It’s a trainer. It’s a close air support platform. It’s a sensor node in a multi-domain command and control network. It’s a test of the Air Force’s ability to do rapid acquisition. It’s a means of providing partners and allies with a relatively simple, low cost, easy to maintain and highly effective platform for conducting counter-terrorism missions. These are all the different ways that Air Force sources have characterized the mission for the OA-X, its proposed light attack aircraft (LAA). Clarity regarding the role of the new aircraft is important. A trainer does not require particularly sophisticated sensors and avionics. A sensor platform can operate with a limited capability to deliver munitions or even none at all. An aircraft intended primarily for foreign military sales can get by with some performance specifications and systems that would not be acceptable to the Air Force. Today, the Air Force seems to be all over the map when it comes to what it wants an LAA to do and who will fly it. So, between now and December, when the final RFP is released, the Air Force needs to put serious thought into defining clearly the desired mission priority list for the OA-X. I have written more on this topic for RealClearDefense here.
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