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Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance program
OV-10 Bronco firing White phosphorus.jpg
An air-to-air view of an OV-10 Bronco aircraft firing a smoke rocket to mark a ground target. The OV-10 is a light attack and reconnaissance aircraft developed in the 1960s for a role very similar to the Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) program. In fact, Boeing is planning to propose a modernized version, the OV-10X, as its submission for the LAAR program.

The Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) program has been established to enable the United States Air Force to buy a light ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft, the aircraft should be capable of finding, tracking, and attacking targets either on its own or in support of ground forces. The program formally began in July 2009 with a request for information, and no aircraft had been selected by February 2010. The selected aircraft is expected to enter service in 2013, and 100 aircraft are expected to be ordered.[1] This program has also been called the OA-X program or the AT-X program.[2]

Contents

History

The 2009 Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance program was born out of the need for a new close air support aircraft that was suited to the type of combat the United States was facing in post 2003-invasion Iraq and Afganistan. The close air support role was carried out by several different aircraft, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the F-15E Strike Eagle. While all of these aircraft are capable of close air support, they were not purpose built for the type of support needed by ground troops in these conflicts, making them an expensive and less effective solution.[2]

For example, these aircraft often do not have the loiter time needed for these missions and require aerial refueling support, making their missions more expensive. Additionally, long loiter missions use up an airframes service life faster than expected, requiring replacement. This may cause issues in the future as some aircraft, such as the A-10, are out of production and cannot be replaced.[2]

To solve this problem, the United States Air Force released a Request for Information (RFI) on July 27, 2009 requesting details of a possible Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance aircraft that could be outfitted to specific requirements (see Requirements below) and enter into service in 2013.[1] A more detailed Request for Proposals (RFP) had not been released by February 2010.

Also in 2009, the United States Air Force released a request for another light attack aircraft, this time for a light attack / trainer aircraft for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. This request is separate from the LAAR program, but the two requests have many of same requirements.[3]

Requirements

The selected LAAR aircraft will have to meet several key requirements, including:

  • Rough field operations. The RFI requires that the aircraft be capable of operating from semi-prepared runways such as grass or dirt surfaces.
  • Defensive package. The aircraft will have to include several defensive measures, including a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), a Radar warning receiver (RWR), and chaff and flare dispensers.
  • Armored cockpit and engine.
  • Long loiter time. The aircraft must be able to fly 5 hour sorties (with 30 minute fuel reserves).
  • Range. The aircraft must have a 900 nautical mile (1600 km) ferry range.
  • Data link capability. The aircraft is required to have a line-of-sight data link (with beyond line-of-sight desired) capability of transmitting and receiving still and video images.
  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The aircraft will have to laser track and designate targets, as well as track targets using electro-optical and infrared video/still images.
  • Weaponry. The LAAR aircraft will need at least 4 weapons stores capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including 500 lb bombs, 2.75 inch rockets, rail-launched missiles, and illumination flares. The aircraft will also be capable of aerial gunnery, either with an integrated or pylon mounted gun.

Desired traits (but not requirements) include:

  • Infrared signature suppression for the engine(s).
  • 30,000 ft (9000 m) operational ceiling.
  • 6,000 ft (1800 m) takeoff and landing distance.
  • Aerobatic capabilities capable of maneuvers such as the Immelmann turn, Cuban eight, and Split S.

[1]

Potential competitors

AT-6B Texan II

The AT-6B is a light attack variant of the T-6 Texan II trainer aircraft used by the United State Air Force, and as such, it is considered to be a favorite for LAAR program.[4]

Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano

The Embraer Super Tucano is a light attack and reconnaissance aircraft that is already in use by several nations.[5] In fact, the United States Navy has already leased several of the aircraft to evaluate their suitability in support of special operations missions.[6]

OV-10X

Boeing has revealed that they are working on an updated version of their OV-10 Bronco aircraft, currently called the OV-10X. The updated Vietnam War-era aircraft is expected to fly by late 2010. [7]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Air Combat Command (ACC) Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) (2009). Request for Information. July 27, 2009. Accessed February 18, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Tittel, Steven J. (Major, USAF) (2009). Cost, Capability, and the Hunt for a Lightweight Ground Attack Aircraft. Master's Thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. June 12, 2009.
  3. ^ Afghanistan Light Attack Aircraft (2009). Department of the Air Force Sources Sought Request. Solicitation Number: FA8615-10-R-ZZ01. October 30, 2009. Accessed February 22, 2010.
  4. ^ Sweetman, Bill (2010). Light Airplanes Boost Close Air Support. Aviation Week. February 4, 2010. Accessed February 22, 2010.
  5. ^ Colombia Finalizes Deal for Super Tucano COIN Aircraft (2005). Defense Industry Daily. December 12, 2005. Accessed February 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Scutro, Andrew (2009). U.S. Eyes Super Tucano for SpecOps Work. Defense News. March 13, 2009. Accessed February 22, 2010.
  7. ^ Jennings, Gareth (2010). Singapore Air Show 2010: Boeing pins hopes on revived Bronco. Jane's Defence Weekly. February 5, 2010. Accessed February 22, 2010.

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