Cheap CAS/COIN is an Illusion – Lets Get Off the Bandwagon

Listen to anyone these days (even this blog!) and they all say we must have a turboprop close air support and COIN aircraft. The US has issued various requests for information and is pursuing the concept under the Imminent Fury programme. Will any of these programmes go ahead, who knows, but we thought we would have a look at the arguments and why the ground swell of opinion seems to favour going back to turboprops to deliver combat effects.

The drive to reduce costs leads to the conclusion that a low priced aircraft is the answer and Embraer have proposed the Super Tucano, Beechcraft the AT-6, Air Tractor with the AT802 and even Boeing have pitched in with an offer to restart production of OV-10 Bronco. There are many other proposals as well, such as the Piper PA-48 Enforcer (a modern P51 Mustang)

Commentators often cite the Vietnam era Skyraider as the perfect CAS aircraft and make the extrapolation that a modern era Skyraider is what is needed in the skies of Afghanistan. As our previous article by Richard Stockley correctly highlighted, the Skyraider was withdrawn in the face of first generation man portable air defence missiles.

The revival of turboprop combat aircraft seems to boils down to three arguments;

  1. Fast jets aren’t that good for close air support, armed ISTAR or any of the other missions required in counter insurgency operations where air superiority is a given.
  2. Fast jets are too expensive and sophisticated to provide Close Air Support in counter insurgency operations as characterised by Afghanistan and given the likelihood of being engaged in similar operations in the coming decades the cost argument is a no brainer.
  3. Fast jets are too complex for emerging air forces that we can mentor.

None of these are arguments for turboprop aircraft but arguments against fast jets; it just so happens that the turboprop seems to offer an antidote for the ills of fast jets.

Fast Jets are no good at CAS/COIN

It is probably fair to say that Western air forces have concentrated on the exercise of air power as a separate strategic stream to ground and naval power with strike, interdiction, air superiority, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) and air transport missions shaping both doctrine and equipment. Mission over the Balkans and Iraq has confirmed that the RAF and USAF have these capabilities in spades.

The nature of ground combat, particularly in Afghanistan, dictates the use of light forces with little armour and a distributed enemy. It is primarily a conflict of light infantry. To compensate for the lack of numbers the western forces in Afghanistan rely completely on indirect fires, mortars, artillery and close air support.

Close air support whilst available in the RAF and USAF at the beginning of the conflict was not as well practiced and only after several UOR’s has the RAF been able to provide such close air support as it does now.

One of the arguments driving the Turboprop CAS/COIN bandwagon is that fast jets are simply too fast to provide their pilots with sufficient situational awareness to provide effective and safe support to troops in contact.

With the advent of improving tactics, techniques and procedures, coupled with the new capabilities offered by the latest generation of targeting pods where the forward air controller can actively cue weapons or see the same information as the pilot, this argument simply disappears.

Whilst it might have been true in Vietnam it is not true in Afghanistan.

Advocates of the Turboprop CAS aircraft point to better endurance but whilst this might be true, crucially, they fail to recognise the advantages that speed brings. Afghanistan is a huge place and to respond to a ‘Troops in Contact’ request for close air support the aircraft either has to be near or step on the gas to get there quickly. Time to get on station will be significantly higher in a turboprop as well. Turboprops may be able to be based closer to operational areas and this may offset this to some extent but will require operations, maintenance and logistics to be equally distributed, costing more.

Fast jets can carry a massive load and in practice this means a range of weapons, all available on a single aircraft that the forward air controller can choose to deploy based on the prevailing conditions. Turboprops do not have this high load capacity and would therefore have to be more numerous, they do not have the speed, so again, would have to be more numerous to cover the same area.

Fast jets are not restricted by weather conditions like small turboprops and can be refuelled in mid air to extend the duration of a sortie or time on station.

Speed has its disadvantages but in addition to being able to respond quickly and cover a large area it also provides safety. Although the air threat in Afghanistan is generally low that does not mean it is completely safe. Close examination of pictures of some aircraft operating in theatre will reveal air to air missiles are often carried, to counter the threat of an Iranian incursion. The Iranians have shown their willingness to take hostages as amply demonstrated by the RN/RM HMS Cornwall incident and a defenceless aircraft that they claimed had incurred into their airspace would be easy to coerce.

Ground fires are a significant danger; all aircraft operating in theatre are fitted with expensive but effective defensive aids against man portable ground to air missiles that the Taleban might obtain from sponsor nations and when operating at low level automatic cannon or machine gun fire is a very serious threat.

A high speed aircraft can transit danger zones quickly, unlike a slower turboprop which would remain in the threat zone for longer or simply not enter them in the first place which would limit effectiveness or mean aircraft and aircrew losses.

Finally, an unglamorous but absolutely essential activity that is carried out by fast jets is the show of force/show of presence that is used to deter ground elements or influence their actions. If one has ever seen these in action they are very effective, a turboprop, however cheap, is not going to have the same effect.

Close air support is not the only mission required in counter insurgency air operations.

Afghanistan has also seen an explosion in the demand for imagery and other visual/non visual information. This has been provided by manned aircraft but is largely fulfilled by Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) such as the UK’s Predator’s, Desert Hawks and Hermes 450’s

Whilst of undoubted utility, UAS’s have a couple of big problems, situational awareness and bandwidth requirements.

Because the UAS operator looks at the world around them through an electro-optical sensor it can be compared to looking through a drinking straw or telescope. Wide angle, peripheral vision is not available and whilst work is underway to address this issue it remains a significant problem.

Although the bandwidth used to control the flight of a UAS is quite modest and most new systems have some degree of autonomy which means they don’t need to be ‘piloted’ but ‘directed’ the raw sensor feed has to be transmitted as is. Because no onboard analysis takes place by a skilled imagery analyst the bandwidth requirements are significant. This a difficult issue because the bandwidth available is limited by power restrictions, availability of secure bandwidth and plain old physics. Full motion video, even with advanced compression and only a medium resolution can require up to 20Mb/s, synthetic aperture radar, approximately 50Mb/s. Given that BOWMAN gets by with less than 10kbs one can begin to appreciate the scale of problem. The demand is increasing at a fast pace.

A simple way to visualise the problem is showing your friends those holiday pictures. Of course they are not interested in the vast majority of your pictures so you sort them and create a slideshow with only the best images. If you made your friends sit through all 3,675 images on your memory stick they would not be best pleased.

Imagery analysis therefore takes data and provides information.

If this analysis takes place on the ground then logic dictates that the analyst has to look though all your holiday snaps and he gets these via a saturated satellite link.

Put the analyst on the same platform that is capturing the imagery and you dramatically reduce the need for bandwidth as one only needs to transmit the edited highlights. Arm that platform and the response times to enable that information to be acted upon opportunistically are also reduced.

Weather is also a significant constraining factor on UAS’s which would be magnified greatly if future operations were out of dry and sunny places.

These constraints lead to the idea of Armed ISR aircraft.

Because there is less need in the armed ISR role for fast response, hard manoeuvring and low level operation the disadvantages of a turboprop become diminished so the argument for this type of aircraft becomes much stronger. The RAF have recently started taking delivery of the Beechcraft Super King Air 350 based Shadow R1 ISR aircraft to supplement UAS’s. It would seem a relatively simple task to arm them with Hellfire or CRV-7 rocket pods to enable them to provide short reaction time attack based on its own gathered intelligence.

Not CAS but armed ISR, they are completely different missions and have completely different requirements.

Fast Jets are too expensive

Maintenance requirements for fast jets are higher than for simple turboprops but this fails to take into account the effect of introducing a new airframe into an already stretched logistics, maintenance and training stream, all this would add up very fast.

Because one would need many more aircraft the spares holding would have to be vastly increased.

The costs of aircrew would also be significant, probably greater than any cost savings.

We already have Tornado and Typhoon, adding significant numbers of Super Tucano’s is not going to make the Typhoon and Tornado fleet any cheaper in the short term.

One fly in the ointment for using fast jets for intensive COIN/CAS work is that if airframe hours. Modern fast jets were simply not designed for sustained high tempo operations and are currently chewing through their airframe hours at a prodigious rate. This is bad from a airframe fatigue viewpoint and means that individual aircraft will likely have to be withdrawn from service far earlier than planned. The RAF for example, have recently started studies to examine options for extending the airframe life of the Typhoon, no doubt prompted by the reduced number of Tranche 3 aircraft they will be receiving. From a cost perspective, using a lower cost alternative to marshal and eke out airframe hours on more expensive types is a strong argument.

However, we think this is an argument for more fast jets or even a new build close air support aircraft that has the advantages of a fast jet at a reasonable price and none of the numerous disadvantages of a turboprop aircraft, maybe a new build two seat A10C (subject of a later post)

Fast Jets are too complex for indigenous air forces

It is undoubtedly true that something like an F15 or Typhoon is out of the reach of, for example, the Afghan National Army Air Corps who are still working up to operating basic transport aircraft and helicopters. The Iraqi’s have been operating King Airs and Grand Caravan’s in the armed ISR role with some success but when asked if they wanted to buy into the new cheap CAS/COIN aircraft, their answer was, no thanks, can we have some F16’s instead.

This is perhaps the greatest argument in favour of a cheap CAS/COIN aircraft, operating them in order to mentor indigenous air forces and help them transition to the more capable jet types but we must recognise the limitations and concentrate on skills and training because Close Air Support of troops in contact requires the highest level of skill.

Summary

Propeller based close air support was supplanted by fast jets for a very good reason, effectiveness and survivability. Nothing in any of the proposed solutions for so called low cost CAS/COIN aircraft convinces us that these reasons have changed.

Nothing beats fast jets for payload, endurance, versatility and effectiveness.

ROUND 1 TO THE FAST JET

However, they are expensive, really…

The idea of replacing a few expensive fast jets with more numerous cheaper types (numerous because as we have described, they are simply not as effective) does seem on the surface to offer a cheaper solution but this argument more often than not restricts itself to making a one to one comparison without any context. Of course a Super Tucano is going to be cheaper to operate and buy than Typhoon in a one to one, but as we have shown, one would need many Super Tucano’s to do the job of a single Typhoon and that is just capital cost; the really expensive element is support costs. Spares, maintenance teams and the most expensive element of all, aircrew, would produce a situation that we believe would increase overall costs yet offer nothing more in terms of effect; in fact it would have a lesser effect.

ROUND2 TO THE FAST JET

Fast jets are too expensive and complex for indigenous or emerging air forces so the argument for a cheap CAS/COIN aircraft is strong here

ROUND 3 TO THE TURBOPROP CAS/COIN AIRCRAFT

2-1 in favour of the fast jet.

 

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DominicJ
September 14, 2009 9:59 am

I, as usual, think your misunderstanding the argument, or mine anyway.
I did a point by point rebuttal, but it was several pages long, so I’ve cut it down.

I do not wish to see Typhoons pulled from the theatre and replaced by turbo props, that’s mad.
I simply see a situation where a medium sized turbo prop could be used to provide constant air support to patrols that are currently forced to call in a fast jet after the fact.
We cant keep everyone under an air umbrella at all times, with any craft.
We can however have a small fleet of medium sized props armed with small bombs and rockets providing constant cover to Combat Logistic Patrols. A force of 6 with 6 hours of loiter time could do so, at minimal cost.
It’s not a fast jet replacement, it fits somewhere between the AC-130 and a battlefield recon helicopter.
A couple of them should be able to spot an ambush in advance, warn the advancing troops, lead them in and provide support once there.
Currently, the troops march blindly into a mine field and an ambush, then call in expensive fast jet air support and take expensive casualties for it.
Even if they don’t prevent the ambush, they are already on station to provide immediate support, probably with rocket pods as you suggest, possibly negating the need to send out fast jets, which can be deployed elsewhere, or kept in base.

Whatever happens, we need fast jets to provide quick response air cover to unpredicted enemy activity.
However, we do not always need fast jets to provide air cover in response to a predicted enemy action, or to support one of our own actions.

Jed
Jed
September 14, 2009 1:48 pm

I think the problem here is unnecessary polarization of the argument – who said its should be either / or ?

In the pre-apocalyptic defense cuts world of the RAF, Jags and Harriers were the ‘go-to’ platforms for CAS. Now its supposed to be life-extended Tornado’s and eventually Typhoon. I have no problem with that, for show of force and serious amount of 2000lb laser guided goodness being dropped on a clearly observed enemy force, with little chance of civilian casualties then Typhoon wins every time. But 2000lb LGB is often overkill, which is why the U.S. developed the Small Diameter Bomb and Viper Strike, and puts good ol’ Hellfire on the Reaper.

But for close air support of troops in contact in or around a village or civilian compounds, its the Apache that wins, and we don’t have enough of them in theater or available. So if the RAF don’t want to fly long boring over watch flights as described by Dominic above, already categorised as ‘armed ISR’ – then maybe the Army Air Corps would love the chance to take on the mission ?

There definitely is a place low and slow, cheap and dirty, easy to fly and reliable, its semantics whether you call it a ‘real’ COIN platform or “armed ISR” – its simply a capability that fits in between armed UAV and big bad fast jet. Its not “one or the other” – they are all needed, as are 155mm howitzers and 81mm mortars, 7.62mm GPMG’s and 6 round 40mm grenade launchers, you wont here the infantry debating which is the best tool for the job, they want them all available to engage the bad guys !

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 14, 2009 5:39 pm

I agree with DominicJ, its not about replacing fast jets its about supplementing them. The advantage is when we eventually pull out we can hand over the keys to the Afghans and let them get on with the job.

Also, with regards to response times, turboprops could loiter on dirt strips closer to the action a la Rhodesia, rather than Kandahar.

DominicJ
September 15, 2009 10:28 am

“Who says the RAF don’t want to fly long boring overwatch mission, do you know the average sortie length in Afghanistan?”

Actualy no, I thought they were very short, but all I’ve really read is Joint Force Harrier on the issue.
Even so, I would bet tomorrow nights beer money that recent Sangin supply run that coincided with operation flint did not have two aircraft on station at all times.
With an armed ISR, they could.

“Also, with regards to response times, turboprops could loiter on dirt strips closer to the action a la Rhodesia, rather than Kandahar.”

Wasnt the entire male population over the age of 16 conscripted into the armed forces on a 6 weeks deployed, 6 weeks home basis?
They owned the ground, we dont.

How far would you base them from the action?
100miles?
Thats 20 minutes flight time
200miles?
40 minutes flight time.
50 miles?
10 minutes flight time
For a fast jet thats 4, 8 and 2 minutes.

Lets assume your forward positioned aircraft are 50 miles away.
4 pilots, 16 ground crew, a few other ancillaries?
Lets say 25 personel.
Would the taliban risk a 50 mile drive across the desert to attack 25 not really combatents and a few million pounds of kit?
Would a few hundred suiciadal troops win?
If I were the badies commander, I’d send them out.

How many troops would be required to defend those 25 aircrew?
50?
100?
With hesco barriers, 50 combat troops are unassailable
Lets say 75 troops and 25 aircrew to make the numbers easy

But how many of these mini airfields do you want?
10?
750 combat troops to get 40 turbo props and their 250 support staff in to the area?
Along with however many would be needed to guard supply convoys.

No that way lies abandoning what tiny mobile forces we still posses in theatre.
The advantage of the Turbo Prop is range, endurance and cost.
Long Range means it can all be based in one location.
Endurance and cost allows it to provide constant over watch on our actions.

If you want to react to enemy action, a fast jet is the best solution.
If you want to provide long term onsite intelligence, and fire support, a turbo prop is.

“I do realise I am going somewhat against the grain here and arguing that turboprop CAS is neither as effective or cheaper in the real word ”

Your were just unfortunate to find we all agreed with the theory but not the names.

Jed
Jed
September 15, 2009 12:56 pm

A good conversation with all points covered indeed. I agree that from a purely budgetary position the RAF will never get any Super Tuc’s, but it might, just might, get to hang some dual mode Hellfires on the Shadows, which while less than ideal might be better than nothing.

Now if the damn politicians would put their money where their mouths are and buy some more Merlins and Chinooks………

DominicJ
September 15, 2009 3:58 pm

A bit off topic but its sort of relevent to a few of the comments.

Does anyone think that if the Armed forces were to receive a fixed budget, say 3-4% of GDP, they would be much more effective.
Giving them direct control over their own equipment purchases, and indeed, a great deal of knowledge about what future funding will be

“I agree there is a degree of semantics but its important to present the difference because the treasury will be getting the idea they can pull the Tornado out of Afghanistan and replace them with a Super Tucano with a couple of machines guns, a targetting pod and a couple of bombs. Which would be a disaster. ”

Especialy with that comment in mind.
Is the RAF so against Turbo Props, because they rightly fear once they have some, the treasury will make all ground attack craft turbo props, on cost grounds?
The same goes with the army, is prepared to throw lives away to mines because its staff are incompetant callous bastards, or because it absolutly believes the UK will be fighting a life or death manouvere war in the future, one that MRAPs will be useless in, and it fears losing manouvere capability if it buys in MRAPs?

Jed
Jed
September 17, 2009 4:45 pm

Dominic ref “a bit off topic…” particularly:

“The same goes with the army, is prepared to throw lives away to mines because its staff are incompetent callous bastards, or because it absolutely believes the UK will be fighting a life or death maneuver war in the future, one that MRAPs will be useless in, and it fears losing maneuver capability if it buys in MRAPs?”

I don’t think army top leadership is callous, but incompetent might be up for discussion , or perhaps impotent in the face of MOD bureaucracy and political indifference ?

The At105 Saxon, wheeled APC based on a commercial truck chassis was good enough for large numbers of troops in what was going to be the biggest maneuver war ever if the cold war turned hot ! Maneuver can be delivered in many ways, Chinooks delivering under-slung tacked APC’s (Striker or Viking), Merlin’s delivering light infantry direct into an assault etc. but I understand your point.

Its difficult to have the ‘current war versus future capabilities’ discussion when the political masters just want to draw the purse strings ever tighter ! So in answer to you first question – YES – fixed budget (or nearly fixed, as in fixed percentage of GDP which is of course, variable).

DominicJ
September 18, 2009 9:59 am

Its not so much about increasing the level of funding, defence spending is only slightly below 3% of GDP now, but bettering it.

I have heardanecdotal evidence that the Treasury uses defence procurement to meet short term budget holes, so if its short £100m one month, it simply delays payment on the construction of destroyer, leading to spiralling construction costs, because projects simply cant be delayed for a month at no cost, workers have to be paid, even if you don’t buy any steel this month.
Again, anecdotal, but I’ve also heard that the Treasury has at least some say on what the forces actually get at the end, so whilst the Navy wanted the Type 45 to be 12 multi role ships designed for air defence, but also carrying anti ship and land attack missiles, it eventually got (or might get) 6 ships with everything except the air defence system (and a gun) removed, even the two bleeping phalanx systems. The reason being that the Type 45 is there to escort the new carriers, and the carriers have anti ship and land attack capability, and the air defence missile system makes Phalanx redundant….
It’s quite a common story that the lack of automatic fire on the FAL SLR was a decision made by the treasury, no idea if it’s true or not, but it certainly sounds like it could be.

If the armed forces know that any decisions they make will stand and any savings they can make are going to be rolled back into their budget, they have an incentive to make them.
If the armed forces know that any decision they make will be modified by the treasury and any savings lost, they have every incentive to over spec everything and hope for the best.

I don’t know, it just seems bonkers to me that the Chiefs of the Defence staff cant say, we only want one carrier and we’re going to spend the £2b saved on x, y and z.

DominicJ
September 18, 2009 11:04 am

Probably a better example than the one I gave earlier.

The two new carriers we have ordered are supposed to provide deep strike capability, and they can, probably.
But for the cost of the 80 F35’s they are supposed to carry, we could buy an additional 5 Astute class submarines, who also have deep strike capability in the form of their long range missiles.
Would a small fleet of submarines capable of launching 500 Tomahawk missiles provide better deepstrike capability than the carrier?
I dont know, maybe I’m just proving my ignorance.

However, and this is the only important bit,
Would the Royal Navy be at risk of getting no Carrier Aircraft AND no increased submarine force it agreed with my view?

What relevence does any of this have to cheap COIN aircraft?
If the Airforce admitted it didnt need fast jets for every mission, would it lose for all missions?

Pongoglo
Pongoglo
September 25, 2009 3:52 pm

Read this thread through with interest and was a little surprised that there is one option which we dont seem to have considered, and would meet both the requirement for armed ISTAR and CAS for relatively small additional cost. It is also a pro-gramme on which we have already committed a great deal of money and for that reason alone is unlikely now to be axed whatever the outcome of a future review? With a loiter capability of over 13 hours, Nimrod MR2 has the speed and endurance to be anywhere over Helmund province in a very short time, and with its sophisticated ISTAR capability can more than meet all the requirements discussed above. It also has the unique advantage that with its tri-service team of onboard mission specialists it allows pretty much instant decisions to be made as regards key engagement requirements, such the proximity of friendly ground forces, local civilians etc, and whether the engagement should be conducted or not. Even in its current configuration Nimrod has weapon hard points capable of carrying both Harpoon ASM and Sidewinder AAM missiles. It also has a very large bomb bay. In terms of weapons payload alone MRA4 will provide an even more capable platform. The Nimrod force already provides an almost 24/7 presence over Afghanistan as they did over Iraq, and are probably doing so as we write, so notwithstanding the tragic (but now resolved?) problem with inflight refuelling, its ability to do so cannot be in doubt. With this is mind, I have never understood why we haven’t grasped the nettle and operated armed Nimrod over Afghanistan? With little modification its underwing weapon stations alone could carry a wide range of smart ordnance relevant to the current campaign, and its large bomb bay offers even more potential.. If the RAF were to do so, then I am sure that the other service chiefs would see greater relevance in the programme, and who knows ,even in the dagger thrusting environment that promises to be the pending review, might even proffer iheir support!

Afternote: Since I wrote this I have just seen an image on this webpage showing MRA4 carrying what looks like a very effective payload of Paveway 2, so obviously ‘greater minds than I’!

http://www.spyflight.co.uk/MR4A.htm

DominicJ
September 28, 2009 10:17 am

But Nimrod is still a very expensive piece of kit, and there are never going to be enough of them for a 30 man routine patrol to have a plane on permanant overwatch.
Maybe 5 would ever in be in theatre at one time?
The chances are a 100+ vehicle convoy couldnt get a permanant cover, and rightly so, Nimrods would be better used gathering intelligence, and then bombing whatever target it uncovered.

A fleet of P48 Enforcers fitted with 4 rocket pods would be cost effective down to that level however, and wouldnt have a lot to do except provide cheap aircover to any body of troops who’re wandering around.
Battalions could have an air platoon, like they have specialist mortar platoons, they dont replace artilery, they augment.
Its not going to have anything like the capability of the Nimrod, but 99% of the time boots on the ground arent going to have Nimrod available anyway, and available good enough is better than unavailable excellence.

Nemo
Nemo
October 6, 2009 6:21 am

:)) You are not alone

T-710, (ov-10 Bronco scheme +armored cockpit Su-25 UB), A triplane T-502 (T520 with elements of Su-27)
http://www.reaa.ru/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?num=1228308628/480

Т-712
http://www.reaa.ru/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?num=1228308628/540
p.s. This is not floats, this is containers for cluster bombs, mines, electronic warfare equipment, radar, etc.

Good Luck and Good Bye!

Qwerty
December 8, 2009 10:51 pm

What about kiting out a Bombardier Global Express (which the RAF apparently have 5 of according to Wiki) .. I’m sure with the right armament they would make a good close air support aircraft. It would even be sexy if they stuck a big 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon on there!

Steve Petty
December 9, 2009 6:28 pm

Having proposed a single seat strike version of the T45 Goshawak trainer as an alternate carrier aircraft I believe it could also serve as a COIN aircraft for RAF and still maintain logistical commonality with current trainer fleet.

David
David
October 7, 2010 10:37 pm

Well I read it but I think he is completely wrong, no ifs and buts, just wrong. What the troops on the ground want is support right with them not waiting 20 mins for his fast jet to arrive, by that time they could be dead. Counter insurgency is very different from dealing with the former Warsaw Pact for which most of the current crop of fighters were intended to counter. The supposed logistic problem is self fixing in that no complex support is needed. Firepower, there is no point in dropping 2000lb laser guided bombs on a single house and wiping out the entire village, no way to win hearts and minds. So no need for heavy bomb load, much more practical to have a larger number of smaller ordinance which a coin aircraft can easily carry them. Numbers: a small number of fast jets cannot be everywhere. The US has plenty of aircraft the UK is always struggling. So plug the air gap with a lot of smaller COIN aircraft. I could go one for pages more but essentially that is it. Turboprop Coin aircraft can be deployed close to the front line with a couple of trucks with spare and fuel and a few men. You cannot do that with an F16 or any other fast jet. The Harrier or AV8 is the most practical of the jets for close support. So there we have it.

DominicJ
October 8, 2010 8:31 am

David
Support right now is not going toi be delivered by a Turbo Prop unless its on station.
Fast jets are literaly 5x as fast as Turbo props, so a 250 mile flight and a 50 mile flight take the same amount of time.

Ordnance is an issue, I’ve requested an up to date break down of the weapons used, but the last one I had was a lot more 500lbs and Hellfires than it was 2000lbs and Daisey Cutters.
Of course, a Coin aircraft could in theory carry half a dozen rocket pods.

Airpower is pooled. A British patrol under fire puts out a call for air support, its answered by air control and they send whatever force is available, be it a British Harrier or an American Heavy Bomber.

Although its technicaly possible to base a Turbo Prop at the front lines, it would be suicide in Afghanistan.
The Rhodesians could do it because they owned the land, we dont own the land, the afghans do.
£50mil of kit and a couple of dozen men is Johnny Talibans fantasy.

The advantages of Turbo props are there ability to stay on station, from where they can call down artilery and such on any enemy, or engage directly.
But if your waiting 20minutes for fast air, chances are you’ll be waiting longer for slow air.

Theres quite a few of these posts, in the end, I think I settled for UAV’s with long loiter times, launched/landed by/at a central faclity, that head off to wherever they’re needed and remain under control of the local boys till its home time.

paul g
October 8, 2010 10:44 am

thought i’d add this video for consideration, I add that i’m saying we should/could purchase this but it seems to be inbetween the suggestions ie it’s a jet so fast but very cheap to build/maintain The US army wheeled back out again recently to have another look it was designed and built on a private budget therefore the licence is up for grabs and the bloke who designed it is a certified genius he’s in the NASA hall of fame. Have a look!

Ted D
Ted D
November 20, 2010 7:49 pm

Having spent a year in Southern Afghanistan I can tell you that jets flying CAS (even A-10s) are a joke.
Only the Apaches and AC-130s influenced the fight and were feared by the Taliban. Anybody who tells you just flying on the deck with after burners is doing anything is clueless.
But don’t take my word for it, ask McChrystal and Patreaus. Fixed wing jet CAS is so ineffective and counter productive they shut it down.
CAS and the Air Force are so fundamentally broke that even when shut down they still cling to their self-congratulatory myths.
Dominic, whatever your background, Close Air Support isn’t your forte.
These guys know whats going on.
http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2010/11/5009090

Dominicj
Dominicj
November 21, 2010 8:11 am

ted d.
Thats an oddly dismisse and uncalled for parting shot against someone you’ve just spent a cooment agreeing with, ie loiter times matter.
Feel free to pop back and elaborate

alxsupertucano
alxsupertucano
November 22, 2011 6:09 pm

While your point of view is extensively explained and I congratulate you on this, I don’t think you’re accurate in your information. The new weapons pod and technology aren’t completely enough to disqualify the situational awareness issue argument against the jets. Moreover, you seem to not use empirical info on the merits of combat readiness on such a “huge country” as afeghanistan. The super tucano is the main platform for a region several times bigger than this country (afeghanistan is 647.500 km² and the Amazon is 7.7 million km²) just fine. Also, it operates significantly better than any jet would in the rain seasons (6 months raining non stop would not cope well for the f 16, the tornado or any other) Surely, as Afeghanistan has a rather different climate it would require some trials for the airplane, however, many truboprops are made for such arid places. Your argument on the number of jets or bases also lacks fundaments as firstly it would not completely supress the jets, rather ease of their burden (you’d have to agree that USAF is rather shaky by too much sorties, and also you just can’t “buy new A-10s”, since it would cost about the same price as a whole s. tucanos squadron). Also, the air refuelling you mentioned is yet another expense that could be saved.
All in all, I think that using turboprops would ease off the costs sinificantly by maintaining the proud USAF aircraft airworthy for longer and thus not making it buy a completely new air force every decade, which not even the US can afford.

Allan
Allan
July 24, 2014 3:43 pm

Why not just get lots and lots of cheap drones. Loads of them. Why carry the pilots to the fight when he or she or they can sit in a quiet shed without the threat of being killed and actually simply use the devices as the troops on the ground require. Might even give them better thinking time with better mission results.

Lots of cheap (thus replaceable and simple kit) versus an always limited number of very expensive aircraft with equally valuable aircrew.

Just a thought because I was thinking that the MoD budget isn’t inexhaustible and the public are bit weary (if some of the comments pages on websites are to be believed) of £1bn single warships and the like and hundreds of millions of pounds on aircraft some experts are now saying won’t quite be up to the job.

I appreciate that for the chaps and ladies in light blue, the idea smacks of down grading the RAF but that isn’t what I meant. It’s just that I’d hate to see another FRES situation as all and sundry sit in the ‘nice chairs in the dealership with tea and biscuits’ and argue about tiny details and what if’s when just down the road there is a bit of kit that will do ‘here and now’ at a reasonable cost….

….because FRES, BOWMAN, NIMROD etc. made the MOD and HM Forces look like total fools. I’m not sure that is a good position for MoD / HM Forces to be in, especially if they need cash in the future for something really important.

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson
July 25, 2014 8:35 pm

Don’t we have most of this in the inventory in different roles anyway, and in my misspent youth they used to quote value for money, saying their “limited war roles” – Tucanos, Hawks, etc. All could be converted to ground role or COIN if the pennies tight, until a proper fit drops into the slot after such a stretching conflict begins. Ye powers that be used to bang on that the Reds would be converted to ground attack a/c or point defence fighters. Just like any other wars, vaguely compatible a/c will be pressed into service. In these tight financial times biz jets are now comms aircraft, and makeshift AWACs, transports are being kitted out as maritime patrol and reconnaissance a/c, old faithful general aviation a/c are back in armed COIN roles (Iraq and Cessna Caravans) and crop sprayers are also in use as ground attack aircraft. Money is tight, so it’s only matter of time till the sink back hits the rest of the developed world too at this rate with over expensive projects that take decades to come on link, hike incredibly in price, and underperform, from the start and the lesser claims as time passes. Weapon systems developed for more advanced aircraft now being fitted to legacy fleets, rather than original envisioned aircraft (usually successfully with a few bob extra for some more bolts, screws, and sticky back plastic.