Resurgence of Turboprop Combat Aircraft

September 21st, 2010 in Current Events by Frank Chadwick

Force-on-force scenarios drive a lot of military procurement, but most conflicts in the world are asymmetrical, not force-on-force. Militaries are beginning to notice that (nothing gets by them) and drawing some appropriate conclusions.

For example, a modern jet fighter can cost as much as 80 million dollars, which may be money well spent if you are flying against a major power, but if you are up against someone with no air force at all, not so much.

The better buy may be a light attack turboprop, which can come in at about 2 million dollars, and can be flown for about 500 dollars an hour, as opposed to ten thousand dollars an hour for a modern jet fighter. They can carry sophisticated ground surveillance sensors, carry a respectable payload, and have great loiter time. Their infrastructure requirements are more modest and they are easier to maintain and harder to shoot down than helicopters.

Who’s buying? Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Venezuela, and, believe it or not, the United States Air Force.

About the Author: The major landmarks in Frank's historical interests range from ancient Persia through the Crimean War, World War II, and the modern U.S. Armed Forces, with a lot of stops in between. Frank is fascinated by the unusual, the overlooked, and the surprising. He is the New York Times number one best-selling author of the Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) and he is currently writing an historical novel on Alexander's conquest of Persia – from the Persian point of view.

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4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Resurgence of Turboprop Combat Aircraft”

  1. Mike said:

    And It’s about time that the USAF remembered that one of their roles is to provive close air support for the Army. Unfortunately, there exists a culture in the Air Force that looks down their nose at that particular mission; preferring, rather, strategic bombing and, of course, fighter-on-fighter combat. The idea of an aircraft with a PROPELLER is particularly distasteful to the Fighter Jocks, as demonstrated during the Vietnam War with the A1E Skyraider (one Hell of a close-air platform!) and the name the USAF hung on it: The Spad.
    The Ground-pounders will have to fight hard to convince the flyboys to actually go with this proposition.

  2. Mark K. said:

    So we’re using the MRAP (which is basically the South African Casspir), and now we’ll likely be using something like the Rhodesian Lynx which was also based on a Cessna aircraft.

    I guess everything old *is* new again.

  3. mikiehorn said:

    At one point in time the Army asked for the orphaned A-10 (for its CAS missions)from the Air Force and got turned down. The A-10 (now redesignated OA-10) is half allocated to the Air Guard and AF Reserve. Also – using the vunerable F-16 as a CAS platform speaks plenty as to the thinking within the Pentagon and its procurement decisions.

    As Mike said above the Skyraider served us all too well in Vietnam with outstanding loiter time and a variety of air to mud weapons just right for any occasion. Another aircraft used to support ground troops was the Douglas B-26K Invader which served from Korea to Vietnam through 1969) and were used until they literally wore out and fell apart.

    When exactly did we go wrong?

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