The Air Force's New Light Fighter?
2:50 PM, Aug 26, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
It's no secret that Air Force Special Operations Command has been shopping around for a cheap, exportable close-air-support platform -- preferably a bird that can swiftly approach a fight, then slowly loiter above the fray for protracted periods of time. Everything I've heard on AFSOC's acquisition plan pointed to either the T-6 Texan (already used as a trainer) or the Brazilian made Super Tucano as the platform of choice. Now, it seems, there's a dark horse candidate moving up the ranks, one that purportedly out performs the legendary A-10 Warthog.
The Texan has a couple of key advantages over both the ST and the SM-27, not the least of which being domestic assembly lines and a long, stable relationship with the Air Force. Plus, the Machete's first prototype isn't scheduled to fly until next year, indicating an even longer procurement schedule. However, that doesn't mean it's out of the fight.
The Machete does have a wicked looking form, like a CAS platform that actually belongs in the 21st century. But second and third world allied nations -- and their limited defense budgets -- have to be taken into consideration when procuring any COIN-dedicated fighter. Though the Machete would no doubt be a real workhorse, I doubt we see the USAF buy anything that exceeds 5 million a pop.
Aside: if you think the SM-27 looks sweet, check out designs for the SM-47.