Saturday, September 26, 2015
Question. Is it time to bite the bullet and use A-29's for MV-22 escort?
Question. Is it time to bite the bullet and use A-29's for MV-22 escort? Trust me, I've thought long and hard on this one. The USMC is feeding the aviation beast and the problem is that its insatiable. The more you give it the more it wants.
Having said that we have a capability gap. The MV-22 flies too fast for effective escort by AH-1Z's and too slow for the Harrier and F-35. That's where the A-29 comes in. If you check its performance profile you'll see that its almost tailor made for the mission. We've pushed the AH-1Z hard but it won't accomplish this very important mission and when the CH-53K comes online will be hard pressed to even escort that helicopter (unless they install the Piasecki solution and I don't see that happening).
If the answer is yes, we need an effective escort for the MV-22 then the next question becomes one of cost AND basing/deployment.
Lets hit the deployment issue first because its the easiest. Did you know that every MEU and SPMAGTF-CR has KC-130's attached? Did you know that those aircraft "shadow" the MEU when its on cruise...leapfrogging from land base to land base so that if needed they can respond? We can do the same with the A-29 (and if the F-35 is canned then also with the Super Hornet, but like the Fallout 3 StoryTeller series, that's a discussion for another day).
With that I think we have the basing/deployment covered. The next issue becomes cost. Easy. Scratch the purchase of ... what would it be? Maybe 2 or 3 F-35's and we could buy a whole squadron of these planes....make the pilots smile by letting them become qual'ed in AH-1Z, UH-1Y and A-29....do the same with maintainers and having the HMLA's all plus size?
I think we should do it. The USMC has been without a REAL fixed wing light attack platform for too long. The fixation on vertical take off and landing has caused us to overlook common sense solutions. Time for that to end.
SIDENOTE: John made me realize something in the comments section that I didn't state in the original piece. The effort to arm the MV-22 is failing horribly. Time to cut loses and realize that the airplane will not be the all dancing super performing workhorse that many hope for. Instead of killing carry ability and performance why not reprogram the funds for all the uparming work into buying some relatively cheap A-29's?