The counter-insurgency aircraft debate continues. Please join in by posting here. While you’re thining it over, here’s excerpts from the wonderful ongoing discussion on this blog. It’s a debate based entirely on facts, reasons and good insight — how original!
The debate all started when Johnny Bombmaker said:
There’s a reason why single-engine turboprops almost disappeared afterWorld War II. They get shot out of the sky faster than a duck flyingover a South Texas shooting range. Do you realize how many A-1Skyraiders got blown out of the sky in Vietnam? The threat in Iraq iseven worse. Much better to do it the modern way: just park an F-15 oran F-16 with a targeting pod, a strafing cannon and a guided bomb upabove 15,000 feet.
Joe Katzman replied:
Sometimes being slow isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Britishgot a Harrier shot out from under them in the Falklands because it wastoo fast, and had to keep coming back at low level to try and spot itstarget. If you keep throwing fastballs, folks eventually hit them.
Robot Economist followed:
Not to get too radical here, but why not consider something even lowertech/lower cost like a blimp. They can be virtually stationary over thetarget and achieve a pretty good altitude at a low operating cost(heck, the bomb and the spotter on the ground do all the work).
Joe Katzman went back to the original question:
If someone told you they had a system that would save 13 pilots andaircraft, but kill 300 soldiers and result in $300 million in economicdislocation due to areas not covered fully and attacked successfully…would that seem like a good deal to you? All aspects of this equationmatter. It’s not just about the aircraft.
Then HerkEng entered the discussion, siding with the turboprops:
I am not saying that a trainer aircraft is best for the mission but, it would be much better than an F-16 or even an A-10.
But Joe Katzman posted a new warning on tuboprops:
The Super Tucanos, AT-6Bs et. al. DO have an important issue, but itisn’t speed. Rather, it’s the turboprop engine up front that vents inthe forward-center section of the fuselage. Wrong place to attract amissile – unlike, say, a Czech L-159 light attack jet, a missile thatdetonates behind target looks like a kill rather than a miss and sometail pipe damage.
Dan G joined in, also warning about the relative merits of turboprops:
Just how many JDAMs could a Tucano haul to 15,000′ I wonder? Not many I bet.
Yours truly re-entered the discussion, taking issue with the notion that turboprops are too vulnerable for the CAS mission:
As long as helicopter pilots are flying even slower and lower than aSuper Tucano every day in Iraq, I think we can dispense with thereasoning that fixed-wing pilots must be immune from taking any similarrisks, if it is the most effective way to do the mission.
HerkEng made a good point that the turboprop’s IR signature problems can be overcome:
Who said that they can’t build a shroud around the exhaust like they doon the AC-130s? It is very effective for them and would not be thathard to make for the PT6A.
Dan C rejoined:
Don’t forget how the roles of helicopters and CAS aircraft differ. CASaircraft are deliberately routed into harm’s way, while tranporthelicopters fly around hot spots. The ones that do – gunships – carryheavy armour, just like the only other aircraft that operates at lowlevel – the A-10. I don’t see a titanium bathtub in the Tucano.