Close air-support in Afghanistan is being carried out by fast jets which are generally not suitable. Not even the Apache gunship or the A-10 Warthog were designed for counter-insurgency warfare. They were designed primarily to massacre Soviet armoured columns in the Fulda Gap.
But there is a ‘plane that would do the trick. An A-1 Skyraider for the twenty-first century.
And this is the baby.
It isn’t too fast, carries a reasonable warload and by that I also mean suitable. There was an event a while back in Afghanistan (not the “German one”, before that) when air-support was called and the only thing on station was a B-1B Lancer. It dropped 5000lbs of ordnance on some commpound causing a lot of collateral. 5000lbs in one drop? It must have looked like a baby nuke.
It has a few other good points for the job. Full night and all-weather capacity,, cabability to operate from short, rough strips, good performance in hot weather (being designed for Latin America).
Oh and did I add that it was cheap? Colombia recently paid $234m for 25. That’s peanuts in aerospace terms. You could equip a squadron with Super Tucs for the cost of a single Typhoon. This of course means you could deploy lots of them to the ‘stan. This would mean there’s always some when you need them and the ludicrous over-kill of using the likes of Lancers (designed to nuke Russia) to take out a few terrorists would be avoided.
And, and this is the killer. Great range and endurance. Our jets frequently streak over, unleash hell and then like Kayser Soze, they are gone. Loiter time is critical for CAS missions – you need something that can hang-around and keep the bugger’s heads down during casevacs for example. It also acts as a force multiplier. The Super Tuc might not get there as fast as an F-16 but they wouldn’t need to. You could have enough buzzing around that ground patrols would just need to whistle and one would be there. They also do armed-recon brilliantly and I would guess escort of transports.
Did I add it’s hard as nails and has good resistance to small-arms fire?
The USA is considering buying 100.
They should have done it years back. I’ve been saying that for quite some time but nobody listens to me.
Our own dear MoD doesn’t seem bothered even though the Harriers they’ve deployed are totally unsuitable. They are now being replaced by Tiffys which are not really suitable either – supersonic sledgehammers to crack nutcases. There is no way we could operate anything like as many as the Super Tucs either.
This ignorance on behalf of the Ministry of Dunces is odd because of two salient facts which make this aircraft ideal for the RAF.
RAF strike pilots will all have flown something very similar so conversion ought to be easy. Secondly (though I don’t know the details here) is it not possible that Shorts could build it under license from Embraer? That would be great if they could.
Anyway, it’s only a modest proposal from a member of Janes’ Fighting Armchairs but it’s better than anything I’ve heard the Sec State Ainsworth come-up with. He’s too busy squandering billions on paper-shuffling in Whitehall.
But, you know, we really ought to at least try and look like we’re trying to win this bloody war…