US Air Force seeks 60 airlifters for irregular warfare

Broadening its interests in the irregular warfare mission, the US Air Force has asked industry to submit ideas for aircraft that can fulfill a requirement for up to 60 “light mobility airlifters” (LiMA).

Whilethe US Air Force and US Army are jointly buying at least 38 L-3Communications/Alenia Aeronautica C-27Js, the LiMA requirements callsfor an aircraft in an even smaller class.

Possible candidatesin the LiMA class may include the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350,Cessna 208 Grand Caravan and EADS CASA C-212.

The USAF’srequirements call for taking off with at least six passengers, or acombination of passengers and cargo weighing 1,800lbs, from”unimproved, austere landing surfaces”, the RFI says. The aircraftcould be single- or multi-engine, but it must be certified forsingle-pilot operation.

The USAF plans to reach initial operational capability with the new LiMA fleet in Fiscal 2012.



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The LiMA requirement has emerged along several new types of aircraft expected to play different roles in the irregular warfare mission. The USAF is buying 37 MC-12 Libertys, modified King Air 350s, to serve as manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

Gen Norton Schwartz, USAF chief of staff, has said the USAF “probably” needs a turboprop-powered, light strike fighter that can also be used as a trainer.

In testimony to Congress in June, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said the demand for such irregular warfare aircraft is being driven by the needs of Iraqi and Afghan forces.

“We think having a capability like this in the United States makes us better teachers of — for potential partners who are not goingto be buying JSFs, C-17s and sort of the F-35s, the high-endcapabilities that we will produce,” Donley said.

In the upcoming quadrennial defense review, Seretary of Defense Robert Gates has revealed plans to dedicate 10% of the US military’s resources to irregular warfare needs.

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4 Responses to US Air Force seeks 60 airlifters for irregular warfare

  1. Otto Pernotto 31 July, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    Stephen,
    great post! Looks like the USAF plans for an irregular warfare wing are for real. 60 suggests multi locations, anywhere between 2 to 4, it will be interesting to see if it’s an active/guard/reserve component mix or not. Lots of possibilities. Now, let’s see when the “helo” shoe drops!

  2. Moose 31 July, 2009 at 4:12 am #

    Sounds tailor-made for a PC-6 buy.

  3. EG 31 July, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    C-45!

  4. Bruno Finegan 24 July, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    Technology is getting more amazing as time passes. I cant wait to see whats being created 10 years down the road. Electronics have been devolping at such a rapid rate. Noone can expect whats coming next.

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