Air Force senior leaders and international visitors gathered at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to observe the ongoing Light Attack Experiment Aug. 9, 2017.
During the first week of the experiment, Air Force pilots flew basic surface attack missions in Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine turboprop, as well as in Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano.
“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”
Air Force pilots also completed familiarization flights in Textron Aviation’s Scorpion jet, as well as in Air Tractor Inc. and L3 Platform Integration Division’s AT-802L Longsword.
A few of the Airmen participating in the testing were from Eglin Air Force Base’s 40th Flight Test Squadron. Pilots, Maj. Glenn Meleen, Maj. Mark Vahle and weapons systems officers, Maj. Kurt MacAloney and Maj. Michael Douglas conducted initial test flights for the experiment.
Pilots will continue to fly the four aircraft through a range of combat mission scenarios during the live-fly experiment to evaluate each platform’s military utility.
The live-fly experiment is part of a broader Air Force effort to explore cost-effective attack platform options under the Light Attack Experimentation Campaign run by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein. “Working with industry, and building on the Combat Dragon series of tests, we are determining whether a commercial off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”
The Air Force established vendor parameters in the initial invitation-to-participate earlier this year. Industry members were asked to propose aircraft that could potentially meet an Air Force need for a low-cost capability that is supportable and sustainable.
Scenarios during the experiment are designed to highlight aspects of various combat missions, such as close air support, air interdiction, combat search and rescue and strike coordination and reconnaissance. The experiment includes the use of weapons generally used on fighter and attack aircraft to evaluate the participating aircraft’s ability to execute traditional counter-land missions.