The US Air Force (USAF) is considering ending its Light Attack Experiment (LAE) in New Mexico after a fatal crash on 22 June, according to a key officer. U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Christopher Carey Short, from Canandaigua, New York died in the crash on Friday, June 22, 2018 while flying the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Another crew member on board the two-seat light turboprop attack and trainer aircraft is being reported as injured after ejecting from the aircraft. U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment has been halted following last week’s fatal crash of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft within the Red Rio Bombing Range at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico outside Alamogordo.
Since then, all light attack aircraft flying operations have been suspended as the Air Force begins an investigation into the cause of the crash and determines what to do next. The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano that crashed is a successful, combat-proven light tactical trainer, strike and intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance aircraft that is being evaluated in the Air Force Light Attack Experiment. No cause for the accident has been reported and the cause of the accident is under investigation according to Air Force Public Affairs at Holloman AFB.
The Light Attack Experiment is intended to test both a new evaluation process for some USAF acquisition programs and simultaneously provide functional analysis of small, tactical light attack aircraft that can be operated economically and efficiently for close air support and reconnaissance in an insurgent conflict. Most of the participant aircraft are single engine turboprops. The program is said to potentially compliment and economize other Air Force programs including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by offering a less expensive, more agile program architecture that is suggested to even include innovations in how the Air Force trains new pilots.
The service decided to conduct a second round of experiments to get more information about what it would take to support and sustain two aircraft the service is interested in purchasing — Textron’s AT-6 and the A-29 built by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer. Since May, one A-29 and two AT-6s have been flying out of Holloman Air Force Base — regularly flying three times daily — as U.S. military pilots fly training missions, do weapons drops, and familiarize themselves with the performance of the aircraft. previous round of experiments, conducted last August, involved the A-29, AT-6, Textron’s Scorpion and L3 Technologies’ AT-802L Longsword.