Four platforms are flying this week at Holloman AFB, New Mexico for the US Air Force’s light attack OA-X experiment, but the makeup of those aircraft might have turned out differently had more contractors come forward to participate.
Three turboprops -- Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, Embaer A-29 Super Tucano and L-3 Communications AT-802L Longsword -- and one jet -- Textron's Scorpion -- are participating in the USAF’s Combat Dragon revival, each seeking a yet-unfunded opportunity to claim a potential follow-on contract to produce hundreds of light air support aircraft.
Conspicuously missing from the group of light attack platforms is IOMAX’s Thursh 710-based Archangel turboprop. Like the Longsword, the converted crop duster is not equipped with an ejection seat.
The USAF’s OA-X solicitation listed seven criteria necessary to participate in the experiment, including a pressurised cockpit with a zero-altitude ejection capability and ability to employ Paveway II laser-guided bombs, aerial gunnery and guided and unguided rockets.
But none of those "must-haves" in the original solicitation were applied to the field of competitors for the demonstration. Instead, the USAF now confirms that the requirements were set aside since less than five aircraft joined the demonstration.
“We did not have more than four platforms that satisfied the participation criteria, so we never had to use it,” a USAF spokeswoman says in a statement to FlightGlobal. “We think we've got the right aircraft to explore cost-effective attack platform options in the light attack experiment.”
Archangel’s absence from OA-X was a business decision based on the USAF’s initial requirements, a company spokeswoman tells FlightGlobal. The UAE-funded Archangel production line is moving on to other opportunities, Iomax says.
“IOMAX is now heavily focused on customer priorities and expanded business opportunities, which preclude entering the OA-X assessment process, regardless of requirements or criteria,” the spokeswoman says.