Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Smaller, Cheaper Close Air Support: "Bronco 12 Cleared Hot"

For some time I have been an advocate* for "basic" aircraft for close air support of our forces in the field - and now there's an interesting piece discussing that topic in the latest U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings by Captain Andy Walton, USN, "Bronco 12 Cleared Hot"
Fighting a low-end war with high-end supersonic aircraft has put a heavy burden on the Department of Defense’s fourth-generation fighter and attack fleet. Sustainment of aging fourth-generation and acquisition of fifth-generation aircraft have left the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps with little interest in adding low-end light-attack airframes to their inventories and quieted the debate over light attack for U.S. special operations forces (SOF) and general purpose forces (GPF).

From as early as 2002, advocates of “low-cost irregular warfare aircraft” such as the AT-6, A-29, AT-802, OV-10, Scorpion, and others argued the overall cost savings in fuel, maintenance, and manpower were worth exploring. They proposed that even small numbers of these forward-deployed expeditionary aircraft could ease the flight-hour and service-life strain on fourth-generation aircraft performing low-threat armed reconnaissance (AR), air interdiction (AI), and close-air-support (CAS) missions, the airborne tankers supporting them, as well as the number of fuel convoys traveling to air bases in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq.

The recent OV-10 deployment, named Combat Dragon II (CD II), provides a template for how adaptable, flexible, innovative, forward-thinking people can produce ideas easily applied to the combatant commander’s capability shortfalls. If adopted, it would ease service topline budget pressure and position the DOD to be prepared for the range of missions it may face in the future. The CD II deployment also demonstrated how gaps in our current strategy can be filled with repurposed or off-the-shelf hardware.
It's in the "open to the public" part of the on-line magazine, so please read it.

*See The Legacy of Lex: A Common Sense Call on the F-35 for example.

Oh, and the Bronco can do carriers and ships like LHAs:

UPDATE: More info on the "amazing" OV-10 here. And a look at another CAS aircraft effort and "Imminent Fury" here.


  1. While I was with the 11th Air Assault division 1964 and 65 we had an aircraft that looks something like this OV-10 that was used as an observation aircraft. Now as I remember it had a couple of drawbacks though. Now not being a flyer myself I don't have first hand knowledge but as I remember the plane that we had if it lost one engine would not be able to stay in the air very long. Now to be a good close in ground support it will need to be able to fly even if one engine is out and it will need to be able to take extensive damage and still fly. Neither of these abilities did it have.

    1. Yes, the performance of the OV-10 was an issue - but if you read the underlying article in Proceedings, I think you'll find that this effort was not platform driven, but the availability of a known platform was what made the OV-10 a logical choice. More important were the other lessons learned.

    2. E1 I agree. It seems so often our DOD ignores: "Better is the Enemy of Good Enough"

  2. I had the Black Ponies VAL-4 shoot CAS for me, pretty good bird with on=station time. Lots of discussion why the USAF did not bring back in the OV-10X vice spend TOO damn long buying the A-29 aka Brazilian AT-6?

    Bottom line: there are scenarios where such a CAS aka COIN aircraft is Far more valuable than a fourth or fifth generation mega-buck, not at IOC, jet fighter.

  3. This is interesting. Could we be moving towards (for want of a better simile) Marine CVEs providing totally organic air support?

  4. The Marines already Have big deck amphib warships the size of WW2 CVE, look at LHAs. And yes the Bronco could fly off them, IF the F-35B wasn't taking up all the room and $bucks$

  5. OV-10's are way underpowered, they need 2X what they have, climbing out with the 30mm tracers blowing need POWER!!