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Sierra Nevada and Embraer to fly in USAF OA-X experiment

The US Air Force has invited Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) and its Brazilian partner, Embraer Defense and Security, to participate in the OA-X light attack experiment, SNC announced 12 May.

SNC will offer the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano for the capability assessment, which will take place this July at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The Super Tucano is one of several low-cost aircraft that could fly in the experiment, with Textron Aviation promoting both its Scorpion twin-engined jet and Beechcraft AT-6 turboprop as OA-X options. During Textron's first quarter earnings call last month, chief executive Scott Donnelly said he expected an air force decision on the invitation in May.

The USAF has reiterated that OA-X is not a programme of record, but an experiment assessing off-the-shelf options to fill a low-end fighter role. After raising the curtain on the cheap, fighter concept over the last year, the air force formally kicked off the experiment with an invitation to industry in March.

The Super Tucano is the only light air support (LAS) aircraft with a military type certificate, SNC notes. Embraer and SNC previously teamed up for the sale of 20 Super Tucanos to the USAF, which transferred the fleet to Afghanistan Air Force. Ten air forces around the world employ Brazilian fighter and trainer. As part of the same Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) programme as the Afghans, the Lebanon air force will begin flying the A-29 by 2019.

Embraer assembles A-29s for the BPC programme in Jacksonville, Florida. Embraer also continues to assemble A-29s for direct sales to foreign customers in Gaviao Peixoto, Brazil..

The OA-X experiment would continue a previous US Special Operations Command effort known as Combat Dragon II, which demonstrated whether the Vietnam-era OV-10 Bronco could be fielded in counter-insurgency operations over Afghanistan. In 2013, SOCOM borrowed two North American Rockwell OV-10G+ from NASA, which the Navy outfitted with a digital cockpit and laser-guided precision weapons.

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