Brainstorming on Counter-Insurgency Aircraft

I’ve decided to list a few top candidates for a counter-insurgency aircraft for US Special Operations, if (or when) a requirement is produced. Feel free to add more suggestions if you like, or — if you must — tell me why I’m an idiot for selecting the aircraft I already did. The candidates are:

  • Hawker Beechcraft AT-6. Pros: Already in the US inventory with Joint Primary Aircraft Training

    System (JPATS). World War II-era version of the T-6 was later used by France, the UK, Portugal and South Africa in counter-insurgency campaigns, according to the book "Airpower in Small Wars," by James Corum and Wray Johnson.
  • Embraer Super Tucano. Pros: Incorporates an internal gun pod; already in service as a counter-insurgency aircraft with the Colombian Air Force. Selected by Colombia over competitors, such as the T-6B.   
  • US Aircraft A-67 Dragon. Pros: Presumably the cheaper alternative, and, thus, probably more attractive as an export candidate. It remains in flight test.
  • Fairchild Republic A-1O Thunderbolt II????

Parting thought: The Corum and Johnson book persuasively argues that the ground attack mission in a counter-insurgency campaign is miniscule. Instead, airpower is best applied in support and surveillance missions. "In numerous counterinsurgency campaigns the ability to airlift army and police units to remote locations and to keep them supplied by airdrop and helicopter has proven decisive," the book says.

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2 Responses to Brainstorming on Counter-Insurgency Aircraft

  1. Airpower 16 April, 2007 at 10:19 am #

    A few thoughts on your thoughts Steve, if I may.

    The T-6 is a trainer, and attempts by Hawker Beechcraft (or whatever it’s called this week) to remodel it as an armed platform are not convincing. That’s not what it was designed to do.

    Remember, the T-6 is just a Pilatus PC-9 and the original Swiss design is forbidden by law from being armed…anyone with armed PC-9s has made their own, alternative, arrangements. So flying in combat is not in its genes. Attempts by Raytheon to compare the armed T-6 with the F-15 were met with an embarrassed silence at one show I remember, not so long ago.

    The Super Tucano on the other hand was designed to be a combat aircraft from Day 1 – that’s why it makes a lousy trainer because it’s so big and heavy. The Brazilians deploy it into Amazon dirt strips to fight drug smugglers, it has guns (not an “internal gun pod” but two 0.50-cals in the wing), it can carry air-to-air missiles and has a very sophisticated (datalinked) cockpit (thank you Elbit). In its class the Super Tucano is probably the aircraft you want to go to war in.

    Of course, the aircraft you REALLY want to go to war in is the A-10 but I know you’re not seriously comparing the Texan II to the Thunderbolt II (are you ??).

    The A-67 is an amusing diversion.

  2. Airpower 17 April, 2007 at 8:46 am #

    Super Tucano update!

    Colombian Super Tucanos bombed FARC guerilla positions on 18 January – marking the first proper combat use of the aircraft.

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