The U.S. Air Force is sending two of the four aircraft involved in its OA-X light attack aircraft competition to the battlefield. The move, likely unprecedented, will allow the service to evaluate both airplanes in combat missions before a final purchase decision is made.Both aircraft involved are propeller-driven, although both are turbo-prop, which is pretty much a jet engine that uses the exhaust to drive a turbine that turns a propeller. A higher-power jet engine would use the jet exhaust to propel the aircraft. Nonetheless, a turboprop aircraft, while slower than a jet, is faster than a traditional propeller-driven aircraft. So they have that going for them.
Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that the Air Force is sending the Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29 Super Tucano and the Textron AT-6 Wolverine to a yet-to-be-determined war zone. Under a program nicknamed Combat Sent III, the Air Force will stand up an experimental squadron and send two A-29s and two AT-6s, along with seventy pilots and maintainers, to test the aircraft under combat conditions.
The goal of the OA-X program is to put an effective ground-support aircraft in the air against relatively low-tech opponents. The F-35 is expected to handle ground-support missions against opponents with sophisticated air defense systems. For other opponents, such as ISIS or other terrorist organizations, the air defense threat is very low and a turbo-prop attack aircraft such as the ones being tested should be more than sufficient.
Both of the aircraft mentioned are dumptrucks -- both can carry a butt-load of things that go bang to drop on bad guys. I think the Textron plane should win simply because it is an American company. Embraer is Brazilian, and we cannot count on a continuous supply of Embraer aircraft, should they win the contract, simply because they easily could decide they don't like us. It happens.
I hope both planes do well. I want a good replacement for the A-10. The guys on the ground deserve it.