Members of Congress would like to see a more expansive use of the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft in various global hotspots as a way to support U.S. Special Operations Forces and continue needed counterinsurgency efforts.
The A-29 is turboprop light attack aircraft designed and built by Embraer which has been helping the Afghan Air Force battle insurgents for many years in Afghanistan. It has received rave reviews regarding its performance in theater as a platform which can support ground troops fighting enemies or insurgents.
Given its success, some lawmakers and foreign governments are now hoping the US can increase its Foreign Military Sales of the plane to better help allied forces in vital areas of conflict around the globe.
“There are plenty of countries that have an extremist threat — the Middle East and South and Central Africa. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is asking for this for Nigeria, Somalia and Libya. It is a perfect platform for where we are fighting,” Rep. Michael Waltz, (R) Fla., told Warrior.
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There are a variety of respects in which A-29s can change the equation when it comes to counterinsurgency. First and foremost, they can save lives. If overhead fire support is able to identify and attack pockets of enemy fighters, fewer ground troops have to enter into enemy fire. Also, an overhead asset of this kind can be an intelligence node able to send targeted information and data regarding troop movements.
When it comes to actual close-in counterinsurgency combat, fighters often obscure themselves in defilade or in buildings, requiring a need for precision strikes. The air-ground Maverick precision weapon can use a laser rangefinder and other kinds of advanced targeting technologies – providing what could be called an indispensable element of attack support. Naturally, advancing ground forces can benefit from air support while advancing on enemies for direct targeting or suppressive fire to enable forces to maneuver.
It is not yet clear exactly which areas might pursue Foreign Military Sales, however, the prospect is increasingly likely in areas where counterterrorism operations continue.