US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is moving forward with its armed overwatch plan, independent of the Air Force’s light attack experiment, inviting industry for a briefing on a proposal to buy an estimated 75 aircraft which was first reported by airforcemag. SOCOM will hold Industry days March 4-5 for the Armed Overwatch program, which will “provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems” that will be used for “close air support, precision strike, and SOF intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments. While the adopted fiscal 2020 defense policy bill does not force that shift, it does encourage both the Air Force and SOCOM to “maximize efficiency and effectiveness and to further the mission requirements of both forces” by giving SOCOM funding to buy aircraft.
SOCOM plans to release a draft Other Transaction Authority prototype demonstration proposal, which gives the military a way to pursue research and prototyping outside of regular contracts, on Feb. 14. The eventual follow-on contract is expected to be an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, with a base ordering period of five years and another option for two more years with an expected total of 75 aircraft. In November the light attack experiment could split into an effort for armed overwatch as special operations forces have called for the service to address a pressing need for more protection from the air—a shift away from the original intent of the light attack experiment.
The US Air Force in October 2019 announced plans to purchase small numbers of Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine and A-29 aircraft as part of its light attack experiment. While the AT-6s will go to Air Combat Command for tactics development, US Air Force Special Operations Command will use the A-29s to create an instructor pilot program for those who advise foreign nations on air warfare. The slow process of the experiment, which started in 2017 with evaluations of the aircraft, along with Air Tractor and L3 Harris’ AT-802 Longsword at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Some called for legislation to give procurement authority to SOCOM if the Air Force doesn’t buy a fleet of the aircraft.