Not-So-Imminent Fury

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Under its classified Imminent Fury program, the Navy’s Irregular Warfare office leased, tested, and armed a Brazilian-made Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano — a relatively inexpensive turboprop aircraft — for possible use in counterinsurgency warfare as close air support:

“Now we’re in an operational pause, trying to figure out how to get to Phase II. We need about $44 million,” he said. “Back to the method of venture capitalism, we’re working with the Air Force and Marine Corps, socializing it with those guys to see if we can get money invested and get to Phase II, where we’re taking four aircraft into theater.”

Naturally, the Air Force doesn’t want anything to do with a low, slow ground support aircraft:

“There is a not a need, in my view, for large numbers of light strike or light lift aircraft in our Air Force to do general purpose force missions,” [Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz] said, speaking at a Center for National Policy sponsored event in Washington, D.C. “With the platforms that we already have in our force structure, and our capabilities, we can service any close air support requirement. It’s as simple as that.” He could not envision replacing existing F-15, F-16 and A-10 aircraft with a light strike aircraft.

Somebody else does want it though:

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week, newly nominated Central Command head Gen. James Mattis reaffirmed his support for a turboprop aircraft to provide ground pounders with long loitering time, on-call recon and strike. [...] Mattis made an important point in front of the SASC earlier this year:

“Today’s approach of loitering multi-million dollar aircraft and using a system of systems procedure for the approval and employment of airpower is not the most effective use of aviation fires in this irregular fight.”

A few comments that caught my attention:

  • The ‘separate’ air force has obviously not worked out well. They have forgotten where they came from and why they exist. They should be folded back into the Army.
  • They should fold all the A-10s, CAS aircraft and UAVs into the Army and keep the Air Force as an Air Superiority and Strategic Bombing wing. That’s all they want to do so let the Army do all the ground support related missions.


  1. Borepatch says:

    I wonder what it would cost to build P-47s, using modern manufacturing techniques? Probably cheap, and likely all you’d need to do counter-insurgency close air support.

    Replace the WWII rockets with Hellfires, and the 500-lb bomb with a J-DAM, and you have some pretty serious firepower. And eight Ma-Deuces is pretty dang impressive.

  2. Isegoria says:

    That’s my understanding of what the Super Tucano is — not a replica P-47, but an equivalent, built with modern manufacturing techniques. Apparently they’re cheap, but not as cheap as they could be:

    I flew the T-6 in UPT. They quoted the cost to us as $6.5 Million, more than half of that money going into the Martin-Baker Ejection system. I’m sure an AT-6 would cost a little more.

    “A little more” means $10 million:

    The two-seater Super Tucano’s top speed is only about 350 mph. But it has a 620-mile combat radius and can stay aloft for six hours. Introduced in 2003, the plane can be outfitted with two heavy machine guns as well as 2 tons of guided bombs and rockets, said Robert Munks, an Americas analyst for IHS Jane’s military consultants in London.

    With their uses in training, surveillance and offensive campaigns, the Super Tucanos fit the bill for many Third World countries, and at $10 million each, are relatively cheap, Munks said.

  3. Matt says:

    Well if the F-35 B gets canned and it is on the cards the Marines will be either flying off a carrier, lose their air arm (which I am strongly against) or using these off an LHD.

    Considering the future asymmetrical threat we face of non state actors, the role the Marines will play in smaller engagements, during “peace time”.

    Also the CIA would like to get into some of this action with the rotary fixed wing assets for the para paramilitaries and indigenous forces, a couple of SAD advisers, a couple of pilots and hundreds indigenous forces.

    McChrystal supported it, Mattis supports it and Petraeus over at the CIA would welcome the capability. The facts for the DOD is that Gates put aside around 10% of the budget to fight savages.

    The AF can cancel it but the only joy stick you will be playing with is the one between your legs.

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