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.