Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Back, with an old moan!

It's been a long time since I posted here, this was due to a long illness and slow recovery. But I'm getting back to my old self again and have a backlog of news and items to get through. But I thought I would restart with a bit of an old moan...

The OV-10 Bronco light attack aircraft of the US Army.
'Low-tech' air support for counter-insurgency
Yes, this is a bit of a bug-bear with me, that the Royal Air Force (and US Air Force for that matter) has consistently ignored the potential of turbo-prop driven ground-support aircraft for asymmetrical warfare. It's another one of those military 'lessons learned' that has been forgotten again, as during the Vietnam War the US rediscovered the advantages of turbo-prop attack aircraft like the OV-10 Bronco.

Today's airforces much prefer hugely expensive, high-tech fast jets for the role of ground attack, even though it was pretty obvious in the case of Afghanistan that this approach was like using a sledge-hammer to crack a walnut. But it's not just a question of expense, slower turboprop aircraft have a real advantage as steady weapon platforms and also have good endurance for long loitering times.

Now, I won't dwell on the lengthy pros and cons and why I think it is that NATO air forces consistently ignore the validity of light attack aircraft - this is all very well documented elsewhere. Rather, the essence of this rant is the hypocrisy of the air force chiefs who have dismissed the idea that 'slow movers' have a place in a modern air force...

Just this week I discovered a wonderful YouTube video showing the first additions to the fledgling Afghani Air Force...



Now, what annoys me about this is that the new Afghan Air Force is a product of US military foreign policy in combination with US Air Force advice and training. So, to cut to the chase - while the US and UK air forces deemed turboprop attack aircraft - like the A-29 Super Tucano - inappropriate during their stint at running air support in Afghanistan the US Defence Department now sees this type completely adequate now that the Afghan's are responsible for their own defense!

A contemporary of the A-26 Super Tucano is the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-9.
Like the Tucano, it's primarily an advanced trainer but has been designed to
fulfil the role of light attack. It can be armed with a variety of weapons 'pods'.
Picture source: Wikipedia

I hope to monitor the performance of the A-26 and read some of the actual mission reports as it comes into actual service with the Afghans. Hopefully, I can bring you more videos of this wonderful aircraft in action.

Postscript: I use the term 'low-tech' to describe this sort of aircraft, but - of course - I use this as a relative term when comparing them to, say, a Eurofighter Typhoon or an F-35. The A-26 is actually a pretty high-tech piece of kit as far as it's systems go and is far more effective than something like a WWII Hawker Typhoon or Republic Thunderbolt in its accurate delivery of munitions. 

Below: Here's another example of a 'low-tech' turboprop attack aircraft in action, this time with the Slovenian Air Force. This time it's the Pilatus PC-9 (a commercial competitor to the A-26, made in Switzerland). Just listen to those gun pods rattle!