The Case for Low Cost Airpower
After what seems like decades of argument back and forth, the United States Air Force (USAF) seems to be getting serious about a low cost fighter attack aircraft like the ubiquitous Super Tucano.
Flight Global reported on the 23rd of February 2017 that;
The idea seems to be to field a low cost aircraft (capital and running costs) to supplement, not replace, existing fighter jets and unmanned aircraft, to be used where the threat to aircraft is lower than a conventional combat environment.
That is not to say that environments like Iraq and Syria are completely safe, they are not, MANPADS and AAA are a real threat. But, within acceptable risk margins and with appropriate mitigations, the theory goes that the cost can be reduced.
It is as simple as that.
There is another side to this story, and arguably, a more important side.
Complex aircraft like the Typhoon, F-18 and F-35 are simply too expensive and technologically demanding to operate for many of our regional allies.
With a revanchist Russia, precious and very expensive fast jets are better employed providing territorial defence than destroying ISIS pickup trucks.
In line with our stated objective of developing allies capabilities and letting them fight their own battles, the UK and other NATO nations are putting considerable effort into this on the ground.
The picture below shows a British soldier training Peshmerga personnel
In a UK context, the British Army has the reactive and adaptable force, with newly announced Special Infantry Battalions (SIB) that will formalise mentoring and capacity development on the ground.
In the air, we are still doing the heavy lifting, or in some cases, the only lifting.
So if there is a recognition that the struggle against terrorism in the Middle East and Africa is a generational effort, the strategy of mentoring allies on the ground but doing almost everything in the air, is not sustainable.
It is not sustainable for two reasons, the threat from, Russia and the high cost of conventional air power.
This is proposal to take the same approach in the air, i.e. creating a fully integrated Adaptable Force (RAF), with a number of equipment support capabilities.
It is not an argument that the RAF should replace Typhoons with Super Tucano’s
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