Air Force conducts Light Attack Experiment to test new industry offerings

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N. M. Air Force senior leaders and international visitors met at Holloman Air Force Base recently to observe some flights as part of the ongoing Light Attack Experiment.

During the first week of the experiment, Air Force pilots flew basic surface attack missions in Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine turboprop and tested Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano.  Pilots also underwent familiarization flights in Textron Aviation’s Scorpion jet and in Air Tractor Inc. and L3 Platform Integration Division’s AT-802L Longsword. During the live-fly tests, pilots will continue to fly the four aircraft through a range of combat mission scenarios to evaluate each platform’s utility.

In its initial invitation to participate earlier this year, the Air Force established vendor parameters under which industry members were asked to propose aircraft that could potentially meet the Air Force need for low-cost, supportable, and sustainable air capabilities. Scenarios examined during the experiment were designed to highlight aspects of various combat missions, such as close air support, air interdiction, combat search and rescue, and strike coordination and reconnaissance. The experiment included weapons generally used on fighter and attack aircraft to evaluate the participating aircraft’s ability to execute traditional counter-land missions.

The live-fly experiment is part of a broader Air Force effort to explore cost-effective attack platform options under the Light Attack Experimentation Campaign run by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, said of the undertaking: “We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways. Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”

An Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft participates in the U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment, a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan D. Wagner.)

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