sight not only air-to-air oppostion (not germaine to this discussion) and objects on the ground while still maintaining overall situational awareness.  Better to have someone calling "SAM, break left, now!!" so I can honk on a turn and maybe spot the miscreant than sitting in my La-Z-Boy wondering why my UAV has suddenly dropped all links and telemetry.

Casey Tompkins said...

Byron, if I recall correctly, the Army Air Corps thought the same thing about the B-17 at first. :)

E_L_P said...

The difference being that the AH-64 can take some fire from joe hillbilly with his single or twin-barrelled 23mm he has out in the back yard. None of the proposed COIN aircraft can. Also if you want a real COIN aircraft, you are looking for the OV-10; which isn't just a shooter but can be used off short fields to get out wounded, drop in some light supplies and do pretty good ISR. Also the OV-10 can--with a little work--be launched and recovered from a USN Amphib flattop.


Redeye80 said...


I'd really like to see you pitch this at the Air War College or at Hurlburt.  Of course, I can't guarantee your safety.


cdrsalamander said...

You may want to read the story of the AH-64 "Charge of the Light Brigade" during the invasion of Iraq.

cdrsalamander said...

.... and using the china doll F-35 (which looks like it will be a good strike fighter) for CAS is such a great idea too.

You can ploy a field with a Rolles Royce if you want - it just isn't a smart thing to do.

cdrsalamander said...

Oh, and Mike - you a really aren't trying to defeat something that is actually in existence with proven performance on earth with a PPT program ... with this croud?

Air Force Brave - indeed.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Yeah, the steely-eyed warriors at the Air War College might give me a stern talking-to!

The solution for that point of view is to gear up and walk some foot patrols in Injun Country.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Are you talking the "every peasant with a rifle" idea? If you look at the loses of all the FAC's through out Korea on, most of them were lost due to ground fire. Heck even modern aircraft are lost to older weapons, just look at Scott O'Grady he was in an F-16 with the most modern EW suite, and was bagged by a SA-6b Gainful, and a F-117 was bagged by an SA-3. So what? It just means you need to know your environment. If you know, like the folks from the US Army FACs or VAL-4 learned in Vietnam, that if it smells like a flak trap then it probably is and call in the faster movers. I would also suggest that you take a look at the counter drug/anti naro-terror war in South America. Look at what they are flying and who they are flying against. You aren't seeing ZSU-23's, more then likely your seeing M55's, ZPU's, RPGs,  every so often 1st gen MANPADs, along with everyone and their AK-47 (the preferred weapon of your enemy, it has a distinctive sound) firing when and if they spot the aircraft overhead. The same has been true over Afghanistan since we secured total air control in October of 2001.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Bingo, Redeye.  Precisely the attitude that makes the USAF undesirable in the close support role. 

xbradtc said...

AFMike thinks a Wing equivalent is too many COIN birds. I disagree. It's actually the minimum feasible size organization.

Let's say we make a notional wing of 72 PAA aircraft (there's probably going to be somewhere between 85 and 100 aircraft total to account for testing, birds depot, etc).  That gives us 3 squadrons of 24 aircraft. You'd need a fair size effort to train aircrews (in my fantasy, it would be WO pilots, and NCO WSOs). You'd be able to deploy one squadron at all times while the other squadrons are back at home station training or recovering from deployment.  

24 aircraft in Afghanistan would be a bare, bare minimum to provide coverage. You'd probably be able to get about 40 sorties a day, with about 4 hours of on-station time, each sortie. 

You might be able to overlap deployments and get about 50% overlap so half the time you'd have 2 squadrons in theater.  80 4 hour sorties would be a pretty nice improvement in ISR and CAS. 

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Grumman! HUZZAH!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

I have no qualms about buying the Air Tractor, as I believe it would do the job quite well, and at an affordable price. I am just stating what I would prefer to see, a purpose designed, flying dumptruck, that can survive in the CAS enviroment.  But if 5 one ton Chevies can do the job of one 5 ton Peterbilt, at less cost, and perhaps even greater flexibility, do the greater numbers, then we must consider the Chevies, no matter how much I want the Pete.

USAF Mike said...

Nah, you misunderstand me I think.  Project Liberty is using MC-12s (converted King Air turboprops) to provide manned ISR support, complimenting drones.  18 months from initial conception to flying missions in Iraq/Afghanistan.  LAAR is an acquisitions program that intends to buy the same aircraft you're advocating for in this post...most of the aircraft competing for the contract have been mentioned here (AT-6, Super Tucano, Air Tractor, Boeing's "new" OV-10, etc.)  I wasn't trying to "defeat" anything, because Project Liberty/LAAR are basically what you're talking about here...I was just pointing out that while the AF has been slow to get with the manned turboprop program, there have been programs doing that sort of thing.  I do think that the drive for UAVs really had a lot to do with that lack of focus...when you have the SecDef publicly berating the service on a weekly basis, that tends to get priority.

As for the F-35...no argument here.  It may one day become a decent strike fighter (emphasis on the may....and regardless, it will be entirely too overpriced), but the plan to use it as a CAS bird and as an air superiority fighter in place of the F-22 (thank you OSD for that last part) is going to get people killed, both on the ground and in the air.

USAF Mike said...

The issue here is as I said earlier...all this is predicated on us fighting Afghanistan sized engagements well into the future. 

Galrahn had a great post up a few days ago that said this way better than I could, so I'll link to that and quote: http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/10/new-fiscal-year-reflections.html

"The United States was a maritime nation from the signing of the Constitution until the end of the cold war, but over the past 2 decades the United States has operated politically under the belief that our nations strategic power lies in leveraging military power on the ground to adjust the behavior of people in far off lands. The strategic crossroads is the political decision of whether we want to be the nation of the first ~200 years, or the nation we have been the last ~20."

Politically, I think the shift has already begun to occur where we are done with large scale land wars for quite a while (and yes, Iraq/Afghanistan ARE large scale land wars by a modern standard).  If we get a wing of Super Tucanos, what do we do with them once we're done with Afghanistan?

I'm not saying that insurgencies/low intensity conflicts won't continue to occur, they will...we don't get to choose that.  What we do get to choose is how we deal with them, and full bore divisions of U.S. combat troops on the ground engagement is the poor strategic choice.  The only way buying an entire wing of COIN birds makes sense is if you expect the U.S. to continue to make that poor strategic choice into the future.

Wharf Rat said...

Oh, I agree with your analysis - I'm just sayin'..............I like the scene in the movie 8-)

USAF Mike said...

"<span>I believe it was Glasson or Horner that said during the Gulf War, and I paraphase, "there is nothing on the ground worth die for or losing an aircraft"  Yeah, except provding supoort for soldiers and Marines on the ground.  I haven't seen much shift in attutide."</span>

If you really think that's the attitude we have as a service these days, I'm sorry but you don't have a clue.  That's about the equivalent of me saying that Marines are nothing but a bunch of stupid jarheads that are only good for following orders and couldn't come up with an intelligent thought if their life depended on it.

That might be (one of) the stereotypes, but me saying it doesn't make it close to true.  Christ, even in Desert Storm Spirit 03 (an AC-130) was lost to an SA-7 (with 14 Airmen on board KIA) after staying on station past daylight (in direct violation of SOP...big lumbering cargo aircraft tend to be pretty vulnerable at low altitude in daylight) to answer an urgent request for fire support from Marines during the Battle of Khafji.  So yeah, you really don't have a clue.

As for having the Air Force control Marine Air...I never said any such thing, nor have I ever.  The Marines NEED to keep their aviation arm, for a whole plethora of reasons I won't get into now because I've already discussed them before.  However, it amuses me that everyone can see the stupidity of abolishing Marine Air but seems to think that abolishing the entire service devoted to air combat passes for smart analysis.

USAF Mike said...

So...how else would you describe Iraq/Afghanistan?  "Small" wars?  I mean, come on...comparing those with WWII is comparing apples and oranges, because the size of the military has changed, as has the pol-mil environment.  If I stood up here and said "the USAF today only has ~2,000 fighters, at the height of WWII we had over 17,000 fighters, therefore we are deficient and must immediately buy at least 10,000 fighters to get our force back up to snuff," I'd be laughed out of the joint.

As for the infantryman discussion...there aren't many infantry on the ocean.  There's a reason the doctrine we're pursuing to deal with the anti-access/area-denial strategies pursued by some of the nations not so friendly to us is called AirSea, not "LandLand."  Yes, in a war being fought on land, air power exists to support the infantry, but the infantry are not a solution to every single military problem this nation faces.

I thought on a naval themed blog I could get people to understand at least that much.  I mean, if we're really going to be doing nothing but fighting land counterinsurgencies with divisions of troops for the next hundred years, we should probably just can the Ford Class and buying any more DDG-51s and retire 3 or 4 of the Nimitz class while we're at it.

USAF Mike said...

Worth mentioning that after Robert Farley published his article that explicitly called for the complete dismantling of the Air Force, he was asked to speak to a class of Air Force officers at...you guessed it, Maxwell AFB, the home of pretty much all the AF's officer PME, including Air War College.  Don't know how many other service schools out there would invite someone who explicitly called for that service's dismantling to speak to its students.

And why the hate for Hurlburt?  That's where the snake eaters hang out...I figured if there was anyone in the AF your types would like, it'd be them.

Southern Air Pirate said...


When you get a chance grab this book, <span>The Savage Wars Of Peace: Small Wars And The Rise Of American Power by Max Boot, it is on the Navy Reading List. The author makes the case that for the US Government and the US military it spends over 90% of its combat time fighting small wars (such as Quasi-war with France, Barbary Pirates, Banana Republic wars of the early 20th centuary, Philippine insurrection, Yantzgye Patrol, Desert Storm, Vietnam, Lebanon, and even Columbia anti-drug ops) that are basically COIN ops. All the while trying to buy and field an army that can compete with the latest and greatest superpower. Whether that is Britian, Japan, France, USSR, or even ourselves. The big wars ala WW2, WW1, and even the War of Southern Aggression (aka American Civil War) are the exceptions not the rule. </span>
<span>He also makes an interesting and pressing case that most of our tactics, pol-mil interfacing, and even training of more successful leaders comes from these small wars since it proves/disproves some ones "whiz-kid" idea. Also more then a few weapon systems are tested out in these wars and either validated for the cost or found to be more trouble then they are worth. </span>

Therapist1 said...

I would prefer they make a lot more A-10 Warthogs: more firepower, more survivability and not too expensive

USAF Mike said...

Actually picked that up (for free) when I was down at PME at Maxwell...along with (no exaggeration) another 20 or 30 books (all for free).  I had to buy another full size suitcase to get them all on the flight home.  The only reason I didn't pick up more is that I already owned the rest of the ones that were available.  And yes, I know you're surprised that there were books available at Air Force PME that were something other than Douhet, Mitchell, or Warden.  Shocking, I know.

Anyway, the issue to me isn't whether or not we will be fighting small wars in the future.  We will...if anything, history shows this to be the case.  The issue to me is whether or not we need to reorient our entire force structure to provide large scale forces to fight these unconventional small wars.  Of the examples you cited, the Quasi-war with France, the Barbary Pirates, Desert Storm, Lebanon, and Vietnam (to a lesser extent) all involved what would be considered "conventional" forces.  Of the remainder, only Vietnam (and maybe the Philippine insurrection, depending on how you define "large") required large amounts of ground forces to act in an unconventional manner.

Deploying an entire wing (or more) of these turboprop COIN aircraft only makes sense if you think the next 20-25 years of the U.S. military is going to be filled with using multiple BCTs of ground troops to fight a counterinsurgency.  There will be low intensity conflict, but there are other (strategically smarter) methods of dealing with the conflict that don't involve several BCTs worth of ground forces...hence my call for buying some of these aircraft, just not an entire wing.

And of course, that ignores the fact that for other than the past 20 years, the U.S. has been a maritime nation...getting back to those maritime roots would be a wise decision, in my humble opinion.  While the Navy may be able to make use of this aircraft in a maritime environment, it would be next to useless for the Air Force.

USAF Mike said...

So to summarize, the Marine infantryman is capable of waging war successfully on the land, sea, and air, all by himself, without any other services or support.  I think that, if we're dealing with an A2/AD adversary, a CSG/SSN/Strategic air force might be a liiiiiitlle more important than a MEU, but that's just me.

Do Marines have a place on the water?  Absolutely...otherwise we wouldn't have a Marine Corps.  But to insist that the Marine infantryman is the solution to literally every single military problem the U.S. faces is getting tiresome.

I'm gonna go ahead and throw down the bullshit card and ask for a source/context/actual quotation behind that quote.  Dugan got shitcanned for saying the AF could win the war on its own, I'd be extremely surprised if any AF officer got away with saying that...not to mention that our conduct during Desert Storm (as well as before and after) directly contradicts that (lots of risks taken, planes/pilots lost to pursue targets on the ground.)

And like I said below, if you really think that's the attitude we have as a service, you don't have a clue.  But I'm sure my opinion regarding the culture/attitude of the Air Force doesn't matter, because I'm just an Air Force officer, not a Marine.

ewok40k said...

For starters you might need them on a border with Mexico... sooner than later. Things are going downstream in the south, and I expect major spillout into Southwest states soon, a la Pancho Villa.  In fact this problem might be the reason for future real "cut and run" in the S.W.Asia, simply because you cant afford to fight half world away when the border in the CONUS is burning.
re- flak vulnerbility - COIN aircraft are no more and no less vulnerable than WW-2 Mustangs and P-47s, with similar performance envelope - or in the Piper Enforcer, literally the same. What do modern day insurgents have what German WW2 Panzegrenadiers didnt have? Save occassional MANPADS, they have much less ususally.
re: US being naval power primarily - thats more sense to me, but who can say marines cant operate such aircraft from mini-flattops they call "desant" class...
OTOH, is mere air force and naval threat going to deter really determined opponent? Ho Shi Minh, Saddam, you name it. Yes , you can bomb a nation into stone age, but in many cases this will only concentrate the nation in support of its leader, as it was in Germany in WW2 or Japan.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

       In my working lifetime we had gains (in logistic and geographic terms)  bought in blood during WWII in our hands. We did not face the need to reacquire them as the first battle of an overseas war. THIS WILL NO LONGER BE THE CASE BEFORE MY YOUNGEST GRANDSON REACHES THE AGE OF CONSCRIPTION. 
    . A sad situation when one considers that weakness in the face of China awake and rising, reaching for the world preeminence it regards as its destiny, is the worst possible COA at the Grand Strategy level, and we are committed to it. 
    It therefore follows that the Nation does not absolutely need a preeminently superb Marine Corps within the Dept of the Navy, but it will rue the lack of one should it give it up. Not immediately, but soon, and for the rest of its life.
    The marines are not the solution to every problem. It's just that over the last century, the Corps wound up being tasked with being part of the solution to most of them, sooner or later. Down to security of railroad mail cars, in point of fact. Their experience with respect to unstinting support and cooperation in carrying out "other tasks as may be assigned by the President" has not always been happy, so they like to stay independent in critical areas.
   So there is a reason for their attitude.
   Many in the AF are dedicated to effective joint support, this is known and appreciated. Some think air power is the be all and end all, this is a fact of life. The attitude and culture of military organizations, big and small, are powerfully reflected by who gets promoted and who is in command.  The last C5 or A10 pilot in that job was?

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>The last C5 or A10 pilot in that job was?</span>

Is the current CSAF close enough?  Former CDR TRANSCOM, plenty of time in transports and Special Ops types...

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>it's that we don't have the support infrastructure in place to handle all the video they're generating, and that this isn't something you can spin up out of thin air (although we're trying.)</span>

We are awash in data, but starved for information.  We can move gigabits around the battlefield, but without enough people and tools to make sense of it all, we might as well route it to /dev/null...

UltimaRatioRegis said...

USAF Mike,

Grow up.  You mentioned infantrymen on the seas.  At any time in 1943-45 we had troopships packed with Army and Marine infantrymen heading to a theater of war.  THEY are indeed the solution to a problem that ends up as an overseas fight, and when they and their supporting arms go, they still will travel over the sea, something that ALL of DoD should take note of. 

As for the USAF taking risks to support ground forces, that is their job.  And it is all relative.  Ask a company commander who is calling in a 9-line because he has two platoons pinned down and half a dozen dead among his 20 casualties, and he can't break contact.  He might have a different definition of "risk".  The guy coming in at angels 5 and 550 knots is trumped by the guy who is getting the concrete chipped around his head.

Problem is, the Air Force has considered the close support mission to be very much secondary to the air supremacy fight, and still do.  As much was stated many times, especially as debates of the ALBD raged in the mid 80s.  They still adhere to that.  Their training and proficiency reflect.  Which is why Marines want Marine air in the close support mission.  And the Army wants Marine air as often as they can get it.  It was true six years ago, I doubt it has changed.

Redeye80 said...

Let me rephase.  There are some great warriors at the tactical level in the AF. 

However, some where down the road when those warriors make O-4, there is a subtle shift in the thought process as they drink the AF Kool-Aid.  There are air power zealtos out there that truely believe they can win the war with air power alone.  These zealots shape the Air Force into the force without any respect to the current fight.  Notice the reluctance to field more UAVs when they were the most needed.

The discussion here is a good point.  The A-10 has been on the chopping block for years but it is the right airplane for the job.  A better COIN aircraft may be out there but I don't see the AF giving any serious thought to them.

My experience is based on working at CAOC over the past 14 years and attending all those schools required to work in the CAOC.

Casey Tompkins said...

Well, yeah, that goes without saying... :)

Casey Tompkins said...

...Which example ignores the real-life experience of the Air Tractor in Central & Southern America. It's not invulnerable, but it's very tough, and has withstood multiple ground hits.

E_L_P also ignores the relative purchase cost of an Air Tractor vs. an AH-64, not to mention the relative operation costs. The Apache costs c. $3,000/hour, versus c. $400/hour for the Air Tractor, not to mention $18 million vs. $5 million purchase cost.

Also the OV-10 -at this writing- doesn't have a fracking assmbly line in existence. Excuse my french. ;)

Not to mention launch & recovery from a Marine amphibious ship is a red herring at this point. At least, I'm pretty sure they aren't launching COIN CAS missions from any kind of carrier right now... *DONT_KNOW*

Casey Tompkins said...

Mike? Um, Mike? (waves hand) Over here!

Speaking from a maritime-nation perspective, Could you cite an example from the past 30 years where maritime aviation was the critical factor, as opposed to a supporting factor, as in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

I would say the Navy needs to worry more about things like minesweepers, frigates, and destroyers, before they go for more air wings. Which reminds me, while we're at it, let's kill the Osprey, no?

On the other hand, I've been thinking for a while that more Marine Amphibious Assault ships might be a better idea than new carriers, considering they're in many ways comparable to the old Essex-class ships, since everyone is dragging our their favorite fossils... Heh.

Anyway, historically the Navy has been the first line of defense against invasion, and controlled free access to ocean traffic. I don't see how buying cheap COIN craft interferes with that mission. The other lesson -historically speaking- is that once conflict begins, you need ground troops to resolve the issue. Unless you buy into the Douhet-ian philosophy, of course. So having several divisions (split into brigades, these days) ready to go makes some sense.

Casey Tompkins said...

To be really picky, I would prefer a radial-engine design for CAS, but I'm not up to date on how turbroprops compare in that respect. P-47s enjoyed a very real advantage over in-line designs such as the P-51 when they got down on the ground.

But, yes, our southern border could become more volatile the next decade.

Let me note here there's a real difference between an RPG-7 and a Stinger, unless the Soviet flavor of the latter has finally escaped into the wild.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Actually, most of the missions in country from any of the carriers has been CAS. The question is whether or not they drop any ordnance (with exception of the mighty Prowler whose only ordnance is electrons). About 85% of the time the Hornets and Rhinos are flying low, dropping flares, and doing a supersonic/transsonic fly-by and doing what is called "Show of Force" for the ground bubbas. Last one I saw that caused me to smile reading the CAOC press release on air missions flown, even had a B-1B doing the flare drop and supersonic fly by over suspected insurgents spider hole . The rest of the time they are actually diving into the weeds to let loose with 20mm on suspected insurgents, mainly cause the collateral from putting a JDAM/PAVEWAY kitted bomb on them is causing more issues. The USMC has actually invested in bringing back the LAU-10's and LAU-61's (both rocket pods) on all of thier fixed wing assets since those have shown a better way of killing the bad guys with less collateral damage. THe Navy from what I have heard talking to a few folks, have a bad history with rockets onboard ships, so they are only looking at authorizing it for land based elements (such as the UDP units). Which only brings back the question of why risk a $65M asset when again a low-cost COIN asset like the EMB314, OV-10, Air Tractor, IA Pacra, etc all of which can operate for cheaper and carry some of the same ordnance that they are starting to use now. Flare pods, rocket pods, gun pods, internal guns, etc.

Casey Tompkins said...

Ok. Gonna try one last time. 'Phib's blogging software doesn't like table, or much else... :(

In order we have number for certain categories for the following aircraft:
Air Tractor, Super Tucano, AT-6, OV-10, Piper Enforcer, A-10

wing area: 401 sq ft, 209 sq ft, 175 sq ft, 291 sq ft, 408 sq ft, 506 sq ft
empty weight: 6,400 lbs, 5,335 lb, 4,900 lb, 6,893 lb, ?, 24,959 lb
loaded weight: 16,000 lbs, 7,937 lb, 6,550 lb, 14,444 lb, 14,000 lb, 47,094 (CAS)
max speed: 230 mph, 346 mph, 364 mph, 281 mph, 405 mph, 439 mph
range: 1,841 mi, 974 mi, ?, 576 mi, 920 mi, 288 (CAS)
guns: 2 .50" gun pods, 2 x 12.7mm pods, ?, 4x 7.61mm, 6x .50 M2, 1x 30mm Avenger
hardpoints: 8, up to 9k lbs, 5 up to 3k lbs, ?, 7 up to 4k lbs, 10, 11 up to 16k lbs
rockets: 38 2.75" Hydra    "rocket pods," ?, 2.75" or 5," ?, gobs
missiles: 8 Hellfire, 2x MAA-1, ?, 2x AIM-9, ?, gobs
cost/hour: $400, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?

Casey Tompkins said...


It's not lined up all pretty, and I didn't include purchase costs, as those can be tricky to find. The only costs/hour I could find were $400/hour for the Air Tractor and $3,000/hour for the AH-64. Range figures can be tricky, as Wiki doesn't always differentiate between ferry range and combat radius. The A-10 entry was the only one which was that specific.

From where I stand, the real possibibilites narrow down very quickly. The A-10 is an impressive performer, but is far more expensive, and is out of production. Not to mention it isn't controlled by Army ground troops. Historical experience shows that the most effective CAS comes from craft closely integrated with ground forces, which is why Marine aviation is frequently better in this role than the USAF.

The OV-10 shows some excellent numbers, but as I've pointed out before, it's out of production. Boeing has made noises about rebuilding a production line, but since cost figures are all a crapshoot at this point, it might not be a cost-effective modern alternative. Still looks kewl as Hell, though. :)

The Air Tractor is cheaper, simpler, and can carry far more ordnance than any of the other contestants. And it is in production, today.

As for all the "bring back the Skyraider/Skyshark/Other" talk (why not the Skyhawk? ' twas a sexy little beast), the same objections apply, as I've pointed out several times. Cost to rebuild the plant, cost to train workers, cost to add modern engines/avionics/electronics, cost to meet modern regulations (including EPA); they're pleasant fantasies, but not relevant to the real world.

So. We need to focus on something available today, which is cost-effective and can provide the most bang for the buck. From where I stand, that narrows things down very quickly.

Dear Blog-Santa, I would like a block-quote function, a preview function, and put a stake thru the heart of that "3000 character limit," cuz that last (abbreviated) post was NO WAY 3000 characters!! Oh, and a GI-JOE with the Mercury Capsule & spacesuit.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Hey Phib,

"Venerable" means "old".

Just so you know!  8-)

cdrsalamander said...

I thought is means "knows what end the round comes out of" .....  O:-)

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Comment software limitations are a pain. Seemed to be malfunctioning yesterday worse than usual.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

USAF Mike:

Abolish the Air Force? Perish the thought!

Returning it to military control within the Dept of the Army might have considerable merit, though.

Grandpa Bluewater said...


SCOTTtheBADGER said...

I see those Joes on eBay every now and then.  Man, they don't give those away!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Yep, the SANGAMONs were CIMMARON Class AO conversions.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Nope!  It means old.  ;)

Casey Tompkins said...

Yeah, I've seen those on eBay, but never had the cash at the time of auction. I had the original, back in the day, but it wore out due to all those not-according-to-design ground landings, as opposed to sea landings... :)

Didn't know they had a Blue Angels Joe. Very cool.

Agreed that there's been too much Tiffany planning & spending going on. "Ford, not Ferrari." :-$

Casey Tompkins said...

Alas, I fail to see how the shoot-down of a standard light civilian plane Cessna relates to the sturdiness of the Air Tractor... ;)

The latter is already on record for surviving a couple hundred bullet strikes in Central American operations.

B.Smitty said...

Does that matter?  Are his points wrong?

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