Air Force May Reprogram Funds to Speed Up Light Attack Buy

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson speaks Wednesday at a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing. Screenshot photo

The Air Force could work with Congress to reprogram funds over the next five years to buy light attack aircraft faster, if its upcoming experiment goes well.

The service’s Light Attack Experiment will kick off its second phase at Holloman AFB, N.M., this year. It will evaluate two aircraft, Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, for a possible purchase to fly close air support missions in permissive environments. The overall goal is to have a cheaper aircraft flying missions targeting violent extremism, and free up fighter aircraft to be ready for high-end missions in contested environments.

‘The Air Force has $2.4 billion in its five-year future years defense program to buy this fleet. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking Wednesday at a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, said the service could reprogram funds after the experiment if it wants to buy the aircraft faster.

In addition to the Air Force fleet, Wilson said the experiment is “coalition at the core” and it wants allies to purchase their own fleets of the aircraft. It is all part of a strategy to deal with the prospect of continued extremism in a cost-effective way, she said.

The Air Force wants to build partner capacity to the point where this violence can “be managed in individual countries,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Wednesday. “When you think light attack, you think allies and partners,” he said. “That’s the big idea.”