The counter-insurgency aircraft debate continues. Please join in by posting here. While you're thining it over, here's excerpts from the wonderful ongoing discussion on this blog. It's a debate based entirely on facts, reasons and good insight -- how original!
The debate all started when Johnny Bombmaker said:
There's a reason why single-engine turboprops almost disappeared after World War II. They get shot out of the sky faster than a duck flying over a South Texas shooting range. Do you realize how many A-1 Skyraiders got blown out of the sky in Vietnam? The threat in Iraq is even worse. Much better to do it the modern way: just park an F-15 or an F-16 with a targeting pod, a strafing cannon and a guided bomb up above 15,000 feet.
Joe Katzman replied:
Sometimes being slow isn't the worst thing in the world. The British got a Harrier shot out from under them in the Falklands because it was too fast, and had to keep coming back at low level to try and spot its target. If you keep throwing fastballs, folks eventually hit them.
Robot Economist followed:
Not to get too radical here, but why not consider something even lower tech/lower cost like a blimp. They can be virtually stationary over the target and achieve a pretty good altitude at a low operating cost (heck, the bomb and the spotter on the ground do all the work).
Joe Katzman went back to the original question:
If someone told you they had a system that would save 13 pilots and aircraft, but kill 300 soldiers and result in $300 million in economic dislocation due to areas not covered fully and attacked successfully... would that seem like a good deal to you? All aspects of this equation matter. It's not just about the aircraft.
Then HerkEng entered the discussion, siding with the turboprops:
I am not saying that a trainer aircraft is best for the mission but, it would be much better than an F-16 or even an A-10.
But Joe Katzman posted a new warning on tuboprops:
The Super Tucanos, AT-6Bs et. al. DO have an important issue, but it isn't speed. Rather, it's the turboprop engine up front that vents in the forward-center section of the fuselage. Wrong place to attract a missile - unlike, say, a Czech L-159 light attack jet, a missile that detonates behind target looks like a kill rather than a miss and some tail pipe damage.
Dan G joined in, also warning about the relative merits of turboprops:
Just how many JDAMs could a Tucano haul to 15,000' I wonder? Not many I bet.
Yours truly re-entered the discussion, taking issue with the notion that turboprops are too vulnerable for the CAS mission:
As long as helicopter pilots are flying even slower and lower than a Super Tucano every day in Iraq, I think we can dispense with the reasoning that fixed-wing pilots must be immune from taking any similar risks, if it is the most effective way to do the mission.
HerkEng made a good point that the turboprop's IR signature problems can be overcome:
Who said that they can't build a shroud around the exhaust like they do on the AC-130s? It is very effective for them and would not be that hard to make for the PT6A.
Dan C rejoined:
Don't forget how the roles of helicopters and CAS aircraft differ. CAS aircraft are deliberately routed into harm's way, while tranport helicopters fly around hot spots. The ones that do - gunships - carry heavy armour, just like the only other aircraft that operates at low level - the A-10. I don't see a titanium bathtub in the Tucano.