COIN Debate: The Cliff Notes Version

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.


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9 Responses to COIN Debate: The Cliff Notes Version

  1. Nicholas Weaver 28 May, 2007 at 10:44 pm #

    Embarier claims 1.5 ton of munitions, so that would imply 6 JDAMs or 12 SDBs

    Even drop that to 8 SDBs, thats still pretty good for $2-4M and 6 hours loiter.

  2. Peter 29 May, 2007 at 6:12 am #

    It seems that the optimized design criteria that have been mention, in making a good COIN aircraft,of——————————————- A-10—————– Tucano

    Loiter Time
    Cost of Operation and Purchase

    are all met by the A-10,
    but it would be nice to see the numbers.

  3. HerkEng 29 May, 2007 at 9:27 am #

    You have to remember, though these will be bought by us, and maintained by us over the next few years…these will be Iraqi aircraft. Do we want them to fly our deadly A-10?

  4. HerkEng 29 May, 2007 at 9:31 am #

    You keep talking about JDAM, I did not read any ware in the requirements about any aircraft having to drop or carry JDAMs. Also, at the altitudes they will be flying, I do not feel that the JDAMs would be very effective.
    SnakeEye bombs would be better suit.

  5. Nicholas Weaver 29 May, 2007 at 10:39 am #

    Bombs is bombs, the question is “How much tonnage at 15k feet for how long and how much money?”

    As for the A10, yeah, the A10 totally blows away the Super Tucano as a COIN aircraft: more tonnage, more letality, and much more damage resistance.

    Unlike the Super Tucano, it can actually act in a conventional war, not just counterinsurgency.

    So where can we buy some more? Oh yeah, we can’t. The line is shut down and the tooling destroyed.

    And theres also the “… for how much money.” part. Super Tucanos are CHEAP.

  6. Stephen 29 May, 2007 at 3:29 pm #

    Buying Super Tucanos for the Iraqi Air Force has wider implications. The sale will create a market in the US for dedicated counter-insurgency aircraft. Embraer will be very tempted to move final assembly and perhaps full-scale production to its unused manufacturing center in Jacksonville, Florida. Now, the Congressional delegation gets involved, with bonafide American jobs at stake. The next step is to keep the line allive even after the Iraqi Air Force orders are gone. Just wait: a lawmaker will drop in budget add-on for additional Super Tucanos for the Florida Air National Guard or Air Reserve. The national guard will only be happy to accept a new mission, as long as the funding keeps a base or two alive through the next BRAC.

    Of course, all this assumes that the Super Tucano will be selected when the politics would appear to favor the T-6 from the beginning.

  7. HerkEng 29 May, 2007 at 4:11 pm #

    Don’t count out US Aircraft corp.’s New A-67…

    They now have the designer of the Tucano and made many changes to the plane that flew late last year. If they can bump things up and make the competition date then they will be a real contender

    I agree with Stephen fully though, how it was written, it looks like the T-6 was the selected aircraft when they wrote the requirements.

    About the A-10… She is not eligible…so why even comment. If that were the case, t the ultimate aircraft for what they need for the mission would have been the OV-10D


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