The Search for a Light Attack Aircraft

The Air Force is looking at light attack aircraft that are “shovel ready,” and could quickly be acquired to perform ground support missions in “uncontested” regions, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Thursday. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Goldfein said USAF wants a low-cost, “off the shelf” system requiring minimal or no changes to meet this requirement, but he also said it is not yet a program of record. The “Combat Dragon” experiments with such aircraft have produced “ a lot of data,” which is in-hand and ready to be applied to evaluating candidate systems, he said. Goldfein was asked why the mission could not be done by a remotely piloted aircraft, and he replied that he’s not yet sure it can’t be. The Air Force is now in the mode of asking industry to offer ideas. “Show me what ya got,” Goldfein said to attending contractors, cautioning that the service doesn’t have a lot of money for further experiments. Though the Air Force has tried out the old OV-10 Bronco in the role, Goldfein said that its only sensors are the pilot’s eyes, and “we’re way beyond that.” Even such an aircraft will have to “plug into” the network, he said.