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Socom Announces Plans To Buy 75 ‘Armed Overwatch’ Planes


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#1 Ivanhoe

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Posted 09 February 2020 - 2106 PM

I know there's a thread already, but too lazy to find it..

 

https://www.airforce...erwatch-planes/

 

US Special Operations Command is moving forward with its armed overwatch plan, independent of the Air Force’s light attack experiment, inviting industry for a briefing on a proposal to buy an estimated 75 aircraft.

 

SOCOM will hold Industry Days March 4-5 for the Armed Overwatch program, which will “provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems” that will be used for “close air support, precision strike, and SOF intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments,” according to a Feb. 3 announcement.

 

SOCOM plans to release a draft Other Transaction Authority prototype demonstration proposal, which gives the military a way to pursue research and prototyping outside of regular contracts, on Feb. 14. The eventual follow-on contract is expected to be an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, with a base ordering period of five years and another option for two more years with an expected total of 75 aircraft, according to the announcement, which was first reported by Aviation Week.

 

While the AT-6s will go to Air Combat Command for tactics development, Air Force Special Operations Command will use the A-29s to create an instructor pilot program for those who advise foreign nations on air warfare.

 

 

Cue the inevitable "they'll get shot out of the sky" criticisms, but somethin mo betta than nothin.


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#2 Simon Tan

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Posted 09 February 2020 - 2230 PM

Su25SM kontraktniki.
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#3 JW Collins

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Posted 10 February 2020 - 1541 PM

This should have been done 15+ years ago, I have to question how useful it will be now.
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#4 Simon Tan

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 2120 PM

Very.
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#5 DB

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 2142 PM

Resurrecting the Enforcer yet again?
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#6 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 0416 AM

Typhoon Redux.


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#7 JW Collins

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 0719 AM

Typhoon Redux.


For better or worse all of these modern COIN warfare turboprops are a fair bit lighter than the piston engined beasts of the WWII era like the Typhoon and P-47.
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#8 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 0901 AM

Id go for something a bit meatier, so it actually can remain on station for some period. Besides, they are going at least in Afghanistan to be operating at high altitude. They may as well build something with a decent wing area and a motor on it just to carry a combat load worth a damn.

 

The Piper Enforcer wasnt a bad idea as these things go.

 


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#9 Dawes

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Posted 13 February 2020 - 1725 PM

Transfer some A-10's to SOCOM. More expensive but a massive increase in capability. 


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#10 JW Collins

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Posted 13 February 2020 - 1852 PM

Id go for something a bit meatier, so it actually can remain on station for some period. Besides, they are going at least in Afghanistan to be operating at high altitude. They may as well build something with a decent wing area and a motor on it just to carry a combat load worth a damn.
 
The Piper Enforcer wasnt a bad idea as these things go.
 


I like the idea of upgraded OV-10 Bronco variants in support of a design like the Enforcer. The Bronco would still have all the qualities that made it an excellent observation aircraft in Vietnam and elsewhere. You could even operate it off the deck of an LHA/LHD if needed. Use them to vector in the Enforcers for all of the counterinsurgency needs of your nearest 3rd world warzone.

Problems arise as soon as someone starts shipping in modern MANPADS which seems pretty likely in the Middle East these days. Even the old SA-7 is still a considerable threat if you don't detect the launch and deploy countermeasures.
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#11 Burncycle360

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Posted 13 February 2020 - 2056 PM

Light attack aircraft advocates are trying real hard to find a problem in search of their solution.   It's neat that the advent of inexpensive PGMs and targeting pods can make basically anything with two wings and an engine into a marginally useful strike aircraft, but just because companies showcase them on anything with wings and wheels at the defense expo doesn't mean modern countries should try to shoehorn that into their force structure somehow even if the leadership is struck by the good idea fairy.  It's mostly a revolution for third world countries, and even then they'll need most of that stuff gifted to them and trained on how to employ it doctrinally by competent militaries.   All the light aircraft attack program demonstrated is that the USAF doesn't have a cohesive plan, and they're still unable to make the simplest of programs work on time and on budget without gold plating it despite being ostensibly silly cheap and mostly done for them by being as COTS as possible.


With helicopters, you can at least potentially use terrain to mask if the threat areas in the AO is well defined, and if not, well it's a calculated risk.  However, for fixed wing support,  I'd at least prefer to stay above the practical MANPAD envelope if at all possible because those represent the greatest pop-up threat you can't readily SEAD/DEAD ahead of time.  Hanging out at the edge or above this envelope while providing close support may not have been feasible 30 years ago given the limitations of targeting pods and PGMs, but it is today.  Frankly, an A-10 is as light as I'd want to go if I were using manned, fixed wing below that.  Before people bitch about operating costs versus a crop duster, I really don't care -- if your country can't afford to feed two turbofans and maintain stone age avionics when every crappy airline on the planet can, then you have other priorities.


There are niche situations in which I suppose a light attack aircraft can do what other things cannot for modern armies / SF, especially if the special forces wants to forward base them for STOL (potentially even at the helicopter FARP, kind of like the LARA concept) and transit time purposes or maybe operate them off the LHAs, and for that I'd say a stretched wing, modern version of the OV-10 NOGS fits the bill better than these other systems because it gives you the ability to operate as a gunship (orbiting),  or as a conventional fixed wing light attack aircraft (venturing lower and making passes, if the MANPAD threat is deemed negligible), along with FAC duties and other coordination tasks in conjunction with predator/reaper, as well as make some strikes on it's own if advantageous.  You'd need something with better range, dispersion and effects than a 20mm M197 at those altitudes though, maybe a 30mm bushmaster that can be locked forward or rotated right or left.

 


Edited by Burncycle360, 13 February 2020 - 2118 PM.

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#12 KV7

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Posted 13 February 2020 - 2255 PM

Tell me why drones are not considered superior for this role.


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#13 Burncycle360

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 0010 AM

Starlink will be a game changer for UAVs (and even open the door for practical UGVs), the USAF is already working on potential ways to utilize it.

What it means is we could start seeing orders of magnitude more Predator / Reaper class drones.  As in, maybe B-17 production quantities.  If pursued, it would certainly radically reshape the air force regarding operator demand.


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#14 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 0241 AM

Tell me why drones are not considered superior for this role.

Well for one thing, deconfliction in drones is a lot harder. There were one or 2 very nearly nasty pileups in Afghanistans where attack helo's nearly collided with drones.

 

Then you have cost. I doubt very much a light aircraft is going to cost as much as the systems to operate a drone 12000 miles away. It also means you can hand over to the locals and say 'nothing to do with us', which for the US at the moment probably has a lot to commend it.


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#15 JW Collins

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 0317 AM

It would definitely be good to get Afghan pilots in such aircraft to provide their own close air support. Of course that would require them getting through flight school without switching sides and trying to gun down NATO instructors and fellow trainees.


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#16 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 0334 AM

Um, yes. :D


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#17 Dawes

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 1106 AM

USAF recommends MQ-9:

 

https://www.janes.co...armed-overwatch


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#18 Panzermann

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 1436 PM

It would definitely be good to get Afghan pilots in such aircraft to provide their own close air support. Of course that would require them getting through flight school without switching sides and trying to gun down NATO instructors and fellow trainees.

 

The Afghan Air Force has been flying Super Tucanos for years and the Pentaogn has been buying them through the USAF procurement system for AFG under the USAF designation A-29. It is just that the USAF resists getting a cheap useful aeroplane now instead of the next wonderweapon of the future. Maybe they are also afraid to take away jobs from the F-35? Despite decades of very good experience with them in COIN by Brazil, Colombia and others.

 

 

Transfer some A-10's to SOCOM. More expensive but a massive increase in capability. 

 

A-10s need more maintenance and thus infrastructure than the Super Tucanos. The latter have been run with just a supply truck off of jungle clearings for a long time.

 

 

 

Tell me why drones are not considered superior for this role.

 

The phone line is much longer for drones. the call goes round the world, whereas e.g. a Tucano pilot is right there and sees what the guys on the ground see and they can instantly talk to each other.


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#19 EchoFiveMike

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 1529 PM

All of this changes once MANPAD's enter the discussion.  SA7/14/16/18 isn't uncommon anymore.  S/F....Ken M


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#20 JW Collins

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 2131 PM

SA-7s are easily fooled but all of the newer stuff is more challenging. You might be able to fit a missile launch warning system but I'm doubtful these light aircraft have the weight margin for DRICM gear.
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