The Air Force has settled on the slate of companies to be invited to participate in this summer’s OA-X Light Attack Aircraft experiments, a service spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
A USAF spokeswoman said “we have been notifying invited companies” since May 5, but for a number of reasons the Air Force is not at this time saying which companies are being asked to participate, or how many. “They may choose not to participate,” she said, and those that do must sign a “transaction agreement” covering their involvement. However, the companies “are free to self-identify,” she said.
The Air Force has about $8 million set aside to pay for operating the participating aircraft.
An official with Textron said that the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine and Textron AirLand Scorpion have both been invited to participate. Both Boeing/Saab and Lockheed Martin/Korean Aerospace Industries, leading candidates in the Air Force’s T-X competition, have said they will not offer their T-X candidates for the OA-X experiment, nor will Boeing put forward the OV-10 Bronco, which has been used as a test platform in recent years for similar experiments. IOMAX will not be offering its Archangel counterinsurgency aircraft, either.
Sierra Nevada’s A-29 Super Tucano, which was chosen to equip Afghanistan’s air force in the Light Air Support role, is a likely participant, but the company could not be reached for comment at presstime.
At AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in March, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the service wants “shovel ready” candidates for the OA-X experiment; meaning those that could be quickly put into production with minimal revision to the airframes. There is no formal program on the books yet, but the Air Force is potentially looking at buying up to 300 aircraft for the mission, which it sees as a more economical way to prosecute targets in a “permissive” threat environment than by using jet fighters that cost tens of thousands of dollars per hour to operate.
Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow said at the time the service wants to see “if there’s a business case” for a low-end aircraft to meet the mission.
The OA-X could potentially free up jet fighters “to prepare for more complex threats,” she said. It could also help USAF “absorb new pilots” and serve as a common platform “with allies and partners.”