Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Armed Overwatch program is, to say the least, unusual. This is an effort to acquire 75 light aircraft to provide a combination of tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), communications, and strike from bases in austere environments. AFSOC selected five companies to participate in a prototype demonstration with the idea of selecting one to begin production in Fiscal Year 2022. They are proposing what can only be described as a heterogeneous set of platforms, including a version of a purpose-built military aircraft; a variant of a primary trainer aircraft in wide use with the U.S. and foreign militaries; a Polish-designed cargo aircraft; a repurposed popular utility aircraft; and a derivative of a crop duster. Evaluating these aircraft against a set of already challenging requirements will be tough enough for AFSOC. The five competitors are so different that it will likely be difficult to perform a comparative evaluation. When considerations of supportability, training, flexibility, and growth potential are included, AFSOC may find itself confronting multiple dilemmas in downselecting to one aircraft. I have written more on this subject here.
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