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USAF suspends light attack experiment and looks to end contest early

The US Air Force suspended its light attack experiment at Hollomon AFB in New Mexico after the fatal crash of a Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano on June 22.

The USAF is examining the data collected thus far in the about a month-long second phase of the experiment to determine if it has enough information to end the contest early.

“The experiment team is currently reviewing the data collected from the current phase of experimentation, as well as last year's experiment activities, to determine the way ahead,” said the USAF. “The forecast for return to flight operations for the experiment is still to be determined.”

The USAF’s light attack experiment team is providing support to the Safety Investigation Board in its investigation of the A-29 Super Tucano’s crash. However, the service decline to share additional details on suspected cause of the crash.

One pilot was killed and another had minor injuries after both ejected from the aircraft about 56nm (105km) north of Holloman AFB at the Red Rio Bombing Range.

The crash came about five weeks after the USAF started the second phase of the light attack experiment on 17 May. Phase two was to examine sustainment requirements, networking with allies’ platforms and flying costs of the A-29 Super Tucano and Textron Aviation's Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine.

The first phase of the contest was held in July 2017 and included Textron Aviation’s Scorpion jet, though that aircraft was rejected by the service for further consideration in phase 2.

The USAF plans to use data gathered from the experiment phases to decide whether to buy hundreds of light attack aircraft. The hope is these fighters could be cheaper alternatives to using aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing F-15 or Fairchild Republic A-10 for surveillance and ground attack missions.

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