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One Of These Planes Could Soon See Battle Alongside The A-10 Warthog

The U.S. Air Force has completed the initial phase of its OA-X Light Attack Experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, trials developed to identify a new light attack aircraft to augment the branch’s aging A-10 Thunderbolt II ‘Warthog’ fleet.

The experiment put the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, Textron Scorpion Jet and the Air Tractor/L3 Platform AT-802L Longsword through their paces in various operational scenarios that the aircraft might face in combat. Among the scenarios were close air support, air interdiction, combat search and rescue, strike coordination and reconnaissance missions. The Air Force’s pilots used a mix of weapons generally employed by tactical aircraft for its evaluation. Among the evaluators were three Air Force test pilots from Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“416th pilots were selected based on the desire to have test pilots evaluate handling qualities, performance, and pilot-vehicle interface characteristics of the experiment aircraft,” Maj. Ryan Fancher, 416th FLTS assistant director of operations at Edwards AFB, said in an Air Force release. “This evaluation was completed in conjunction with separate flights by operational test pilots to get a fairly comprehensive look at the aircrafts’ capabilities and mission suitability.”

As test pilots, the Edwards personnel examined the flight characteristics and flight controls of the four aircraft. “After the experiment sortie, each pilot submitted a pilot report and a separate survey in order to capture pertinent handling qualities, performance and (pilot-vehicle interface) aspects of the aircraft,” Fancher said.

While the flying portion of the OA-X experiment is now complete, the evaluators still have to write their reports and submit their findings. Once it evaluated the data, the Air Force might test the aircraft during actual combat operations in a current theatre of war. Potentially the aircraft could be sent to Afghanistan or Iraq where there is …read more

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