Congressman threatens USAF, says he’ll give light attack planes to Army for Special Operations


A former Green Beret-turned lawmaker has had enough of the US Air Force dragging its feet to field propeller-driven light attack planes- and is now threatening to give the project to the Army.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., expressed his disdain at the slow-moving USAF when it comes to a Counter Insurgency (COIN) and Light Close Air Support plane to provide on-demand assistance to conventional and special operations troops.

“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” he said on Wednesday.

While the House has already green-lit the procurement of light attack planes by US Special Operations and Command, Waltz believes that the conventional ground troops of the US Army could benefit as well.

Historically, CAS has been a function assigned to Air Force fixed wing aircraft. Assignment of CAS responsibility to the Air Force grew out of the Key West Agreement of 1948. However, provisions have allowed the Army to retain aviation assets for “reconnaissance” and “medical evacuation.” In 1952, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between then-Air Force Secretary Thomas K. Finletter and Army Secretary Frank Pace, removing weight restrictions on Army helicopters and effectively creating the fearsome US Army rotary fleet as we know it today. However, it also created an arbitrary 5,000 pound weight restriction that limits the Army’s ability to fly fixed-wing aircraft.

With the USAF seemingly unwilling to speed up the light CAS project (not unlike their perpetual resistance to retain CAS aircraft such as the A-10), a new MOU may be in the near future.

According to Defense One, Waltz is tired of waiting- and is letting the Air Force know that they need to step up.

“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.

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5 thoughts on “Congressman threatens USAF, says he’ll give light attack planes to Army for Special Operations

  1. Go for it! The Air Force needs a whack upside the head on this one. The need existed in 2001 and has been deliberately ignored, with the only effort being a fly-off designed to shut up critics rather than field a wing or two of light attack planes. AF could have had the planes flying in Iraq not long after the invasion, if they were serious about the best support for counterinsurgency. I touch on it a little here in an article that covers a lot of other territory.

  2. Ground forces don’t always need CAS, but when they do, they really need it. CAS puts massive (relative to artillery) bomb-loads on a target at once. Artillery is limited to one shell per gun at a time, so the explosive effect is stretched out in time. Both artillery and CAS are useful tools, and the Air Force owes the Army good CAS. Also, strafing is a useful option and the extra eyes in the sky can provide useful real-time intel about enemy forces just out of sight of ground commanders.

  3. This is what happens when you treat an acquisition program as a shitty collateral duty instead of an actual program. I’d bet money this things gets a new program manager every year and when he/she gets assigned, they stall, slow-roll, and can’t get another job fast enough.

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