Versatile, scalable rotary wing assets that do double duty as gunships and utility/rescue helicopters.
Aircraft that can be disbursed to unimproved airfields and operated from roadways or even fields while being concealed on the ground.
In the era of the multi-billion dollar Gen 5+ superfighter and hundred-million dollar stealth bombers, is the low-cost counterinsurgency or “COIN” air force the next big defense trend? Many aircraft and systems manufacturers, along with their nation-clients, are betting “yes”.
As countries like Iraq and Afghanistan emerge from the long Global War on Terror and develop their own indigenous air forces the trend for local area defense and simple tactical air solutions is growing quickly. At the same time, strategic air combat capabilities, such as long-range heavy bombing, low observable long-range precision strike and long-range intelligence gathering have fallen to nations with much larger economies like the United States, Russia, England, France and China.
The emerging industry in light, inexpensive, adaptable, scalable and integrated tactical air arsenals is booming, while massively expensive projects like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are under constant criticism and scrutiny from budget concerns.
Another key aspect of the growing trend in light tactical air power is that it empowers nation states with their own air force. The value of this is as much socio-psychological as it is tactical. Nations can fight their own wars, their own way, without the imposing presence of an aircraft carrier battle group off their coast.
Perhaps one of the best examples of a light, inexpensive counterinsurgency air force is Afghanistan. The Afghan Air Force operates two strike platforms, the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68C turboprop powered, low wing, two-seat attack airplane and the MD Helicopters MD-530F Cayuse Warrior light utility/attack helicopter powered by Rolls Royce’s 650 shp 250-C30 engine. The two aircraft are well suited for ease of training and close air support.
|Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 Cal machine guns during a media demonstration, April 9, 2015, at a training range outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)|