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Old 05-08-2007   #41
jcustis
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Others disagree, saying the current aircraft don't meet COIN needs.
Johnson says, "What we need is something rugged, reliable, survivable and multi-dimensional."
While the Air Force has often directed its focus and funding on fighters and strike aircraft, COIN operations take on more indirect roles--intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), transportation, air ambulance, psychological operations, communications and providing cover for convoys and other ground operations.
First off, I'm glad a new post hit this thread, b/c I had framed some pro/con arguments on a COIN aircraft but forgot to post them.

I think that with the proper airframe, avionics, and sensor/comm suite, a prop-driven COIN aircraft can be "all that and a bag of chips". Looking at the quote extracted above, it is critical to dig a little deeper and look at just what those indirect roles are, and how a manned platform can supplement (not supplant) UAVs.

As I look back to my favorite historical timeframe (Rhodesia 1965-1980), fixed-wing aircraft played critical roles in the COIN fight there. Granted, the majority of operations were kinetic in nature, but the aircraft were enablers that fit a requirement. Fast-forward to the present, and some of those requirements remain:

ISR - This could run the gamut of pre-strike/raid surveillance, LOC security, counter-fire support, etc. I been in the UAS sensor-to-shooter loop on several occasions, and it can be a painful proposition when the supporting UAV control cell does not have VHF comms to the shooter. In once case, I was coordinating the actions of a ground unit to attempt the capture of personnel previously observed launching rockets from within Fallujah proper. I was on a VHF line to the ground unit, and cardinal directions and distance to the Marines, but only after sifting through tac chat messages, screen captures emailed to the battle captain account, and a live conversation with a UAV cell coordinator several FOBs away. We only caught the bad guys because they went to ground and our guys walked right on top of them. A backseat flight officer could have worked the process directly with the ground unit, even if I had had to deal with a pressing issue like a troops-in-contact situation. That wouldn't have been possible with a UAV.

Psychological Ops - Indeed, the ability to execute PSYOP from a loitering platform would be bigger than we might imagine, but it goes much further than simply dropping leaflets. AC-130s came on station just about every night of Op Al Fajr, and while they were limited to night ops, they also provided fire support that denied portions of the night and battlespace to the enemy. It was also a significant morale boost to hear the low rumble of the engines overhead. Sometimes it's about intangibles.

Communications - Outfitted with the appropriate comm suite, a COIN aircraft could be a big plus in terms of radio relay, whether the crew are monitoring the "battle channel" or have the assets to simply relay the SINCGARs signal automatically. Altitude is the big plus there, and even in the Blue Force Tracker world, instantaneous voice comms are key to reducing friction and misunderstanding.

Support for ground ops - Post incident (e.g. complex ambush), a manned platform may be an asset equal to a UAV, if for no other reason than the fact that the Mk1 mod 1 eyeball remains in play. As another example, on the tail end of OIF, my company was punched out as the QRF to gain contact with a band of thugs terrorizing a town to the NW of Ad Diwaniyah. By the time we got to the town, the BGs had high-tailed it back to their canal-side village. Once we finally detained an old man pointed out by the kids as an Ali Baba (and determined to be the father of 2 of the punks), we reoriented to the east and closed on the village. A section of A-10s had been pushed to us because the original intel estimated the group to be 12-18 men strong, armed with RPGs and up to 82mm mortars. In the end, the A-10 drivers actually spotted a stolen government pickup fleeing away from the village as we approach. Through low-level dry runs and the judicious use of flares, the section fixed the vehicle and allowed us to close the gap and go hands on with all four bad guys. Outside of going kinetic with a hellfire, I don't think a UAV could have had any impact beyond tracking their flight.

Some Rhodesian Lynx (modified Cessna Skymaster 337) drivers were reportedly so good at reading the ground that they could identify the paths worn in the grass by villagers taking food to hiding terrs.

And in this day and age of fratricide and combat ID issues, what better way to identify that group of meandering pickups (let's say in an Afghan SOF scenario) than to hail them on the common "battle channel" or buzz them a bit and see the reaction it provokes?

I think that UAS are great, and they can provide a great degree of support, but it will always be within a niche role. A man in the loop remains a appealing solution to what could actually be simple problems.
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Old 05-08-2007   #42
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Another good argument for keeping the "man in the loop" is the exploits of scout helicopter pilots and crewchiefs in Vietnam. The little birds played major roles in many incidents, and most likely prevented others. Doctrine varied from unit to unit in many cases, but the ability to go low and slow and actually LOOK at the trail or hut in question is without a doubt a vital element of the equation.
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Old 05-09-2007   #43
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Carl from Kinhasa and I had an interesting discussion via PM where we discussed the prevalence of TBD/TBF aircraft in Africa. One of the reason they were so common then, and are still being used in various roles, now, is that they made an outstanding COIN aircraft. They could shoot guns, drop bombs, observe troop movements, and you could stuff at least 8 people into the fuselage.

I see no reason why you couldn't develop something like that, using modern materials, that would serve as a COIN aircraft, at a relatively low price.

As an aside, I fought like hell in OIF I to preserve the many crated PT-6s we found at LSA Anaconda as well as other places. The Iraqis used them in their Twin Otters, and they had quite a few factory remans in stock. The Army wanted to bury them with a bulldozer. Hopefully, the requirement that the new COIN aircraft use the P&W PT-6 is the long-term results of my efforts and that "my" engines have survived in storage until now.
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Old 05-09-2007   #44
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Default My COIN A/C capability wishlist

If I could have it my way, the following would be essential to any aircraft's capabilities.

- All-aspect FLIR camera with display
- All-aspect optical camera(s)
- Hard points for rockets, leaflet pods, and cannon pod(s). I think a cannon around 20mm in size could produce greater anti-material/personnel effects than a gun slinging 14.5mm or less. It comes at a price in weight and ammo capacity, but point detonating 20mm rounds can be very effective
- VHF retrans capability
- UHF capability
- Blue Force Tracker connectivity, with scaleability to incorporate the descendants of BFT
- A jump seat to allow a commander or OpsO to go aloft on that occasion when he needs to see the battlespace with the eyeball

EDITED TO ADD:
- A laser designator/range finder

After doing a little digging around, I found a design proposal to outfit a OV-10 Bronco with a recoilless rifle at one point in time. What a hoot that would have been to let off!

Last edited by jcustis; 05-10-2007 at 01:57 PM. Reason: added more "stuff"
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Old 05-09-2007   #45
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Good List JCUSTIS: I didn't think of BFT. When I was last in country I used to lament how I could do a lot of good with just an old C-172 a pair of NODs and a SINCGARS. I'm a small plane pilot myself and I would love to fly the COIN mission. Funny they keep telling me I'm too old to fly in the military. Amazing they didn't seem to care about my age when I was dismounted outside the wire in body armor when it was 110 degrees And I get to do it again in a few months. Seriously, I hope big Military can see the need for a dedicated COIN aircraft. Apaches are nice but very expensive.
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Old 05-09-2007   #46
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Steelrain,

If you could ever get your hands on a copy of this book, you would likely enjoy it:

http://www.amazon.com/Britains-Rebel.../dp/1902304055

Britain's Rebel Air Force: The War from the Air in Rhodesia 1965-1980
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Old 05-10-2007   #47
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I NEED that book. I'll see if CARL has it.

Edited to say: CARL doesn't have the book, and neither does USAREUR libraries.

Here is a gratuitous 3 view of a REAL COIN aircraft:


Last edited by 120mm; 05-10-2007 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 05-10-2007   #48
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Default Development of the OV-10 and "Thinking outside the box"

Based on the COIN Aircraft thread, I've started up some medium-duty research, when I discovered a couple of nice papers on-line by the designer/builder of the most successful military aircraft ever built in a garage out of spare parts, the OV-10 Bronco.

See the link for more information, including a nifty little flying car project the inventor, K.P. Rice, COL(ret) USMC is working on right now.

http://www.volanteaircraft.com/ov-10.htm

The OV-10 Story: Innovation vs. The "System"

W.H.BECKETT ୆ K.P.RICE ୆ M.E.KING

Background

At the end of WWII the era of boom and zoom had arrived for military aviation with mushroom clouds, jet speeds and an independent Air Force. Korea soon showed the continuing necessity for ground troops and old fashioned Close Air Support (CAS), but the Army was impotent against the Air Force's preoccupation with jets, and in the late '50's hadn't developed it's rotary-wing substitute. Naval Aviation was competing with the new Air Force for nuclear roles in order to maintain its very existence. The Marines still advertised CAS, but were following the Air Force lead and justified the transition to jets on the basis of speed, bomb load and nukes (eg: "One A-4 equaled three Corsairs on the basis of 'productivity'").

Here is a link to the original paper about the development of the OV-10 from 1960.

http://www.volanteaircraft.com/l2vma.htm


THE NEED, CONCEPT OF OPERATION AND GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS FOR A VERY LIGHT S.T.O.L. SUPPORT AIRCRAFT 1960

MAJ W.H. BECKETT, MAG-15
MAJ K.P. RICE, AIRFMFPAC

PREFACE

Sixteen years ago the aircraft industry hit the "con trails." The atom was smashed, the sound barrier broken. The era of boom and zoom was launched in the middle of the mushroom clouds. The man in the Buck Rogers suit became the new hero of the new age. Thermonuclear annihilation "push button" style was as real a possibility as the miracle of the dial selector washing machine. But when the dark rain of fallout fell on an awestruck world, both sides of the international political question had grim second thoughts about resolving their differences by leaving a vacant spot in the solar system. The possibility of such a war remains with us. It must assuredly be prepared for!

Meanwhile, back in the foxholes of Korea, the jungles of Indo-China and the sands of Israel and Jordan, war proceeds pretty much as usual. Not the blast of the atom bomb, but the burst of machine gun fire breaks the silence of this "twilight peace" we are enjoying. The rifleman is no anachronism. He is very much with us and in active service. Read the daily newspaper.

The aviation complex, industrial and military, in its rightful pride and zeal, in being the instrument of the future and the vanguard for conquering space, has neglected the exigencies of current warfare and providing the requisite airborne support for same.
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Old 05-10-2007   #49
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One of the most interesting things about the OV-10 is the way it was used by the AF and the USMC. While the AF wanted to restrict it to a total FAC role, the USMC pushed the plane to its limits operationally (as did the Navy) and got very good operational value out of it.
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Old 05-10-2007   #50
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Default Neat Aircraft

I remember reading about the OV-10 in Popular Mechanics as a kid. Fascinating story then and now. The USAF always seemed to punish aviators who would go this route as lesser beings (that is of course a purely impressionistic view but one based on having friends inside the blue machine who fly lesser aircraft).

Thanks, Steve!

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Old 05-10-2007   #51
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I can't remember when they went out of service with the Marine Corps, but I can remember seeing several of them buzzing around New River Air Station in 1992.

It would be interesting to find out what the justification was for the platform's retirement.
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Old 05-10-2007   #52
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According to globalsecurity.org they were phased out of the USMC inventory in 1995. No real indication there as to why, although it's possible the age of the airframe played a role.
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Old 05-10-2007   #53
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Interesting...I've also done a bit more digging, and it seems some Bronco aficianado claims that cutting them allowed the Corps to put more money into fast-movers.

As for the airframe age, the Philippines of all places still has some in the inventory.

I suppose that those who advocate a COIN fixed-wing platform stand to tip over UAS ricebowls. It'll probably come down to a simple matter of not enough funding to justify the acquisition.

Last edited by jcustis; 05-10-2007 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 05-10-2007   #54
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Quote:
The Rand Corp. recently completed an unclassified report, "COIN Aircraft Systems for the USAF and Friendly States Facing Insurgencies,"
Anyone know where this might be located? I ran a couple of google strings on it, but came up with nothing.
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Old 05-10-2007   #55
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Default Looking Forward

The OV-10 thread is great, but, ultimately we want something with a similar airspeed that is stealthy, can provide ISR, kill a target, and act as an airborne FAC as necessary. That sort of multi-tasking would require a manned platform as well as facilitate airspace de-confliction better than more UAS's.
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Old 05-10-2007   #56
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Stealth is not an absolute, IMO. It's a "nice to have," but if forced to choose I'd skip it before I'd skip any other function. Adding stealth tacks years and dollars onto any program, and the returns tend to be somewhat theoretical. If you're talking muffled engines and acoustic stealth, that's a slightly different matter for COIN. But radar stealth is a bit of gold plate that could delay or kill a program that is needed.
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Old 05-10-2007   #57
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Agreed Steve on stealth but agree also Blackfoot on manned platform versus UAS for COIN. By that I am referring to true COIN not select strike ops via Predator or manned platform. I guess I am too stuck in my ways but for COIN and CAS I want a manned platform with a brain and a soul on board.

Best

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Old 05-10-2007   #58
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Agree completely on manned platform, Tom. You lose too much capability (and by that I mean all-around capability) by taking the pilot and nav/crewchief/door gunner/what-have-you out of the equation.
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Old 05-10-2007   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackfoot6 View Post
The OV-10 thread is great, but, ultimately we want something with a similar airspeed that is stealthy, can provide ISR, kill a target, and act as an airborne FAC as necessary.
Except for the stealth part, an A-1 Skyraider airframe with a big modern turboprop engine would provide everything required; great endurance, very large payload, many many weapons stations, 4 20 mm. cannon and a capacious fuselage with room for whatever you want to put in there.

All for naught though, after the A-10's are gone, the Air Force will make sure there will be no more fixed wing CAS airplanes. The ground soldiers will have to make do with other things.
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Old 05-11-2007   #60
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carl,

I want something small enough to land on the road next to my CP, so the AD1 is a bit much. But agreed on the uselessness of stealth in a COIN environment.

OV-10s can and have carried small groups of people in internal stores. The basic assumptions of fixed-wing, light, use of infantry munitions and radios are good assumptions. As electronics keep getting smaller, lighter and cheaper, the avionics suite can be quite sophisticated within the initial OV-10 concept, prior to the Air Force attempting to kill it.
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