Air Force said Friday it has whittled down candidates for its new light attack aircraft to Textron’s AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano by Sierra Nevada and Embraer.
The two aircraft finalists from the service’s Light Attack Experiment in August will now undergo a battery of testing, though no combat demonstration, this summer at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
The service is looking to purchase a light and inexpensive aircraft capable of fighting insurgencies and carrying out close-air support similar to the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a legendary but aging airframe that is becoming expensive to maintain.
"Rather than do a combat demonstration, we have decided to work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft — the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement. "This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement."
The testing will occur May-July and is expected to give the service all the information it needs to make a final decision on which aircraft gets the contract. International partners of the U.S. will be invited to view the tests.
The Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment in New Mexico pitted four aircraft against each other and sought to fast-track development on the new aircraft, which was suggested last year by Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The new aircraft would work alongside the A-10 as well as the service’s more advanced aircraft to fight the Islamic State and other terror groups in unconventional conflicts around the world.
"A light attack aircraft would not only provide relief to our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, but also bolster our interoperability, so we can more effectively employ airpower as an international team,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said in a statement.