A former Green Beret-turned lawmaker has had enough of the US Air Force dragging its feet to field propeller-driven light attack planes- and is now threatening to give the project to the Army.
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., expressed his disdain at the slow-moving USAF when it comes to a Counter Insurgency (COIN) and Light Close Air Support plane to provide on-demand assistance to conventional and special operations troops.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” he said on Wednesday.
While the House has already green-lit the procurement of light attack planes by US Special Operations and Command, Waltz believes that the conventional ground troops of the US Army could benefit as well.
Historically, CAS has been a function assigned to Air Force fixed wing aircraft. Assignment of CAS responsibility to the Air Force grew out of the Key West Agreement of 1948. However, provisions have allowed the Army to retain aviation assets for “reconnaissance” and “medical evacuation.” In 1952, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between then-Air Force Secretary Thomas K. Finletter and Army Secretary Frank Pace, removing weight restrictions on Army helicopters and effectively creating the fearsome US Army rotary fleet as we know it today. However, it also created an arbitrary 5,000 pound weight restriction that limits the Army’s ability to fly fixed-wing aircraft.
With the USAF seemingly unwilling to speed up the light CAS project (not unlike their perpetual resistance to retain CAS aircraft such as the A-10), a new MOU may be in the near future.
According to Defense One, Waltz is tired of waiting- and is letting the Air Force know that they need to step up.
“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.
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