The Air Force is preparing to send two AT-6s and two A-29s to the Middle East for a combat test next year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman)

Air Force Readies 2 Turboprops For War

By Gillian Rich, Investor's Daily News

Textron‘s AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada-Embraer‘s A-29 Super Tucano could get a chance to show off their abilities against the Islamic State or al-Qaida in a combat test next year, as the Air Force looks at possibly buying up to 300 relatively cheap, light-attack aircraft by 2022.

The Air Force hasn’t decided if light-attack planes will be an official acquisition program, but it experimented with the planes over the summer at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The idea is save operating costs by flying the aircraft in uncontested environments and use sophisticated fighters like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet for more dangerous missions.

A final decision on the test, dubbed Combat Dragon III, hasn’t been made yet, but Air Force Reserve Col. Mike Pietrucha, light attack adviser to Air Combat Command, told Aviation Week that he is preparing to send two AT-6s and two A-29s.

The test would take place in areas under U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, but the precise location decision would be determined by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command.

At the Air Force Association Conference last week, Harrigian said “air superiority is job one,” but once air superiority is assured, then a light-attack aircraft can be used.

“I think the light attack would be able to provide me a lot of options, particularly if you’re able to move closer to the forward line of the troops, provide the persistence that this type of platform will provide.”

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