USAF shortlists OA-X contenders

The privately-funded Textron AirLand Scorpion was not shortlisted for OA-X. (Textron)

The USAF has shortlisted the turboprop powered Embraer-Sierra Nevada A-29 and the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine for its OA-X light attack program.

The shortlist sees the privately funded twin-jet Textron AirLand Scorpion drop out of the running for a potential follow-on acquisition of aircraft. The three aircraft types had been undergoing operationally-representative trials in recent months from Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. The light-attack concept is designed to offer a robust close air support capability at a fraction of the cost of larger jet fighters.

“This effort to find a lower-cost and exportable aircraft for permissive environments is directly in line with the National Defense Strategy,”USAF chief of staff Gen David Goldfein said in a statement.

“A light-attack aircraft would not only provide relief to our fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft, but also bolster our interoperability, so we can more effectively employ airpower as an international team.”

The Beechcraft AT-6 is a development of the T-6C advanced trainer. (Beechcraft)

In a plan that harks back to the Combat Dragon deployments of the Vietnam War, the shortlisted contenders were to be sent for an evaluation in an operational environment, but plan this has been shelved.

“Rather than do a combat demonstration, we have decided to work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft, the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano,” USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement. “This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement.”

The AT-6 is an armed development of the T-6C Texan II advanced trainer, while the A-29 is developed from the Super Tucano trainer. Both aircraft are fitted with underwing stores stations, sensors such as FLIR turrets, and additional cockpit armour protection.

The A-29 has already been acquired through a US foreign military aid package for Afghanistan.

The A-29 Super Tucano is in service with Afghanistan. (USAF)


  1. Bill says

    It’s interesting that the USAF is looking to move away from jets for the OA-X program. Obviously AT-6 and A-29 will be able to fly slow enough near the target, but seemingly sacrificing fast transit times in the process. Also, having a front mounted propeller means it is unlikely to be able to be refueled in flight, so time on station will be reduced as the aircraft will have to return to its base sooner.

  2. Philip says

    I hope the RNZAF sit up and take notice of this.

    It is not a huge step from their T-6 Texan II trainers to the AT-6 Wolverine, and would be a unique fit that compliments and supports their armed forces when called upon for duties beyond New Zealand, so they are not always required to rely on coalition air support.

    oh… plus a ship that can transport them.

  3. Stephen Bachman says

    I am so dissapointed politics ruined a up an coming new aircraft company. Lockeed martin has a monopoly on airforce aircraft you can’t call it captalism anymore.

    The scorpion met every requirement or request the military specified for.

    Hopefully the sales to forgien countries are not blocked out of spite by the monopoly companies. Brazil an mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia could use a aircraft like the scorpion.

  4. Paul Gratton says

    Above wing engines were the greatest asset of the warthog..these aircraft were often shot up but still flyable..won’t be the case with these new aircraft

  5. AlanH says

    Surely the USAF are not considering replacing the A-10 with a single-engine turboprop! Can’t gat away from the P-51 Mustang and A-1 Skyraider. The limitations of the latter were revealed in Vietnam which more or less led to the development of the A-10, esp with jet power and two engines up high and to the rear where they are out of harm’s way. Perhaps, hopefully, I am confusing the roles of the two types.
    I hope we (i.e. Christopher Pyne!) don’t get carried away by this and seek to extend our PC-21 contract to replace our Hawks with a PC-21 combat variant!

  6. Bill says

    Maybe the USAF is looking for a low cost, low risk alternative compared to recent acquisitions? The biggest issue here is long range deployment with no option for AAR and if your only engine quits, the pilots might get a touch wet if it’s over the ocean.

  7. Philip says

    One of the objectives from the USAF was to explore how to integrate these types of aircraft into a broader airpower coalition and command, where such light attack aircraft are more likely to be deployed by other aligned countries, such as the Afghanistan A-29s.

  8. Dee Thom says

    I was under the impression that the AH Apache ground attack helicopter was the best unit for the above requirements. They have great fire power, and proven survivability in a war zone, can be air to air refuelled, and carried two at a time Iin a C-17 to point of action.
    Maybe I’m missing something in the need for air to ground support.