Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) Aircraft: The next evolution in CAS, or just another hype?


Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine NG Light Attack Aircraft


Entering 2021, we can safely say that nothing has changed for the better in Africa, but instead the rate of instability is on the rise and poor governance remains the only stable characteristic about the general perception of Africa. Consequently, Africa is increasing its appeal for profitable arms sales, and many governments are pushing their efforts to bag some sales. Winston Churchill's quote "Never let a good crisis go to waste" has much relevance when it comes to selling arms to states in distress. It is also very unfortunate that the most common mainstream media buzzwords pertaining the continent are usually 'corruption', 'insurgency', 'terrorism', 'piracy', and 'poaching'. So-called Islamic State and Al-Qaeda franchises are still going strong within the major oil economies on the continent, and what better justification is required to make some money from arms sales.


As the situation on the continent escalates, we receive more enquiries from smaller air forces requesting recommendations about the feasibility of establishing more affordable Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) capabilities (also referred to as Light Air Support), with the following primary envisioned roles:

  • Counter Insurgency

  • Ground Attack

  • Close Air Support

  • Reconnaissance

  • Armed Overwatch

  • Maritime/Border Patrol

  • Counter-UAV/RPA Air Superiority

However, after various discussions, we decided to write an article about this concept after we came to realise the following:


1. It is common for air forces to look at the US Air Force model from a force design perspective, and international arms manufacturers and suppliers are doing nothing to change that image, or to guide their prospective customers into the required direction in terms of suitability to the domestic environment. For suppliers, all that counts is making a sale at the most profitable price and extending future profits from operational sustainment after sale for as long as possible (mostly for the financial benefit of the supplier and not the end-user) without taking into consideration end-user unique operational requirements. The other problem with this perception is that the USAF has built a reputation for unrivalled combat performance over the past 50 years and no-one can be blamed for admiring such capabilities. However, the USAF benefits from materiel- and human resources unmatched by any other nation and continues to develop and refine its concepts continuously through major technological investments unmatched by any other nation. American advisors are the beneficiaries of a mature air warfare system which is why they tend to sell the system they know and trust, even though the understanding and experience of mature systems are mostly rare and/or non-existing amongst FMS partners, especially in Africa.


2. The majority air forces in Africa (and globally), do not conduct proper program studies prior to capital equipment acquisition relating to:

  • Project Studies

  • Project Study Reports

  • Acquisition Plans

  • Development Test and Evaluation

  • Qualification and Certification

  • Baseline Design and Management

  • Commissioning

  • In-Service Induction

  • Operational Phase sustainment over planned lifetime

  • Operational limitations as per conditions of sale (government-to-government)

  • Contingency plans in the event of supplier country-imposed restrictions at the political level, or supplier failures in terms of maintaining systems serviceability for the duration of the planned lifetime.

3. The project studies phase of major capital equipment acquisition programs, being the most important part of the planned acquisition evaluation, is severely neglected. Just looking at air combat systems design requirements, examples of project studies involve evaluation of (but not only limited to):

  • Baseline platform and supplementary engineering and/or design requirements conforming to specified end-user requirements;

  • Propulsion systems;

  • Armaments based on end-user specific mission requirements envisioned over system lifetime based on credible inputs from end-user beneficiaries (Air Force, Army, Navy, Law Enforcement) collectively, and determining the 'middle ground' to avoid unnecessary requirements costs escalation;

  • Avionics, including night operations- and all-weather capabilities suitable to end-user infrastructure and existing capabilities;

  • Mission- and weapons management systems architecture;

  • Crew protection and platform battlefield survivability;

  • Network integration and compatibility with other capital equipment systems (planned and existing);

  • Support infrastructure requirements;

  • Aircrew and systems support crew training;

  • In-service induction;

  • Tactical- and Operational doctrine;

  • Mission planning and rehearsal infrastructure;

  • Maintenance;

  • Logistics.

4. The majority end-users do not know what they require to solve domestic security challenges from a capital expenditure perspective, many being under the misguided impression that complex challenges can be solved by procuring technologically advanced hardware alone without resolving the root causes for instability/threat.


5. Inexperienced and unqualified procurement officers think that what works for one nation's air force will also work for another country's air force (a misguided one solution solves all belief), consequently allowing the supplier to determine what the end-user requires in the absence of credible requirements based on actual data derived from credible project studies.


6. The hype around the procurement of LAAR systems started around 2009 when the USAF was seeking a cost-effective replacement for the ageing A-10 Thunderbolt II under Program OA-X, and one of the options presented at the time was the Embraer EMB-314/A29 Super Tucano system already in service with various nations engaged in low-intensity counter-insurgency and anti-narcotics operations in mainly Latin America. After many feasibility tests, the USAF officially killed off the program during February 2020 indicating no further interest in pursuing the program. Basically, after 11 years of intense studies, the USAF could not justify the requirement to purchase the original 100 platforms envisioned at the start of the program evaluation phase. US SOCOM is still evaluating the system in support of Special Forces operations under their Armed Overwatch program to study the feasibility of conducting the following types of operations:

  • Close Air Support (CAS)

  • Armed Reconnaissance

  • Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance

  • Airborne Forward Air Control (FAC).

Platform Evaluation:


For the purpose of this article, the LAAR concept only applies to the following operational systems (not applicable to any programs still under development):

  • Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano (standard Brazilian version);

  • A-29 Super Tucano (Sierra Nevada version of EMB-314 Super Tucano equipped with more advanced US combat systems conforming to USAF requirements);

  • Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine (Based on the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, a model based on the Pilatus PC-9).

For evaluation, Close Air Support (CAS) was considered the priority capability of this system, which is also the most complex of operational requirements. The original requirements scope issued by the USAF entailed the following key requirements:


1. Rough field operations: The RFI required aircraft to be capable of operating from semi-prepared runways such as grass or dirt surfaces. Looking at this requirement, a tractor design would be more favourable than a pusher configuration based on lessons learnt from the Cessna O-2 Skymaster (Military version of C337) which had a tendency of sustaining rear prop damage from debris kicked up by the nose wheel when operated from dirt runways.


2. Defensive package: The aircraft must be equipped with several defensive measures, including a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), a Radar warning receiver (RWR), and chaff and flare dispensers.


3. Armoured cockpit and engine compartment.


4. Long loiter time: The aircraft must be able to fly 5 hour sorties (with 30 minute fuel reserves).


5. Range: The aircraft must have a 900 nautical mile (1600 km) ferry range.


6. Data link capability: The aircraft should be equipped with a line-of-sight data link (beyond line-of-sight desired), capable of transmitting and receiving still and video images. Within the 21st century battle space, network centric operations are essential but also vulnerable to jamming and interception. Also, networking capabilities mean nothing if there is no inter-system operability with other hardware within the existing end-user fleet. To extract the maximum advantage from a networked combat system, the end-user should already have an established military data link network for integrating the platform with other networked systems to make up for capabilities deficient on the platforms. At present less than 10% of African air forces have some form of tactical datalink capability, of which South Africa hosts the most advanced system on the continent (Link ZA). Of the existing twelve operators in Africa of the LAAR system, none has a military data link network in operation, therefore losing much capability on these systems which were designed to benefit from AEW&C in the absence of suitable radar/tracking systems on the platform.


7. Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities: The aircraft must be capable of laser tracking and designating targets, as well as track targets using electro-optical and infrared video/still images. ISR is usually a secondary product of a well-equipped CAS platform.


8. Weaponry: The LAAR aircraft must carry at least 4 weapons stores capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including 500 lb bombs, 2.75-inch rockets, rail-launched missiles, and illumination flares. The aircraft must also be capable of aerial gunnery, either with an integrated or pylon mounted gun.


9. Desired Traits (but not necessarily requirements):

  • Infrared signature suppression for the engine(s).

  • 30,000 ft (9,000 m) operational ceiling.

  • 6,000 ft (1,800 m) takeoff and landing distance (full weapons load).

  • Aerobatic capabilities capable of high-G manoeuvres such as the Immelmann turn, Cuban eight, and Split S.

Solving the Problem:


Looking at complex arms, especially advanced air combat systems, it is very common to over-estimate the capabilities of a paper-based design without understanding the development history of a system, and how such a system will fit into the grand scheme of warfare based on unique end-user circumstances and requirements. Basically, what we need to understand is that a combat aircraft is a product, and for a product to be successful and useful to its end-user, such product must solve a problem that exists within its planned employment environment. Looking at the LAAR concept, we first need to understand what problems it solves (namely, what was the initial motivating factors behind the current design, or in other words, why does it exist, and why is it designed in the manner it is now). To answer these questions, we shall focus on the Embraer EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano, the only light attack aircraft in the world with US Air Force MTC (Military Type Certificate). This aircraft was already developed and operational at the time of commencement of the USAF Program OA-X, and it was initially designed to fulfil the following requirements by its end-users, namely:


1. Low acquisition cost (subject to the choice of weapons- and mission control systems, ISR equipment, armaments suite, logistics and infrastructure).


2. Low operating costs relating to costs per flying hour (CPFH).


3. Simple and cheap to maintain.


4. Cost effective pilot training and transition.


5. Enable complex capabilities to an end-user with no existing capabilities of similar or greater complexity.


6. Advanced air combat capability in terms of light attack and armed reconnaissance where the area of responsibility is smaller than 100,000 km².


7. Operable by lesser skilled crews drawn from a society being beneficiaries of lower quality basic education and nutrition.


8. Offer a slightly reduced technology platform to users not experienced or capable of operating advanced 4th generation aircraft based on lessons learnt by the USAF where some FMS partner nations opted to put all advanced 4th generation fighters into long-term storage upon USAF withdrawal, leading to an eventual total loss in capabilities.


9. Enable the development of the ‘joint mindset’ required to link air- and ground forces using a lesser complicated platform which is also less intimidating than an advanced 4th generation fighter when training ground forces Forward Air Controllers. In especially Africa, the ‘joint mindset’ relating to effective air-ground coordination is nearly a non-existing skillset.


10. Support intellectual investment within the end-user organisation in terms of developing and maintaining an organic sustainable CAS capability.


11. Achieve drastically reduced logistical supply lines being the greatest vulnerability to sustaining long-term operations. The logistics of fuel supply is the greatest burden resulting from legacy supersonic aircraft CAS operations. The lower the hourly fuel consumption of the platform, the smaller the logistical footprint. The LAAR system can be sustainably supported by a tactical air-lifter without the need for road logistics requiring additional ground protective measures.

Embraer EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano


What is CAS, and what is required from CAS in the 21st Century?


To better understand choice of light attack platforms for utilisation within the predominant CAS role (commonly the main mission of light attack aircraft), we first need to understand how these systems are employed on the 21st century battlefield. The US Air Force (at present the most superior authority in terms of CAS evolution), defines Close Air Support (CAS) as follows:


“Air action by fixed- and rotary wing aircraft against hostile targets which are in close proximity to friendly forces, and which require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.”


In addition to this, we also need to take into consideration the following:


1. CAS is a tactical level operation that is planned and executed to accomplish military objectives assigned to tactical units. CAS is not an operational level doctrine, and it does not contribute to achieving either operational- nor strategic level objectives in any campaign. CAS planning focusses on the ordered arrangement and manoeuvre of combat elements in relation to each other and the enemy to achieve military objectives. The use of light attack aircraft is best employed under the direct control of the manoeuvre commander on the ground as a result of its low speed and extended endurance within proximity of the target area during ground battles (through the presence of an air liaison officer embedded within the ground forces tactical HQ).


2. CAS can be conducted at any place or time where friendly forces are in close proximity of enemy forces. The word “close” does not refer to distance for it is in fact situational.


3. CAS is a suitable force to mass lethal capability rapidly (if appropriately armed based on precise and actionable intelligence), for the purpose of exploiting tactical advantage or to save friendly forces lives.


4. Organisation structure, missions and characteristics of CAS-capable aircraft determines how the user employs CAS. No single CAS-capable platform exists as the most suitable ‘do-it-all’ type, and instead CAS-capable aircraft should always be considered as complimentary capabilities within a greater CAS doctrine comprising different types of CAS platforms providing overlapping capabilities. Fixed-wing CAS differs from rotary-wing CAS, and each type of platform performs different missions on the battlefield, each subject to different conditions on the same battlefield if part of an integrated CAS mission.


Conditions for Effective CAS:


In our experience during past programs (based on lessons learnt during the induction of the A-29 Super Tucano system into Afghan Air Force service), this section is one of the most overlooked of important aspects relating to the successful integration of the light attack aircraft concept in terms of CAS. Many air forces, especially small and inexperienced, tend to neglect the following conditions required for enabling effective CAS capabilities:


1. Air Superiority: The light attack aircraft cannot perform air superiority operations and CAS missions simultaneously. In general, light attack aircraft are best suited for employment within uncontested air space. Air superiority, however, allows CAS to be performed more effectively while denying that same capability to the enemy. Air superiority requires dedicated assets to achieve the desired objectives.


2. Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD): SEAD is becoming a more common requirement within many present-day battlefields. The presence of advanced air defence systems within the ranks of traditional irregular forces is becoming a major concern to military planners, which includes the presence of improvised UAV’s. For this reason, all ground operations need to include plans to suppress enemy air defences to enable CAS capabilities during the attack. Light attack aircraft can be assigned to fulfil this mission, but this will require meticulous planning based on accurate, real-time target information relayed by competent forward air controllers (FAC's). Looking at current developments, LAAR operators must be prepared to face an adversary equipped with the advanced Pantsir S-1M operated by Russian pseudo-PMC's.


3. Target Marking: Capable ground commanders can improve CAS effectiveness by providing timely and accurate target marks. Target marking assist CAS aircrews in situational awareness to locate and attack the correct targets while ensuring the lowest margin of threat to own forces. There is often a misconception amongst ground forces that the aircrews of CAS aircraft can see everything from up in the air without being informed about the unfolding tactical situation, whereas in reality the aircrews are constantly exposed to high workloads required to operate the total CAS system with limited time to effectively assess the evolving ground battle at altitude where everything mostly appears the same, and friendly forces FLOT (front line of own troops) can easily become blurred and confused with the enemy FLOT.


4. Favourable Weather: Good ground visibility drastically increases aircrew effectiveness regardless of aircraft type or capabilities. Before CAS missions can be executed, minimum weather conditions must be met. The air unit commander is responsible to determine the minimum weather required for CAS missions as a requirement to ensure safety of aircrews, ground forces and CAS hardware.


5. Prompt Response: The quicker the CAS response to requesting ground forces, the more effective the CAS capability. Streamlined requests and control procedures improve responsiveness. The following techniques also improve responsiveness (which can serve as a means of evaluating platform suitability during the procurement planning phase):

  • Use of FOB’s (Forward Operating Bases) to decrease the distance to the Area of Operations (AO). Basically, the slower the aircraft, the closer it should be located to the AO (which is one of the advantages offered by the use of supersonic aircraft in the CAS role).

  • Placing aircrew on ground and airborne alert status to decrease reaction times. Light attack aircraft are suitable for enabling an airborne alert system due to its extended endurance compared to fast jets with limited time over target. The use of light attack aircraft can enable up to 4.5 hours of endurance overhead the AO (limited to human performance factors). Airborne alert status is however a neglected concept in Africa, and to ensure its effectiveness, it should become embedded within the organisation's culture and day-to-day operation.

  • Delegating launch and divert authority to subordinate units. Shortening the line of command increases responsiveness drastically.

  • Direct communications between CAS aircraft overhead the AO. Aircraft use different communications systems than ground forces, and to improve the effectiveness of air assets, ground forces should be equipped with secure ground-to-air communications equipment.

6. Aircrew and Terminal Controller Skills: CAS execution is a highly complex system, and for ground forces to be able to properly direct air assets require a level of skills similar to what is required to pilot such aircraft. Aircrew and terminal controller (FAC) skills influences mission success, and it is essential for these crews to practice frequently. Frequent training is essential, the unfortunate reality thereof within the present-day African battle space being a highly neglected skillset, even within the most advanced of air forces on the continent as a result of budget constraints and basic education challenges affecting the competency of both ground- and aircrews alike.


7. Appropriate Ordnance: Weapons load, arming, and fuse settings are essential to achieve the desired level of destruction, neutralising, disruption, or suppression of enemy CAS targets. Cluster and high fragmentation munitions are effective against vehicles and troops in the open, whereas more specialised munitions are required to accurately target more hardened- and mobile targets using laser, electro-optical, or infrared guidance systems. For this reason, requesting commanders must be familiar with the different types of weapons systems and its associated capabilities/limitations when planning and/or requesting CAS. It is for this reason why the detached ALO (Air Liaison Officer) is usually trained and experienced as an aircrew on the relevant platform(s) employed. CAS ordnance is determined by the nature of the CAS mission requested following detailed mission specific target characteristics and intelligence. In general, CAS platforms do not operate in the fashion as usually illustrated within OEM sales brochures.


8. Communications: CAS requires dependable and interoperable communications between aircrews, air controllers, fire support coordinators, safety officers, and requesting commanders. That said, the 21st century battlefield depends heavily on spectrum denial and signals interception, and therefore contingencies, counter-measures and procedures should be developed and rehearsed intensely at all levels during the event of systems being compromised by enemy EW measures with the purpose of enabling a CAS capability under conditions of spectrum denial.


9. Command and Control: CAS requires an integrated, flexible command and control (C2) structure to process CAS requirements, target priorities, assign assets, communicate tasks, coordinate ground-based indirect fire safety (applicable to high-trajectory weapon systems), deconflict fires and routing, coordinate support, establish air space control measures, combat search & rescue, and update or warn of threats to CAS assets. The following systems can help improve CAS command and control:

  • AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning & Control) platforms.

  • Network integration (network centric operations) via data link.

  • Competent enabler staff at all levels with an advanced understanding of the air-ground concept of operations.

Looking at the project studies phases of Light Attack Aircraft procurement, these conditions for effective CAS will essentially determine the unique end-user tactical doctrine requirements applicable to the eventual choice of platform and most appropriate combat systems. Earlier in this discussion it was mentioned that one of the major mistakes made by many smaller air forces, especially in Africa, is looking at the US Air Force approach to CAS, and therefore enabling the simplest route of allowing the supplier to offer the ‘most suitable’ platform system design. The main flaw in this approach is that what works for the USAF does not necessarily work for another end-user. This is very well illustrated looking at how NATO members still struggle with interoperability when working with the USAF whereas the NATO Alliance has some form of aligned standards to enable services interoperability. Now, imagine the divide in interoperability that exists when a USAF or NATO aligned system is inducted into a non-NATO aligned end-user organisation where none of the other in-service systems are compatible with a platform that costs around US$ 20 - 35 million each including armaments and support infrastructure.


Cost Benefit Analysis:


In the end, everything comes down to money. To understand the true value of this system, we need to understand the cost benefits as follows (Legacy vs LAAR):


Pilot Training (Cost per flying hour): The following matrix illustrates a comparison between the traditional approach for training combat pilots flying legacy CAS aircraft, and the proposed Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance concept following a modified flight training approach.

What we can derive from this comparison is that if an air force wishes to introduce the LAAR concept into operational service, the end-user could have operational capable pilots flying the LAAR aircraft system on combat missions at around 70% reduced pilot training costs compared to the traditional method of flight training where the relevant end-user has an advanced jet platform in service as a lead-in fighter-trainer (LIFT) assigned for fulfilling LAAR operations.


Operational: The cost benefits do not only apply to training. On average CAS aircraft fly around 200 - 500 hours annually when assigned to Light Attack/CAS operations. The following comparison illustrates the total costs of operating the different types of CAS platforms compared to the LAAR system options:

The most cost-effective LAAR system is the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano for the reason that it is equipped with more cost effective, lesser advanced systems compared to the alternative platforms equipped with more costly systems conforming to USAF requirements. The most suitable choice of platform will be determined by the end-user's unique requirements, and having the best systems are not always a necessity. What any prospective end-user needs to take into consideration is that both the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine were designed and equipped with the purpose of enabling operability with existing and future USAF systems which do not necessarily apply to non-USAF end-users (allowing some margins for reducing initial procurement costs).


Conclusion:


What prospective end-users for light attack aircraft systems within the class of the A-29 Super Tucano/AT-6 Wolverine need to take into consideration is that the capabilities offered through such a system is only but a temporary solution to a problem caused by the existence of other more greater problems. The LAAR aircraft concept does offer value at the tactical level in the absence of other better suitable systems, but it is also much deficient from being considered an area of dominance within the greater scope of 21st century warfare. Also, since this type of aircraft is a slower turboprop design, lower GDP countries with an operational area of responsibility less than 100,000 km² will benefit from this system for the reason that operating supersonic fighters over limited territory has some associated challenges with high costs of operation. Looking at the per unit cost of the total system package of between US$ 20 - 35 million each (depending on choice of armaments, specialised support infrastructure requirements and operational phase sustainment) for a platform that might experience a maximum useful operational life of 10 years considering current developments in combat aircraft technology, the question is whether such high capital investment is worth the limited capabilities gained, and whether the capabilities gained outweighs the high acquisition cost. However, the USD 1,000 - 2,200 average cost per flying hour (CPFH) along with its extended endurance within the AO of around 4.5 hours is much more financially sustainable compared to using 4th and 5th Generation fighters at a rate of between US$ 4,500 - 27,000 CPFH in stretched out, resources intensive counter-insurgency operations where operations expenditure is usually perceived at the political level as a greater threat than enemy actions. Also, the use of cheaper platforms free up more costlier and advanced aircraft for other more advanced missions requiring lesser [costly] flying hours.


However, looking from an independent perspective, the high acquisition costs of these systems would also explain why so many African air forces choose to purchase cheaper Chinese systems offering comparable, and in some cases better capabilities at a fraction of the cost in the form of the Hongdu JL-10 (L-15 Falcon) and Hongdu JL-8 (Karakorum K-8) with much less export restrictions (if any at all). Alternatively, buying advanced 3rd generation/early 4th generation aircraft being retired from many NATO air forces may in some cases offer better value for money, especially looking at a 10-year functional operational life cycle before reaching obsolescence. Buying off the shelf also shortens the waiting period, especially when the acquisition of capabilities is urgent. Looking at the LAAR platforms currently on offer, prospective end-users need to take into account that if a Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance aircraft system is being considered a requirement for acquisition, a mission capability gap and/or end-user peculiar acquisition requirement should exist which can only be effectively mitigated through the procurement of a light attack aircraft capability in the absence of any better and/or more cost-effective alternative solutions.


In Short: Success of the LAAR concept is not dependent on the platform choice and systems composition, it is dependent on the depth of effective integration into both air- and ground forces, with an exceptional understanding of the workings of the tactical- and limited operational doctrines required for its effective employment over the battlefield. Looking from a missions capability perspective, the LAAR concept does offers the following advantages to African end-users:


1. Low cost per flying hour (CPFH): At around $ 1,000 / hour, this can benefit all current African nations operating on tight defence budgets fighting low-intensity conflicts within uncontested airspace. The greatest cost factor in terms of hourly operating costs is fuel burn. Maintenance and depreciation is but only a small component of the hourly costs rate. Main consideration: Is the high system acquisition costs worth the low CPFH benefit?


2. Extended Endurance: The average 4.5 hours endurance exceeds the endurance of the majority CAS dedicated rotary- and fixed wing aircraft. Main consideration: What is the maximum allowable armament load required to achieve maximum endurance, and will such armament loads be sufficient for meeting the intended mission objectives.


3. Reduced Performance Envelope: This is a suitable characteristic for small nations with territories smaller than 100,000 km². In Africa, only 11 countries would benefit from this characteristic due to their limited territories not being suitable for sustainable and/or economic supersonic fighter capabilities. Main consideration: Can the LAAR platform reach the target area in time from its intended base of operations?


4. Lower Operating Speeds: The LAAR system would be suitable for supporting helicopter air assault operations within the overwatch role due to its inherent lower white arc performance characteristics. Main consideration: Does helicopter air assault operations form part of the tactical doctrine of the end-user, and would this characteristic be of any benefit to ground forces operations?


5. Simplified Flight Characteristics: This system was designed to be operated by lesser experienced aircrews, offering entry-level CAS capabilities development by means of a simplified system. Main considerations: Would the simplicity of the LAAR system assist the end-user in achieving the desired aircrew development to advance to more complicated systems?


6. Reduced Logistical Footprint: The turboprop powered LAAR aircraft has a much lower fuel burn rate per hour compared to legacy supersonic CAS aircraft which can enable savings of up to 80% in fuel supply requirements. For this reason, LAAR aircraft operations are sustainable through the use of tactical air-lifters, especially considering terrain limitations, security threats and limited road infrastructure usually associated with these AO's. Main considerations: Can the end-user guarantee sustainable logistical operations to support this system, to include operational reserve contingencies?


7. Cost Effective UAV/RPA Interception: The LAAR aircraft system is the most cost-effective combat aircraft capable of intercepting the majority military type turbine- and piston engine powered armed- and surveillance UAV/RPA's commonly found over current battlefields. Main consideration: The end-user should have a capable integrated system for locating and tracking UAV's within its airspace, further highlighting the importance of overlapping capabilities enhancement through network centric operations.


8. Reduced Pilot Training Costs: To train a pilot from zero hours to operational capable on a multi-role combat aircraft such as the LAAR concept would cost between 50 - 70% less (depending on choice of platform) compared to training pilots on advanced light jet aircraft to the point of being operational qualified. Main consideration: If pilot training costs are a factor for the end-user, then the LAAR system would offer great opportunities for drastic cost savings without compromising operational capabilities, also enabling improved pilot skills development for progression to more complex systems with lower associated risks.


If these characteristics are what the African end-user requires to meet its mission objectives, then this system could be a suitable option to meet such assessed objectives. However, hardware alone solves nothing, it is the human component by means of the effective implementation of a suitable tactical doctrine and associated skills development, along with the necessary support- and logistical infrastructure, that requires the most work for effective functionality. Maximum value and effectiveness can only be extracted from the Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance aircraft system if the end-user has a comprehensive understanding of its advantages and disadvantages, and what is required to achieve the desired effectiveness.

 

Disclaimer: African Defence Foundation NPC (ADF) is a registered, privately managed and funded not-for-profit company established with the purpose of supporting legitimate and approved African governments and their respective defence- and/or national security departments to bridge current national security challenges and limitations. ADF is not government funded, and the organisation has no means of influencing any government decision making processes. ADF provides an advisory service, and where operational assets are deployed, such services are provided as either a public benefit initiative funded by private donors, or by means of a costs reimbursement agreement. Doing things in this manner ensures that ADF always remains impartial and objective, and free from any external influencers and/or influences. Although some of our articles may be considered controversial, ADF will not accept any responsibility, nor acknowledge, how ADF published resources may be perceived by its readers within any manner applicable to the reader’s own opinion. ADF articles are only opinions intended to be informative for the purpose of thought provocation, and it does not represent any form of official policy whatsoever. The reader is free to conclude his/her own opinion based on his/her own understanding of the contents of any ADF published articles. ADF does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained within this article for the reason that it is published within the public domain, and therefore vulnerable to remote, unauthorised, and unintended digital manipulation beyond the controls of ADF. All readers are advised to do their own research.

1,945 views0 comments