Low-End Close Air Support Mulled

The F-35A will be the primary close air support platform to eventually replace the A-10, but Air Combat Command is looking to possibly augment it with a second, low-cost light attack platform, said ACC boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle. “We have gone out and looked at other platforms to see if they could meet the low-end CAS capability at a reasonable cost per flying hour,” he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on March 6. ACC is taking these steps so the Air Force is in the position to field more CAS capacity if world events dictate the need. “There may be an inflection point where we need more capacity at a lower cost,” he said. The Air Force previously evaluated the Beechcraft AT-6, and currently operates the A-29 Super Tucano to train Afghan crews. Textron’s Scorpion jet demonstrator is “not something that’s outside of the realm” of what the Air Force is considering, said Carlisle. The Air Force toyed several years ago with the idea of a counter-insurgency CAS airplane and went as far as requesting industry input on possible light-attack, armed reconnaissance platforms. Speaking last month at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Carlisle discussed the service’s potential interest in a seemingly more sophisticated CAS aircraft to succeed the A-10 that would be survivable in contested airspace.