09 May 2007

The New Iraqi Air Force

The new Iraqi Air Force is buying, sensibly, cheap new counterinsurgency (COIN) aircraft. One leading contender is a variant of the American made T-6 single engine trainer, similar to one used by the Greek Air Force. The requirements for the contract are shown here (omissions not indicated expressly):

The USAF plans to acquire a Commercial-Off-The Shelf (COTS) aircraft modified to perform COIN operations.

The COIN aircraft must be a lightly armored, 2-seat, turbo-prop aircraft capable of locating, tracking, identifying, and engaging a variety of targets with a suite of Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensors and laser-guided/unguided air-to-ground weapons/missiles. Further, it must be able to share data and imagery with other COIN aircraft and current IqAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Counter Terrorism (CT) aircraft. Finally, it must incorporate an IR threat detection and countermeasure system and be capable of performing a dual role as an advanced fixed-wing flight trainer aircraft.

Mission Concept: The COIN aircraft will provide the IqAF with a critical offensive and operational over watch capability in the COIN fight. It will also have a dual role as an intermediate/advanced single-engine fixed-wing trainer aircraft.

The COIN aircraft, capable of being manned by either a crew of one pilot, or a pilot and a sensor operator, will arrive in an area of interest with the ability to receive data and imagery from other IqAF surveillance, CT, and COIN platforms. Whether cued by an external sensor or its own sensor suite, the COIN aircraft will be able to find, fix, identify, track, target, and engage emerging and time-sensitive targets. It may have a variety of laser guided precision weapons and non-precision weapons at its disposal in order to create effects tailored specifically to the unique situations it will encounter in the COIN environment.

FWIW, the U.S. could use a few more planes in this class as well. The A-10 and the AC-130 are the closest matches in existence in the U.S. Air Force right now, and some attack helicopters and more traditional and expensive full fledged fighter craft (most notably the F-15, F-16, AV-8B, and in the future the F-35A and F-35B) fill these roles.


Dave Barnes said...

Some contend that the T-6 is not the best airplane. Some say it is the Super Tocano http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/super_tucano/ .

Some of us, of course, say: just restart the A-10 program as it is the most awesome ground attack plane every built (see http://www.a-10.org/ ).

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I don't have a strong opinion on which model is best. It is beyond my expertise. But, I have little doubt that we spend too much money on planes optimize for air to air combat that is unlikely to be in our future, when we could use the money to buy planes better suited to CAS/COIN missions, SAR missions, and intercepting rogue non-military aircraft.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...
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