Air Force tests two turboprops as potential A-10 “replacements”
The US Air Force has kicked off the procurement for another round of wing replacements for A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, known affectionately by many as the Warthog. With new wings, the A-10s will help fill a gap left by the delayed volume delivery of F-35A fighters, which were intended to take over the A-10’s close air support (CAS) role in “contested environments”—places where enemy aircraft or modern air defenses would pose a threat to supporting aircraft. For now, the A-10 is being used largely in uncontested environments, where the greatest danger pilots face is small arms fire or possibly a Stinger-like man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) missile. But the Warthog is also being deployed to Eastern Europe as part of the NATO show of strength in response to Russia.
While the A-10 will keep flying through 2025 under current plans, Air Force leadership has perceived (or was perhaps convinced to see) a need for an aircraft that could take over the A-10’s role in low-intensity and uncontested environments—something relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain that could be flown from relatively unimproved airfields to conduct armed reconnaissance, interdiction, and close air support missions. The replacement would also double as advanced trainer aircraft for performing weapons qualifications and keeping pilots’ flight-time numbers up.
So, last year the Air Force kicked off the Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a four-aircraft competition to determine what would best fit that bill.
In the first phase, the Air Force tested four aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Three were turboprop aircraft already in the inventory of some US allies in some form: AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine. The fourth, the only jet aircraft in the group, was Textron and AirLand’s Scorpion. Now, the Air Force has begun a second phase and has cut the field to two: the Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine and the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
The Beechcraft Wolverine:
The Super Tucano:
The Australians field a PC-9 which at least one of these two planes is based off and they use it for forward spotting and ground support, but can either of these prop aircraft really replace the A-10?! BRRRTTT is cool, the A-10 is a beast, but aesthetics and cool factor aside, the A-10 is about the best CAS fixed wing that has existed outside of Spectre isn’t it?
The F22/35 replacement scheme is a load of rubbish as well. They want a Jack of all trades platform that still isn’t living up to expectation and is still trying to kill its pilots, running billions over budget and being out performed by previous generation aircraft.
Bye bye BRRRRTT-T.