The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), together with partner Embraer Defense & Security, says it has been invited to participate in the US Air Force’s Capability Assessment of Non-Developmental Light Attack Platforms, known as OA-X. SNC and Embraer will take part in the experiment with the A-29 Super Tucano in July at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.
‘SNC is proud to participate in the USAF’s effort to enhance warfighter support and bring greater value and affordability to the American taxpayer,’ said Taco Gilbert, senior vice president for SNC´s Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) business area.
‘The A-29 is uniquely suited for training and seasoning fighter pilots,’ said Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. ‘This means more highly-trained pilots more quickly and less expensively, while allowing other platforms to do the work they do best.’
The announcement on the A-29’s involvement will again put it head-to-head against Beechcraft’s AT-6 Wolverine — the two were previously studied in relation to a USAF light attack requirement and also for the requirement to supply aircraft to Afghanistan. The A-29 was selected for the Afghan requirement. The 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia, is now well versed in joint operations with Afghan Air Force A-29s and is also now operating and jointly training Lebanese Super Tucano pilots. The stateside mission will instruct Lebanese pilots and maintenance personnel under the 81st FS until 2018 at least.
OA-X is being studied in a bid to achieve increased manning levels by getting new pilots into cockpits faster as well as relieving the deployment burden on other squadrons. Furthermore, advocates of the OA-X concept are correct to insist that the USAF needs a lower-tier CAS platform, at lower cost, that is easily able to operate in low- to medium-threat environments — walking the line between remotely piloted aircraft and high-performance fighters.