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Air Force announces next steps in light attack experimentation

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Following the Light Attack Experiment conducted in August 2017, the Air Force announced its intention to continue experimenting with two non-developmental aircraft, the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, from May to July 2018 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

"Rather than do a combat demonstration, we have decided to work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft — the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement."

Further experimentation will examine logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues, training syllabus validity, networking and future interoperability with partner forces. The Air Force will also experiment with rapidly building and operating an exportable, affordable network to enable aircraft to communicate with joint and multi-national forces, as well as command-and-control nodes.

"This effort to find a lower-cost and exportable aircraft for permissive environments is directly in line with the National Defense Strategy," said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein. "A light attack aircraft would not only provide relief to our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, but also bolster our interoperability, so we can more effectively employ airpower as an international team."

The light attack effort supports our nation’s defense strategy to counter violent extremism on a global scale, alongside allies and partners. A light attack capability could sustain competence in irregular warfare, maximize capability from financial investment, and harness existing, innovative technologies. A light attack aircraft option not only offers additional value and flexibility, but also accelerates modernization of current and potential partner forces who do not require advanced fighter aircraft.

Five international partners observed the first phase of the Light Attack Experiment, and the Air Force plans to invite additional international partners to observe this second phase of experimentation.

The Air Force expects to have the information it needs to potentially buy light attack aircraft in a future competition, without conducting a combat demonstration, based on data collected during the first round of the experiment and future data anticipated to be collected in the next phase of experimentation.

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