80 Percent of the Capability at 20 Percent of the Cost

We’ve mentioned before the Air Force is looking at procuring a light attack/reconnaissance aircraft to support the troops in Afghanistan and similar environments.

Our personal favorite is the Boeing idea of reopening the production line for the OV-10 Bronco.

But we’d be reasonably happy with any of the aircraft being considered. CDR Salamander generated a lot of interest with a post on this very subject.

This post in Defpro.news gives a quick look at one of the contenders, the AT-6C, a weaponized version of the Air Force and Navy’s current primary trainer, the T-6 Texan II.

At this point, I’m less concerned about what aircraft they choose. I just want them to choose one and forge ahead swiftly. The sooner they get moving , the less likelihood the program will fall by the wayside.

14 thoughts on “80 Percent of the Capability at 20 Percent of the Cost”

  1. Makes one yearn for the days of the old A-1E/H Skyraider. It was replaced in Fleet Service by the Mighty A-6 Intruder of which I had the pleasure to spend nine years of a twenty year career as an airframes guy in.
    I like the idea of the Air Tractor. However, I am a fan of the AT-6 from Hawker Beechcraft. But low, slow and on target is what is needed for the current engagements against a very low tech opponent who has shown the ability to improvise and adapt.

    1. Glenn, as the son of an A-1/A-6 guy, you know I love those planes. But Anything with an R-3350 would not be the cheap/easy solution we’re looking for.

  2. The USAF COS weighed in a while back against this for some reason…I guess his fighter pilot buddies got to him. The USAF has had some serious issues during this war regarding priorities IMHO.

    I agree that the OV-10 was cool as hell.

  3. I don’t know much, but Iv’e been thinking that something like this would make sense for quite some time now. I wouldn’t even think we would need that many of these aircraft to be effective. I have no idea really but I would guess less than a hundred and maybe as few as 50 would be quite an asset to the folks on the ground?. Any thoughts on numbers needed for this to be effective?


    1. Well, CDR Salamander asks for a Wing of them. A Wing is a fairly flexible organization, but the notional organization would be 3 flying squadrons of 24 aircraft each, for a total of 72. Add in spares, training, and some test aircraft and you’d be looking at a total buy of maybe 85-100.

      Of course, if WE bought them, they would probably become pretty popular for Foreign Military Sales, so the actual production run could be significantly larger.

  4. Myself, I’d like to see the Piper Enforcer in the skies. Basically it’s a turboprop P-51. USAF evaluated it as a CAS / COIN aircraft in the late 70’s / early 80’s.

    1. Because a $2mm aircraft at $600/hr is cheaper than trying to restart the production line for the A-10 when all the tooling has been destroyed.

      I’m not looking for these to replace A-10s. Think of them as freeing up A-10s from low priority jobs so they can focus on other areas. And it also reduces the burden on the F-16 and F-15 fleet. Given the age and operating costs of those fleets, that’s no small consideration.

  5. As I look at this, I’m looking at the A-10 or OV-10. I’m taking into consideration costs and if need be, retooling costs. I don’t see cost as the major issue. Your biggest stumbling stone is your use of *common sense*! We can’t have that happening, now can we? It could be contagious and run through the whole Pentagon, get your vaccinations right now! Seriously, you want to look at our use of our whole “legacy fleet”. As we do we run into the dreaded “3-T’s”, “Time Tested Technology”. We’re not going to the “bone yard”, but building completely new new aircraft. We’re not aiming for “highest or lowest technology”, but for appropriate technology. Like kids, we need to know the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’.

  6. I would re-open the A-10 line, but not for producing a COIN AC. The T-6 version of the PC-7 is already in production, or can be had directly from the Swiss if not. The Tucano is also in production. The lower costs of something in production that you intend to use low and slow is a significant consideration, even if A-10 production were re-started. Turboprops are much more miserly in fuel than the A-10s turbofans as well.

    I can’t speak to the abilities of the Air Tractor, although I like the idea. I would like to see a one to one comparison of armed trainers (Tucano/Super Tucano), T-6/PC-7, vs the Air Tractor. A full blown fly off would be a nice thing to see as well.

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