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[*] posted on 6-9-2018 at 09:21 AM


US extends Super Tucano procurement contract for Afghanistan

Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

05 September 2018


The DoD has extended and raised the level of the contract it has in place with SNC to deliver A-29 light attack aircraft to Afghanistan. Source: 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has extended the indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract it has in place with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to deliver SNC-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprop aircraft to Afghanistan.

The DoD announced on 4 September that it is extending the ID/IQ contract by a further five years from August 2019 to the end of December 2024, and raising the ceiling from USD1.043 billion to USD1.808 billion. Work will be performed at Moody Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia, as well as at Kabul, Kandahar, and Mazari Sharif air bases in Afghanistan.

With 26 Super Tucanos already contracted for the Afghan Air Force (AAF), 22 had been delivered as of May. Nine of these are being used by the United States Air Force’s (USAF’s) 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB to train AAF pilots and maintainers, with the remainder flying combat missions in Afghanistan.

The Super Tucano has been active in Afghanistan from early 2016, since which time it has served as the AAF’s only fixed-wing combat aircraft. The Super Tucano’s range, speed, service ceiling, and availability (coupled with its ability to dispense precision-guided munitions), enables it to operate effectively throughout Afghanistan.

Powered by a single 1,600 SHP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68/3 turboprop engine, the Super Tucano carries two 12.7 mm machine guns (200 rounds each) in the wings, and can be configured with additional underwing weaponry such as 20 mm cannon pods, additional 12.7 mm machine guns, rocket pods, precision-guided munitions, and/or ‘dumb’ bombs of up to 1,500 kg. It has a seven-hour endurance and can operate from semi-prepared air fields.

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[*] posted on 22-9-2018 at 06:51 PM


AHRLAC Shines at AAD

by David Donald - September 21, 2018, 5:34 AM


The two AHRLAC development aircraft (PDM on left, XDM in foreground) prepare to depart from the flight test facility at Wonderboom for the flight to the AAD show site at Waterkloof. (Photo: David Donald)

AHRLAC, a joint venture between South Africa's Paramount Group and the Aerospace Development Corporation, began the final assembly of its first production AHRLAC light attack/ISR aircraft on September 19 at its new Wonderboom factory in Pretoria. The aircraft, MSN1, is one of two that will be completed before the end of the year for two separate customers. Both are to be completed in the Mwari ITAR-free armed configuration that is managed and marketed by Paramount. AHRLAC is also offered by Bronco Combat Systems in an ITAR-restricted, U.S.-targeted version known as Bronco II.

As this production milestone was reached, AHRLAC’s two development aircraft were participating in the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) show, which is held biennially at Waterkloof air force base near Pretoria. The pair flew a formation routine.

The second aircraft, designated PDM, is a production-representative machine that differs from the first, experimental XDM aircraft by having retractable landing gear, enlarged nose cone for housing sensors such as the Leonardo Osprey radar and electro-optic turrets, Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seats, and an onboard oxygen generating system. Between them, the two aircraft have amassed better than 500 flying hours.


A full-scale Leonardo M-345 mock-up is displayed in the Swift armed configuration. (Photo: David Donald)

Also at the AAD show, Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT), formerly ATE, unveiled a new aircraft weaponization system.

Known as Swift, it rapidly adds weapons capability to jet trainers and is aimed particularly at air forces with limited budgets. PAT announced a partnership with Leonardo during the show to collaborate on the development and marketing of a customized Swift system for the M-345 trainer. A full-scale mock-up of the M-345 was displayed at AAD, fitted with wing pylons for weapons. It was shown with Mokopa and Impi missiles from Denel Dynamics.


Among the options for the Flash system is the Thales Belgium FZ231 rocket launcher. PAT owns the Fennec and uses it as a Flash demonstrator/development platform. (Photo: David Donald)

PAT displayed its Airbus Helicopters AS550 Fennec demonstrator for the Flash system, from which Swift was derived, alongside the M-345. Flash is an evolution of the SAWS (stand-alone weapon system) for arming helicopters that was initially developed by ATE and sold to Iraq for weaponizing 24 EC635s.

An example of the latter with Flash installed was also on show.


A Denel Dynamics A-Darter missile is seen on the wingtip launch rail of a Gripen C. (Photo: Denel Dynamics)

Denel Dynamics announced that its A-Darter imaging infrared air-to-air missile has completed qualification trials with four test launches undertaken at the Denel Overberg Test Range. One firing tested lock-on after launch (LOAL) capability, one was a short-range “over-the-shoulder” launch in which the missile turned through 180 degrees after firing, and two were “blow-through” tests against targets employing countermeasures. All the firings were undertaken against Denel Skua targets and all were successful. The A-Darter is fully cleared for the South African Air Force’s Gripen C/D fighters.

Denel also unveiled a new C-RAM (counter rockets, artillery, mortars) missile known as Cheetah. Operating in a similar fashion to the Israeli Iron Dome system, Cheetah is intended to be deployed to protect bases and high-value assets and can be integrated seamlessly into other air defense systems. Denel has teamed with Rheinmetall Air Defence to offer Cheetah as an addition to the Oerlikon Skyshield gun-based system. Elements of the Cheetah are being tested in a Mongoose-3 trials interceptor, which has performed three successful test firings to date.


The prototype Ilyushin Il-112V is due to be rolled out on October 26 at Voronezh. (Photo: David Donald)

AAD draws a number of foreign exhibitors, including Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, which was showing a model of the Il-112V light tactical airlifter for the first time. This project for an An-26 and An-72/74 replacement has had a long gestation, having started in 2003 before being canceled in 2011 and then resurrected in 2013. The prototype is virtually complete, and the new Klimov TV7-117S series 2 engine has been undergoing flight tests on an Il-76LL testbed since September last year.

UAC has scheduled a roll-out ceremony at the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association that is building the Il-112V for October 26. First flight is due to take place in the first half of 2019.


The New York ANG's LC-130Hs support the National Science Foundation's polar research through Operation Deep Freeze. The fleet has recently been upgraded with the NP2000 propeller. (Photo: David Donald)

AAD also attracts interesting visitors aside from company demonstration aircraft. This year the New York Air National Guard deployed a C-17 and an LC-130H “Ski-bird” Hercules sporting its newly installed UTC Aerospace Systems NP2000 eight-blade propellers. Both aircraft were attending in association with the long-standing relationship between the South African defense forces and the New York National Guard via the State Partner program.


The Air Force of Zimbabwe attended AAD with an Airbus C212 transport and two Hongdu K-8 jet trainers, one of which took part in the flying display. (Photo: David Donald)
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[*] posted on 28-9-2018 at 02:05 PM


Leonardo eyes African market for armed M-345

27 September, 2018 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Craig Hoyle London

Leonardo has set its sights on potential future light-attack aircraft sales in Africa, after signing a co-operation agreement with South Africa's Paramount Group linked to its M-345 jet trainer.

Announced during the Africa Aerospace & Defence exhibition near Pretoria on 20 September, the pact – embodied through a letter of intent – will evaluate the "development of an operational configuration of the M-345" for the African market, Leonardo says.


Leonardo

If advanced, the initiative will lead to the basic trainer being updated with Paramount Advanced Technologies' Swift mission system. The South African partner's chief executive, Ralph Mills, describes the potential combination as a "short-timeframe, light-combat and surveillance solution".

Leonardo points to the M-345's "multirole capabilities and costs comparable to a turboprop aircraft" as supporting its pursuit of sales to African military customers. The European company has so far secured an order to produce the trainer for the Italian air force.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Leonardo's formerly-Aermacchi-branded unit has previously supplied its MB-339 and SF-260 trainers to a multiple African nations, with a combined 118 units still in service with the air forces of 12 countries.
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[*] posted on 14-11-2018 at 09:12 AM


USAF demonstrates AERONET international datalink for light attack aircraft

Gareth Jennings, Berlin - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

13 November 2018


The A-29 Super Tucano, seen during Light Attack Experiment trials performed earlier this year, is one of two turboprop platforms that the US Air Force is considering for a future acquisition for itself and partner nations. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) has demonstrated the AERONET international datalink system in the most recent phase of its light attack experiment (LAE) conducted earlier this year, an official said on 13 November.

Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, the official noted that the tactical datalink was demonstrated during the latter part of Phase 2 of the LAE effort that involved the Sierra Nevada Corporation-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine aircraft. This took place in May at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The USAF developed AERONET as a shareable tactical data network for light attack aircraft, as well as building partner communications capabilities. It is designed to be a 'platform agnostic', exportable, affordable and commercially secure tactical datalink that supports line-of-sight/beyond line-of-sight (LOS/BLOS) real-time information exchange between the airborne and ground units.

In service, it can support Forward Air Controller - Airborne (FAC-A); digitally-aided close air support (CAS); strike and armed reconnaissance; armed escort and overwatch; personnel recovery and combat search and rescue (CSAR); and domestic and border patrol capabilities.

Previously known as OA-X, the LAE is designed to find a cheaper and more effective way for the USAF and partner air arms to conduct close air support (CAS) in permissive environments. As the official explained, "The USAF has had to come face to face with the knowledge that sometimes we are flying fifth-generation aircraft against targets that are often just a single person, and that's not cost effective."

Phase 1 of the experiment took place in August 2017, and involved the A-29 Super Tucano, AT-6B Wolverine, Textron Scorpion, and L3 Technologies-Air Tractor AT-802L Longsword. Following this initial phase, the A-20 and AT-6B were designated as Tier 1 for meeting all of the USAF's requirements, while the Scorpion and Longsword were classed as being Tier 2 for meeting some of them.

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[*] posted on 30-11-2018 at 06:10 PM


Pentagon Contract Announcement

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Nov. 28, 2018)


An Embraer A-29 Super Tucano drops a Paveway laser-guided bomb during the development of the Sierra Nevada export variant, initially developed for Afghanistan and now exported through the Foreign Military Sales program. (SNC photo)

Sierra Nevada Corp., Centennial, Colorado, has been awarded a $329,076,750 undefinitized contract action (UCA) for 12 A-29 aircraft for the Nigerian Air Force.

The total not-to-exceed amount of the UCA is approved at $344,727,439 to include a Forward-Looking Infrared System for six of the aircraft. This piece is projected to be funded soon after UCA award.

In addition to the 12 aircraft, this contract provides for ground training devices, mission planning systems, mission debrief systems, spares, ground support equipment, alternate mission equipment, contiguous U.S. interim contractor support, outside of continental U.S. (OCONUS) contractor logistic support, and five field service representatives for OCONUS support for three years.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, Florida, and is expected to be completed May 2024. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $220,167,735 are being obligated at the time of award.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8637-19-C-6009).

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[*] posted on 19-12-2018 at 05:05 PM


Start of Air Force’s light attack plane competition pushed back until next year

By: Valerie Insinna   7 hours ago


The Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine, left, and the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano are the likely contenders for the Air Force's light attack aircraft competition. (Ethan Wagner/Air Force)

WASHINGTON — If the Air Force moves forward on a proposed initiative to buy light attack planes, it won’t happen by the end of 2018.

The service intended to put out a final request for proposals this month for a potential light attack aircraft program, but the date has now slipped into 2019, an Air Force official confirmed Tuesday.

“The Air Force does not anticipate release of the final Light Attack Request for Proposal by the end of the calendar year as we complete additional analysis,” said Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin in an emailed response to Defense News.

The service released a draft solicitation on Aug. 3, following two experimentation campaigns that brought the Sierra Nevada Corp.-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, Textron’s Scorpion jet and AT-6 attack plane, and L3’s AT-802L Longsword to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico for several rounds of test flights.

The second set of flight experiments between the A-29 and AT-6 were curtailed this summer after an A-29 crashed, killing its pilot. However, the Air Force maintained that it could garner the data it needed on aircraft maintenance and network operations while testing the planes on the ground.

Air Force acquisition officials have shied away from declaring whether a program of record will begin in the fiscal year 2020 budget, but the August presolicitation seems to limit the contenders to the A-29 and AT-6, stating that SNC and Textron “are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s time frame without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter.”

The goal of the light attack experiments is to prove whether the Air Force can quickly bring industry to the table to experiment with off the shelf equipment and rapidly make a decision about whether to buy it.

In that light, the delay in releasing the final request for proposals is at least a slight setback, as it’s unclear whether the wait for a final RFP could also push back the Air Force’s proposed due date for awarding a contract — before the start of the 2020 fiscal year on Oct. 1.

But it remains unclear whether the Air Force will have the money to buy it. Officials have maintained that a light attack capability is “additive," meaning that they would not be willing to sacrifice procurement dollars designated for aircraft in existing or planned programs of record so that it could buy the AT-6 or A-29.

However, the Pentagon’s topline budget is still uncertain. Defense Department budget officials had geared up for a $733 billion budget in FY20, only to have President Donald Trump call for a cut to $700 billion. Now, it appears that number is growing after intervention from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and congressional hawks, and could be as high as $750 billion.

Whether the light attack aircraft program fits into any of those topline budgets is currently unknown.
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[*] posted on 4-1-2019 at 09:16 PM


Armed Hurkus-C successfully completes flight and firing trials

Lale Sariibrahimoglu, Ankara - Jane's Defence Weekly

03 January 2019


An example of Turkey’s locally developed Hurkus-C basic trainer/light attack aircraft, carrying weaponry and defensive systems to facilitate close air support missions, has successfully completed flight and firing trials. Source: TAI

An example of Turkey's locally developed Hurkus-C basic trainer/light attack aircraft with electronic warfare systems installed has successfully completed flight and firing trials, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) announced on Twitter on 29 December.

This was the first flight of the Hurkus-C carrying weaponry and defensive systems to facilitate close air support missions, Ismail Demir, head of the Presidency of the Turkish Defence Industries (SSB), said in an interview with CNN Türk on 29 December.

In 2017 the type conducted its first firing test with a local Roketsan-made Lumtas laser-guided long-range air-to-surface anti-tank missile. The Hurkus-C, which features five hardpoints and has a 1,500 kg payload capacity, can also deliver other locally developed munitions, including Cirit laser-guided 70 mm rockets and freefall bombs fitted with Teber INS/GPS-aided laser guidance kits. Additionally, it can be armed with general-purpose bombs as well as 12.7 mm and 20 mm gun systems, according to the SSB.

Under a Turkish military request the Hurkus-C will also be able in future to carry heavier munitions, according to Demir. Twelve Hurkus-Cs, with a follow-on option for 12 more, are currently planned for production.

"The objective of our Hurkus-C aircraft, equipped with an armoured structure, self-protection systems, night-vision-compatible digital/glass cockpit and advanced avionics systems, is to undertake light attack and armed reconnaissance missions as well as carrying out pilot training requirements at a low cost and with high precision," said an SSB release posted on its website. "Our aircraft will also have digital secure communications, image and data connections and a thermal imaging/sighting system."

Video and data can be relayed from a Hurkus-C to a ground station in real time, according to TAI.

The Hurkus-C is currently powered by a 1,600hp Pratt & Whitney engine, although Turkey's Tusas Engine Industries (TEI) is developing an indigenous replacement powerplant.

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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 05:47 PM


PTDI Develops Advanced Armed CN235 Aircraft

(Source: compiled by Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Jan 17, 2019)


An Indonesian-built CN-235. Indonesia’s state-owned aerospace manufacturer, Dirgantara Indonesia, is developing a gunship version of this aircraft and hopes to fly a prototype and begin flight-testing this year. (DI photo)

PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero) is currently developing a variant of the CN235 aircraft equipped with weapons, or gunship. It is a further development of CN235 aircraft which were previously produced by PTDI.

PTDI Production Director Arie Wibowo confirmed that the company was upgrading aircraft that had previously been produced.

"Yes, indeed we are developing a variant of our legacy product CN235, with the capability as a gunship version," he said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He added that the development of an armed variant of CN235 aircraft, with special equipment, is intended to meet national security needs in Indonesia’s territorial waters and borders.

"We develop this to meet the needs of civil security, especially the waters and also the national borders," he said.

The aircraft is expected to help fight fishing thieves, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.

"This is the innovation of PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero) which is aimed at the possible needs” of various security ministries and police forces, he added.

The CN235 gunship is currently in the basic aircraft finishing process, and weapons testing is carried out separately. However, the details of the weapons cannot be specified by PTDI. However, it is possible to cooperate with Pindad.

"It is possible that later, when there are customers, we will work together with Pindad as a form of synergy," he explained.

The CN235 Gunship is expected to fly this year. "I hope we can both fly it and start flight testing in 2019," he added.

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[*] posted on 7-2-2019 at 05:04 PM


Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation Awarded Contract to Deliver 12 A-29s for the Nigerian Air Force

(Source: Embraer; issued Feb 06, 2019)


A Brazilian Air Force Super Tucano takes off from a semi-prepared runway for a close air support mission. Nigeria has ordered 12 similar aircraft, becoming the 14th country to procure this turboprop light attack aircraft. (Embraer photo)

SÃO PAULO, Brazil --- Embraer Defense & Security and its partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) were awarded a contract to deliver 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force.

“SNC is proud to work with our partner, Embraer Defense & Security, to build A-29s in support of the Nigerian Air Force in addressing their on-going training and security needs,” said Taco Gilbert, Senior Vice President of ISR, Aviation and Security (IAS) at SNC. “The combat-proven A-29 is designed and built for the mission in Nigeria. It’s the most reliable and cost-effective solution for basic and advanced flight and combat training, close air support operations, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), counterinsurgency and irregular warfare scenarios.”

“The A-29 Super Tucano has become the global reference for light attack and advanced training with a proven track record in several combat zones around the world”, said Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. “Embraer welcomes Nigeria as the latest member of this true international coalition that is helping bring peace to the world.”

The A-29 is conducting combat missions on a daily basis in theaters around the world. It has more than 46,000 combat hours and more than 360,000 total flight hours. With the Nigeria order, the A-29 is the choice of 14 air forces worldwide.

In addition to its combat record, the A-29’s robust landing gear and enhanced clearance enable take-off and landing in even the most austere field conditions. The aircraft also offers exceptional dependability and accuracy in weapons delivery, making it highly effective in the light attack role.

The contract for the Nigerian Air Force includes ground training devices, mission planning systems, mission debrief systems, spares, ground support equipment, alternate mission equipment, contiguous U.S. interim contractor support, outside of continental U.S. (OCONUS) contractor logistic support and field service representatives for OCONUS support.

The aircraft will be produced in Jacksonville, Florida, and modified in Centennial, Colorado. The aircraft are expected to be delivered to Nigeria in line with the contract timelines, as part of a larger more comprehensive training and support package.

Embraer is a global company headquartered in Brazil with businesses in commercial and executive aviation, defense & security. The company designs, develops, manufactures and markets aircraft and systems, providing customer support and services. Embraer is the leading manufacturer of commercial jets up to 150 seats. The company maintains industrial units, offices, service and parts distribution centers, among other activities, across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.

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[*] posted on 21-2-2019 at 07:50 PM


Saudi tie-up for the B-250 [IDEX19D5]

DAVID DONALD

21 February 2019



One of the more eye-catching exhibits on display in the IDEX exhibition halls is the Calidus B-250, the innovative light attack aircraft that is to be built at a factory in Al Ain.

Yesterday, Calidus (Stand 04-C15) announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with GDC Middle East from Riyadh to jointly explore market opportunities in the Middle East/North Africa region, and to develop in-house capabilities.

For GDC Middle East, the agreement represents an opportunity for Saudi industry to "jointly develop the platform's mission system and weapon integration", according to CEO Fawaz Alsharabi, who added: "The programme will bring high-end technology capability and highly skilled jobs into the Kingdom."

Such initiatives are in line with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which aims to significantly diversify the Kingdom's economy, with the accent on technology.

Calidus was founded in 2015 as a defence technology development and manufacturing company. The B-250 aircraft was unveiled at the Dubai Air Show in November 2017, when one aircraft participated in the flying display and another was exhibited in the static display.

The B-250 was created in collaboration with Novaer of Brazil, and the programme went from start to a flying prototype in just 25 months. Intended primarily for light attack and armed ISR duties, the B-250 is also capable of conducting training missions.

A key feature is its carbon-fibre construction, which results in a lightweight airframe. Power is provided by a 1,600shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68 turboprop.

Maximum speed is 301kt and service ceiling is 38,000ft. The B-250 has an endurance of 12 hours and a range of 2,400nm. Calidus claims an operating cost of less than US$1,200 per flying hour.

Weapons can be carried on six underwing and a centreline pylon, with a maximum payload capacity of 1,800kg. The full-scale mock-up at IDEX is displayed with Desert Sting-16/35 glide weapons and Thunder-P32 laser-guided bombs from Halcon Systems, and a pod for ESSS/LIG Nex 1 LOGIR imaging infrared-guided rockets.

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[*] posted on 14-3-2019 at 06:59 PM


Air Force to buy handful of light-attack planes, but will a bigger program follow?

By: Valerie Insinna   11 hours ago


The Air Force will buy a couple of A-29 Super Tucanos, above, and AT-6 Wolverines, below, according to the service's top general. (Ethan Wagner/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force will procure a handful of A-29 Super Tucano planes from Sierra Nevada Corp. and AT-6 Wolverines from Textron to continue light-attack demonstrations, the service’s top general said Wednesday.

That purchase provides a modest, but much-needed show of confidence for the two companies, which have invested internal funding over the past two years on the Air Force’s light-attack experiment and are still hoping the service moves forward with a bigger buy of light-attack aircraft.

The Air Force plans to place small detachments of AT-6 and A-29 turboprop planes at Nellis Air Force Base — the Nevada-based installation that hosts Red Flag and other training exercises — and Hurlburt Field, Florida, where Air Force Special Operations Command is based, Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense News that the service would likely buy two or three of each aircraft, but Goldfein told lawmakers at the hearing that the exact numbers would be dependent on the price tag of the planes.

“The United States Marine Corps has already said they’re joining us,” Goldfein said. “We’re going to invite allies and partners, and with the authorities you’ve given us now that we own those prototypes, we will continue to experiment to build the interoperable network that we’ve already advanced.”

Funding for the AT-6 and A-29 will come from leftover money from previous years’ budgets. Congress has appropriated about $200 million for the experimentation campaign so far, Stefanek said. Of that, about $60 million in fiscal 2018 research and development funds and $100 million in fiscal 2019 procurement funds still remain, and will be used by the service to finance the AT-6 and A-29 buy.

Although most of the light-attack experiment centered around turboprop planes, the Air Force is interested in expanding the exercise to include drones, rotorcraft and turbojet planes.

The FY20 budget request calls for $35 million to continue the light-attack experiment. Part of those funds would go toward a market analysis of global demand for light-attack platforms, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

Then the service would go through a similar process as it did with earlier portions of the experiment, soliciting companies to offer off-the-shelf technologies and using special, congressionally approved authorities to partner with them for demonstrations.

The idea is that the Air Force will have solidified exactly what light-attack capabilities it needs sometime around 2022 through 2024, when it plans to procure such assets, Goldfein said.

However, some lawmakers criticized Air Force leadership for what they perceived as its sluggishness in moving to the procurement phase of the experiment.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said that when he saw a recent report by the Pentagon’s weapons testing agency that cited a plan for the Air Force to buy upward of 300 light-attack aircraft, he considered it as proof that the rapid acquisition process was working. However, recent statements by Air Force leaders on the future of the program made him concerned that the service was abandoning light-attack aircraft procurement, he noted.

“It seems to me that there is a schizophrenia in the Air Force about light attack. The messages are mixed,” Moran said.

Goldfein responded that the service simply didn’t have enough information to commit to a program of record at this point, and wanted to do more work exploring the requirements of partner nations and establishing an interoperable network with them before making a final decision.

“When you compare what we’ve done compared to a normal timeline for acquisition that would take five to 10 years, we’re two years into this,” he said.
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[*] posted on 7-4-2019 at 01:34 PM


LAAD 2019: Akaer presents conceptual Mosquito multi-role aircraft

Pat Host, Rio de Janiero - Jane's Defence Weekly

03 April 2019


Akaer is showing a conceptual multi-role aircraft called Mosquito at the 2019 LAAD Defence and Security exposition. Source: IHS Markit/Pat Host

Key Points

- Akaer conceptually designed the Mosquito to perform missions ranging from airborne C2 to armed ISR and aerial refuelling
- The company believes it could provide better visibility than competitors Super Tucano and Wolverine

Akaer of Brazil is presenting a conceptual twin-engine multi-role aircraft called the Mosquito at the 2019 LAAD Defence & Security exposition that, if developed, would be the company's first aircraft.

The Mosquito would conceptually perform missions such as close air support (CAS); intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); armed ISR; and aerial refuelling. It could also perform combat search and rescue (CSAR); communications intelligence; air defence; airborne command and control (C2); and battlefield interdiction.

Fernando Ferraz, Akaer chief operations officer, told Jane's on 3 April that Mosquito is the result of a two-to-three-year effort to identify needs and trends in the light attack aircraft market. The company, he said, also went through 10 different designs before settling on this model while trying to blend many requirements from around the world.

"We are trying to mix some trends," Ferraz said. "This is what should be a product able to comply with all the wishes we could find."

Ferraz said an engine provider for the Mosquito has not been finalised but the company conceptually used the 500-1,000 shaft hp class Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A propulsion system. An engine provider would be according to a customer's request.

The Mosquito would differentiate itself from competing light attack aircraft such as the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano or the Textron AT-6 Wolverine by providing better visibility. Ferraz said Akaer conceptually designed the Mosquito with raised wings on the fuselage. Both the Super Tucano and the Wolverine have wings much lower on the aircraft fuselage.

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[*] posted on 15-4-2019 at 09:31 PM


Lebanon demonstrates APKWS missiles

Jeremy Binnie, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

15 April 2019

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) demonstrated its new precision ground attack capability on 11 April, when an Embraer EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano aircraft launched Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) munitions at the Hanoush range near Hamat Air Base.


Two Super Tucanos seen armed with APKWS missiles fly over the Hanoush range during the demonstration, which was attended by journalists and officials. (Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP/Getty Images)

The LAF said this was the first time that it had used the APKWS, which is a laser-guidance kit for unguided 70 mm air-to-surface rockets. The demonstration involved a Cessna 208 Caravan surveillance aircraft identifying targets for the Super Tucanos.

The US embassy in Beirut announced on 13 February that an APKWS consignment had been delivered to the LAF.

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[*] posted on 10-5-2019 at 12:36 PM


Air Force to give Sierra Nevada Corp. a sole-source contract for light-attack planes, but Textron will also get an award

By: Valerie Insinna   12 hours ago


Super Tucano aircraft fly over targets during a drill by the Lebanese Air Force in the village of Hamat on April 11, 2019. (Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP via Getty Images)]]=\'

WASHINGTON The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday stated its intent to sole source A-29 Super Tucanos from Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer. But a similar solicitation for Textrons AT-6 Wolverine will be forthcoming, an Air Force spokeswoman confirmed.

The Air Force intends to put out a final solicitation to the SNC-Embraer team this month and will award a contract by the end of the fiscal year, according to a May 8 notice on FedBizOpps.

We expect a separate procurement action for the AT-6, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense News. Stefanek added that the service still intends to buy two to three of each aircraft for more experiments at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and with the special operations community at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Earlier this year, the Air Force acknowledged it was unprepared to move its light-attack experimentation effort into a full-fledged program of record. Instead, the service kept both options Textrons AT-6 and the SNC-Embraer A-29 on the table and requested $35 million to continue testing the jets in fiscal 2020.

Some analysts and lawmakers have accused the Air Force of slow-rolling the program in an attempt to see it quietly canceled, despite congressional enthusiasm for buying new attack planes.

However, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein maintains that future experiments will help the Air Force narrow down light-attack capabilities that the service and foreign nations need. He has also said the service will be ready to make procurement decisions around the FY22-FY24 time frame.

The United States Marine Corps has already said theyre joining us, Goldfein said in March. Were going to invite allies and partners, and with the authorities youve given us now that we own those prototypes, we will continue to experiment to build the interoperable network that weve already advanced.

According to the pre-solicitation, the light-attack aircraft will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years. Additionally, it will support Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) with the ability to accomplish its mission of Close Combat Air support to partner nations.

The Air Force has said that funding for the initial AT-6 and A-29 buys will come out of the estimated $160 million in unspent funds that Congress appropriated for the effort in previous budgets. Congress has appropriated $200 million in total for the effort since it was announced in late 2016.
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[*] posted on 24-5-2019 at 03:25 PM


Close Air Support Timeline Cut; Wait For Tech Was Too Long

For too long, the CAS program was falling on deaf ears, because it didnt quite fit exactly in somebodys nice little picture of a program, and it wasnt funded within a traditional acquisition program.


By PAUL MCLEARY

on May 22, 2019 at 6:06 PM


Air Force JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) wave to an A-10 during training.

SOFIC: App-enabled handheld devices have slashed the time it takes for Air Force controllers on the ground to call in airstrikes; and the Pentagon, as well as other federal agencies like Homeland Security are buying into the technology in a big way.

Over the past several years, Army and Special Operations forces have been using the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) app in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria to give troops the ability to see more, communicate more easily with other units, and find out where potentially hostile forces are on the grid.

Weve taken the JTAC kill chain from minutes that 16 step process down to seconds. Close air support is now seconds of coordination, Col. Joel Babbitt, head of the SOF Warrior Office, told defense industry reps here today.

In Syria, troops have been using the system to define the forward line of troops, pinpointing exactly where small US outposts are located, and how close they are to agreed-upon boundaries with Russian, Syrian, and Iranian-backed troops.

Those successes have led Special Operations Command to go all in on the tech, which was originally developed by DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab. We are integrating everything into ATAK, Col. Joel Babbitt, head of the SOF Warrior office, told defense industry reps here on Tuesday. Let me be very clear: if you dont speak ATAK youre not talking to me.

Babbitt told industry reps here that ATAK has gone viral throughout the entire Department of Defense. The Army is also going big on the technology, bringing about 160,000 users into the program over the next six months, while the Air Force is bringing everything onto it, and Navy F-18 pilots are using different versions.

In the aftermath of 2017s Hurricane Harvey in Texas, DHS and the National Guard made use of ATAK, helping both coordinate search and rescue efforts.CAS

Mark Shook, the Joint Special Operations Commands science and technology lead, applauded the command for eventually pushing the JTAC mission, but said it took military leadership too long to pay attention to the capability and get it into the field.

Several years ago while some were pushing for ATAK to be funded and fielded, it was falling on deaf ears, because it didnt quite fit exactly in somebodys nice little picture of a program, and it wasnt funded within a traditional acquisition program, Shook said.

We cannot afford to let the process say no to some of these game-changing capabilities, he added.

That fight trying to streamline cumbersome acquisition practices is something that has been picked up by the Pentagon and its DIU and rapid acquisition efforts, but it is still very much a work in progress.

One Pentagon effort in particular, led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Enablers Stacy Cummings, is trying to streamline the process.

Speaking Wednesday morning, Cummings said she wants to understand the individual characteristic of programs, and allow program managers to be able to tweak the system to modernize more quickly.

The purpose of my office is really to be thinking about how we enable the services and how do we enable the [combatant commands], how do we enable the warfighters to get the capability that they need in support of the national defense strategy, Cummings said.

If we can create a more modular approach to the way that we buy capabilities, we can deliver them faster, we can get them in the hands of the user faster, we can test them faster and we can reuse them when it makes sense, Cummings said.
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[*] posted on 15-6-2019 at 02:08 PM


Archangel light attack aircraft proliferates, supports USAF training

Rupert Pengelley, London - Jane's International Defence Review

14 June 2019

The US Air Force (USAF) has become a customer for contract close air support (CAS) training using the IOMAX Archangel light attack aircraft, which appears to be proliferating for CAS roles.
The converted crop-duster aircraft is suited to the CAS training role in part because of its USD882 per-flying-hour cost, low compared with fast jets, according to Seamus Flatley, IOMAX's vice-president for business development.

In a presentation at a recent IQPC CAS Summit in London, Flatley told delegates that IOMAX, under subcontract to Textron, supplied an Archangel for 'dry' CAS currency training for joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from the USAF's 118th Air Support Operations Squadron for the first time during a series of exercises at a range in North Carolina, staged between May and September 2018.

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[*] posted on 14-7-2019 at 11:22 PM


Russia Could Be Developing a Gunship

by Eugene Gerden - July 12, 2019, 3:48 AM


The VKS (Russian Aerospace Forces) continues to operate a dwindling number of aging An-12 transports. (photo: Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russia appears ready to start a project to build a gunshipan aircraft designed for the operational support of land forcesdespite the skepticism of some local experts and cloudy prospects. Earlier in July, the state-affiliated TASS news agency cited sources in the Russian military-industrial complex, who said that work on the aircraft has already started.

It will be positioned as an analog of the U.S. Air Forces AC-130W Stinger II (modified MC-130) and will use a modified version of the Antonov An-12 Cub transport aircraft as its platform. The weapon system will include a 57mm automatic gun, as well as some smaller-caliber weapons (probably 30mm) and automatic grenade launchers.

The idea for building a similar type of aircraft was discussed in the Soviet Union as far back as the 1930s. The gunship was based on a Tupolev TB-3 heavy bomber and was equipped with 76mm and two 45mm guns. In order to compensate for their poor accuracy, the weapons fired shrapnel shells, which could target troops and lightly armored vehicles. The firing range of the main caliber weapon reached 18 km, which made the aircraft immune to anti-aircraft artillery. Despite certain successes achieved during the tests of that gunship, the project was terminated at the end of 1930s, as its critics were able to prove that the use of unguided rockets by an aircraft was more effective than flying artillery.

The reasons for the resumption of a gunship project have not been disclosed at the state level. Vasily Kashin, head of the department of international military-political and economic problems of the Russian Higher School of Economics, told AIN that the new aircraft could be suitable for counter-insurgency operations in the Northern Caucasus, Central Asia, and Syria, while Russia hopes to mirror the experience of the U.S. and its successful use of the AC-130.

However, a serious problem that may complicate implementation of the project is the lack of an adequate aircraft. Currently the main obstacle for this project is the lack of a suitable platform, said Kashin. The Soviet counterpart of the C-130 was the An-12 and serial production of it was stopped in the 1970s. A number of An-12s are still used in the Russian Aerospace Force but they are old and are expected to be retired early next decade. The replacement for them [Il-276] is in the early development stage and cannot be expected in mass production before the end of the next decade. The only type of military transport aircraft that Russia can produce independently is the Il-76MD-90A, which is too heavy and large for this role.

In the meantime, other leading Russian experts in the field of military aviation remain skeptical regarding the combat capabilities of the newly designed gunship. Dmitry Drozdenko, a senior editor of Arsenal Otechestva, a leading Russian paper in the field of defense and military aviation, told AIN that such aircraft are primarily suitable for the fight with terrorists.

These aircraft are effective only against an enemy that does not have air defense weapons, i.e. poorly armed formations, terrorists, and the like," commented Drozdenko. This is proved by the combat use of the American gunships. In Vietnam, this type of aircraft usually avoided attacking areas that could have air defense weaponseven a cannon. In Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, one of these aircraft was shot down by a Strela-2 MANPADS. This, and other losses suggest that the concept of a flying battery itself is good in terms of fire efficiency and destruction, however, due to its lack of defenses, its use against modern regular troops is senseless.

Representatives from the main command of the Russian Air Forces were unavailable for comment concerning the program.
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[*] posted on 22-7-2019 at 10:09 PM


RIAT: Wolverine hopes for US Air Force certification boost

20 July, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Dominic Perry London

Textron Aviation Defense believes a forthcoming US Air Force (USAF) certification campaign for its Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine light-attack aircraft will open the door to future export orders.

While the single-engined turboprop has been tested extensively by the service, it has yet to match the sales success of the rival Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which has been selected by both Afghanistan and Lebanon.


Craig Hoyle/FlightGlobal

A request for proposals is expected to be released in the coming days by the USAF, which will acquire three examples of the AT-6. These will be used for certification testing and evaluations of its light-attack performance.

"That certification opens us up to international sales," says Brett Pierson, vice-president of light attack aircraft at Textron Aviation Defense. He notes that it will also enable orders to be placed via the US government's Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

Assuming the three-unit purchase proceeds as planned, the aircraft could be delivered around 18 months after they are ordered. However, the certification timeline depends on the USAF.

Pierson says that several nations are already interested in the Wolverine. "We are not on contract with any [customers], but several have expressed that they would like to get them right after the USA."

A standard load-out for the AT-6 on its six hardpoints includes two 226kg (500lb) guided bombs such as the Raytheon Paveway II, a pair of .50cal machine guns and two rocket pods.

Firing tests of the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile have also previously been carried out, notes Pierson.


Textron Aviation Defense

USAF representatives have already conducted two rounds of evaluation with the AT-6 and A-29, in 2017 and 2018, which were anticipated to lead to a contest for a 300-unit order.

However, earlier this year the US Department of Defense elected not to proceed with the procurement.

The USAF will also acquire a trio of A-29s for the latest round of testing.

Pierson is also responsible for the Textron Scorpion a jet-powered light-attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform developed speculatively by the airframer.

First flown in 2013, Textron has since built two further Scorpion prototypes, but has yet to secure a customer and has largely wound-down development work.

However, it continues to fly the aircraft on behalf of industry and government customers looking to test sensors and other systems without the expense of full integration on production aircraft.

"In the last two months we have been flying like crazy," says Pierson. "In early July we flew two Scorpions every day for one week."
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[*] posted on 23-10-2019 at 09:01 AM


AHRLAC back on track as rescue deal approved

Charles Forrester, London - Jane's Defence Industry

21 October 2019


Prototype AHRLAC multisensor surveillance aircraft. Source: Paramount

Development of the South African AHRLAC aircraft was given a new lease of life on 21 October following the approval of a business rescue plan.

Paramount Group announced that the plan "will secure the future of the AHRLAC aircraft, [and] its employees, and will see the resumption of sales, marketing, and manufacturing of the aircraft to customers around the world.

"Paramount Group has already injected new capital in the form of post commencement funding, and [it] will inject significant further capital into the business over the coming months."

The rescue plan, released on 23 August, envisaged consolidation of the various subunits in the Aerospace Development Corporation (ADC), which develops, manufactures, and delivers AHRLAC, into a single business owned by Paramount Group through two new South African-based entities.

The first company, to be owned by Paramount Group, will take over the manufacturing and tangible assets of the business. This includes research and development, manufacturing, and marketing of AHRLAC, as well as the production of data packs, industrialisation and certification of the aircraft, and supply and support. The new company will also take over the management and operation of facilities related to the AHRLAC programme, including the manufacturing facility at Wonderboom National Airport near Pretoria.

The second company will hold all the intellectual property (IP) for the programme. It will be owned by a company nominated by Riverston Enterprises, which funded development of the IP for AHRLAC.

The proposal also acknowledged the role of Dr Paul Potgieter and his son, Paul Jnr, in the development of the aircraft. Under the proposed plan, the Potgieters would receive a 3% ex gratia payment calculated on the material cost of the first 50 aircraft, followed by 1.5% for the next 50, and 0.5% for any further aircraft.

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[*] posted on 30-10-2019 at 09:45 AM


Iranian Air Force Considering Yasin for Light Attack Role

(Source: Forecast International; posted October 28, 2019)
By Derek Bisaccio


Irans locally-developed Yasin twin-engined jet trainer could be modified for the light attack role, according to the chairman of the Iran Aviation Industry Organization. (Tasnim News photo)

The Iranian Air Force is considering the use of the Yasin jet trainer in the light attack role.

In an interview with Iranian state TV over the weekend, Amir Karim Bani Tarafi, the Chairman of the Iran Aviation Industry Organization, said the Air Force is examining the prospect of using Yasin for close air support missions (CAS). He said, At present, the plane only has a training function, but it can be in the future completed and equipped with bombs and missiles and be used as a CAS plane.

He added that the Air Force is assessing its requirements, suggesting that the Air Force would typically require between three and four squadrons with 16 jets each, or a total of 48 to 64 aircraft.

A number of countries, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, have begun putting light aircraft into use for strike missions. While the aircraft would be vulnerable to enemy air-defenses or air-to-air missiles, they can be useful in carrying out counterinsurgency operations in environments where enemy militants are lacking suitable anti-aircraft capabilities.

It is not immediately clear when Yasin will be ready to enter service or how long it might take to equip and test the aircraft with armaments. Iran has not publicly disclosed the size of an initial order for the aircraft.

Bani Tarafi noted that the Iranian defense industry faced some challenges in producing the jet engine for the Yasin. But he claims that the problem has been resolved, and that the engine is now in mass production. Yasin was shown off in a ceremony at Shahid Noje airbase earlier this month, where it made its first test flight.

Yasin appears to be the new designation for the Kowsar-88, a trainer aircraft that was shown off in 2017 and was supposed to make its first test flight last year, but never did. The IAIO chairmans comments shed some light on a possible reason for the delay in testing.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 21-11-2019 at 09:16 AM


Dubai Airshow 2019: UAE-based Calidus secures domestic COIN aircraft order

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

20 November 2019


Seen for the first time at the Dubai Airshow in 2017, the UAE-developed Calidus B-250 is a light attack COIN aircraft provisioned with an EO/IR sensor and seven hardpoints. The UAE AF DF has become the first customer, with an order for 24 announced on 20 November. (Collins Aerospace)

United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Calidus has secured the first order for its B-250 turboprop aircraft designed for light attack counter-insurgency (COIN).

The order, announced at the Dubai Air Show on 20 November, covers 24 aircraft and associated services for the UAE Air Force and Defence (UAE AF & AD) and is valued at AED2.27 billion (USD620 million). No details pertaining to delivery timelines or in-service dates were disclosed.

First revealed at the same event in 2017, the B-250 is a single-engined, tandem twin-seat aircraft that is being developed in the UAE by Calidus with input from Brazilian company Novaer.

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[*] posted on 21-11-2019 at 05:00 PM


Calidus inks its first B-250 light attack plane order

By: Valerie Insinna   19 hours ago


A Calidus B-250 light attack plane and its weapons loadout is shown at Dubai Airshow on Nov. 17, 2019. (Jeff Martin/Staff)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates UAE aerospace company Calidus scored its first contract for the B-250 light attack aircraft on Nov. 20, when the United Arab Emirates placed an order for 24 planes at the Dubai Airshow.

The contract, worth AED 2.273 billion or about $260 million, represents the first time the UAE military has purchased a domestically-produced aircraft. The first B-250 plane was unveiled at Dubai Airshow 2017 and has since been shown at IDEX this past February and the 2018 Bahrain International Airshow.

The first light-attack aircraft of its kind

The B-250 is a turboprop plane built for close air support, counter-terrorism activities, training and the collection of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

It was designed by Brazilian firm Novaer and has an operating cost of about $1,200 per flight hour, according to Calidus. It has an endurance of up to 10 hours and a maximum cruising speed of 350 knots.

Military aircraft orders have been light during Dubai Airshow 2019. Aside from Wednesdays B-250 contract, the UAE announced on Tuesday its intention to buy two more GlobalEye airborne early warning and control planes from Saab, but final negotiations are still ongoing.
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[*] posted on 6-12-2019 at 10:01 AM


US adds targeting requirements to munitions transfers

Charles Forrester, London - Jane's Defence Industry

05 December 2019


An EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano drops a Paveway laser-guided bomb. Countries wanting to acquire systems such as Paveway will need to have improved targeting infrastructure covering areas such as collateral damage and weaponeering. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

- End-users will be required to have appropriate target planning, generation capabilities as part of air-to-surface and indirect surface-to-surface munition system acquisitons.
- The move comes as users of US guided munitions in combat have been criticized for a lack of target discrimination and planning.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which facilitates and manages military equipment exports through the foreign military sales (FMS) programme, has announced changes to the Security Assistance Management Manual (SAMM) for air-to-surface munitions and indirect fire surface-to-surface munitions and their delivery systems.

In a memorandum to users dated 27 November, DSCA director Lieutenant General Charles Hooper amended the regulations for the total package approach for FMS purchasers to be expanded to cover targeting solutions.

Under the new amendments, countries receiving these munitions will be required to have a US targeting solution as part of the total package approach, unless the implementing agency with the US Department of Defense (DoD) has "determined that the country has a sufficient previously established US, indigenous, or third-party solution for targeting infrastructure."

Key aspects of the new target development capabilities include assessments by users of potential collateral damage estimations, and weaponeering, which involves planning to ensure that an optimal number or type of weapons are employed to ensure the successful prosecution of a target with the desired effect.

Weaponeering and collateral damage estimations will be required for munitions that use coordinate seeking, laser, infrared, radar-seeking, stand-off, and unguided systems. Target coordinate mensuration (TCM) is also required for coordinate seeking and stand-off munitions. TCM involves the end-user's ability to generate accurate absolute coordinates for the successful deployment of coordinate seeking systems.

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[*] posted on 13-12-2019 at 03:34 PM


Congress may have given the Air Force an exit door for the light attack aircraft program

By: Valerie Insinna   11 hours ago


The Air Force plans to purchase several Sierra Nevada Corp.-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, left, and Textron AT-6B Wolverine aircraft for continued experimentation. (Ethan Wagner/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON Congress wants the Air Force to consider transferring some funding allocated for light attack planes to U.S. Special Operations Command a provision that could allow the service to quietly quash its light attack efforts and allow SOCOM to step in to run a program of record.

In the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act conference report, passed by the House on Wednesday, defense authorizers told the Air Force to enhance coordination with SOCOM as it continues light attack aircraft experiments.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke should explore options for coordinating light attack aircraft experiment activities between general purpose forces and special operations forces to maximize efficiency and effectiveness and to further the mission requirements of both forces," the NDAA conference report read.

Notably, the legislation also contains an option to transfer a portion of funds authorized for Air Force light attack aircraft experiments to procure aircraft for supporting the combat air advisor mission of the Special Operations Command.

For the past two years, Congress has enthusiastically supported the purchase of several hundred new attack planes for the Air Force, which would allow it to conduct counterinsurgency operations at a lower cost and potentially become more interoperable with certain partner nations in the Middle East and Africa.

Congress appropriated some $200 million to the service to buy new planes. The service, however, took a cautious approach, using a fraction of that money to conduct experiments with light attack platforms in 2017 and 2018, then shelving plans to release a request for proposals in 2019.

That perceived hesitance has led some members of Congress to blast the service for slow rolling a program of record. During a March hearing with Air Force leadership, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., criticized the Air Forces messaging about light attack as schizophrenic. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., has threatened to give the Army or SOCOM responsibility for the program.

However, the FY20 NDAA takes a moderate approach on light attack, authorizing $35 million for the Air Force to continue its experimentation campaign. The Air Force intends to buy two or three Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corp.-Embraer A-29 aircraft for those efforts, but the serice maintains it cannot buy a large fleet of light attack aircraft unless its budget is expanded.

Nevertheless, Congress has mandated greater cooperation with SOCOM, which is bullish on light attack, rather than instructing the Air Force to buy additional planes.

If the Air Force decides to end its experimentation campaign, the provisions in the defense authorization bill now allow the service to transfer its light attack funding to SOCOM to support the commands requirement to train foreign pilots.

Light attack is a need for SOCOM, and I think its a need for our nation, Clarke said during a House Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing in April.

One, it will help our special operators on the ground for identification and protection from all our enemy forces, he said. Second reason, as we look at the foreign internal defense of other nations, there are many nations that are now developing their own air forces, and in many cases they are light attack.

If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the NDAA will also compel the Air Force to make military-type certifications available to light attack aircraft manufactures so they can more easily export the planes to foreign militaries.
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[*] posted on 6-2-2020 at 08:49 AM


US Special Operations plans to buy 75 light attack aircraft for Armed Overwatch

By Garrett Reim6 February 2020

The US Special Operations Command plans on buying 75 fixed-wing aircraft for its just-announced Armed Overwatch programme.

The aircraft are intended for close air support of special operations troops, according to a notice announcing an upcoming industry day posted online 3 February.


Source: Embraer
Afghan Sierra Nevada / Embraer A-29


Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling close air support, precision strike, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments, says the notice.

The programme is similar to a faltering light attack experiment within the US Air Force (USAF), which aims to show light attack aircraft, specifically the Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada /Embraer A-29, could cheaply boost the air-to-ground attack capabilities of US allies and foreign partners. To further that experiment, the service announced in October 2019 that it planned to give Textron and Sierra Nevada orders for purchase of two to three light attack aircraft each.

The Armed Overwatch programme is closer to the USAF light attack experiments original goal of providing the US military with a cheaper alternative for air-to-ground attack missions, compared with expensive-to-fly fourth and fifth generation fighters such as the Boeing F-15E or Lockheed Martin F-35.

Air superiority is often the USAs trump card, especially when patrolling or fighting on the ground with small numbers of troops. The issue came to the top of the Pentagons priorities after four US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in 2017, partly due to lack of air cover.

Turboprop light attack aircraft, such as the AT-7 and A-29, can carry machine guns, rockets, missiles and precision bombs.

US Special Operations Command plans to host an industry day on 4 March 5 March to explain the Armed Overwatch programme to prospective bidders.

Initially, Armed Overwatch would be pursued as a prototype initiative to demonstrate the concept, says US Special Operations Command.

If the demonstration phase proves promising enough, US Special Operations Command plans to award a follow-on contract with a base 5-year ordering period, plus a 2-year option, for 75 aircraft and MRO support.
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