The Air Force released an industry Invitation to Participate today to evaluate the military utility of light attack platforms in future force structure.
The invitation is part of a broader Air Force effort to explore cost-effective attack platform options. The live-fly experiment is an element of the Light Attack Capabilities Experimentation Campaign run by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is currently scheduled for summer at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
“This is an evolution of the Close Air Support experimentation effort which we have now broadened to include a variety of counter-land missions typical of extended operations since Desert Storm,” said Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
Industry members are invited to participate with aircraft that may meet an Air Force need for a low-cost capability that is supportable and sustainable. This spring the Air Force will analyze data received from vendors seeking to participate in the experimentation campaign and will then invite selected offerors to participate in a live-fly capabilities assessment this summer.
The Air Force will host the live-fly experiment to assess the capabilities of these off-the-shelf attack aircraft. Industry participants will participate with suitable aircraft, which will be flown by Air Force personnel in scenarios designed to highlight aspects of various combat missions, such as close air support, armed reconnaissance, combat search & rescue and strike control & reconnaissance.
The live-fly experiment also includes the employment of weapons commonly used by other fighter/attack aircraft to demonstrate the capabilities of light attack aircraft for traditional counter-land missions.
“After 25 years of continuous combat operations, our Air Force is in more demand than ever,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements. “Since we don’t expect deployment requirements to decrease, we have to look for innovative and affordable ways to meet capability demands in permissive environments while building and maintaining readiness to meet emerging threats in more contested environments.”
The live-fly experimentation will include a number of mission events including medium altitude basic day and night surface attack, precision munition surface attack, armed reconnaissance and close air support.
“This is an experiment, not a competition,” said Harris, emphasizing the event may not necessarily lead to any acquisition.
Experimentation and prototyping are envisioned as potential pathways to identify new operational concepts and candidate capabilities which can be rapidly and affordably fielded. The Air Force is interested in using agile solutions by leveraging rapid acquisition authorities where appropriate, to meet anticipated needs.
The results of the Light Attack Capabilities Experimentation Campaign will be used to inform requirements and criteria for future investment decisions.