Air Force cancels flight tests for light-attack aircraft after crash


The Air Force is ending flying tests for two light-attack aircraft following a June 22 crash that killed a Navy pilot, Defense News reported.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, though, told reporters that the overall experiment, which collected data on two prospective planes to help the Air Force decide which one to buy, has not ended.

The decision to end the remaining in-flight tests will also not change the timeline for a potential acquisition.


Bunch said the service has enough flying data for officials to decide if they want to begin a new program of record to buy a light-attack aircraft, to be called OA-X.

Lt. Christopher Carey Short was killed last month when the A-29 Super Tucano he was flying crashed during a light attack experiment flight over the Red Rio Bombing Range, near Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

The experiment started May 7 and was expected to last three months before the accident. It featured the A-29, made by Sierra Nevada Corp and Embraer, in competition with the Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine, produced by Textron Aviation.

“Any time you lose an airman, you have to pause, and you have to pause and think a little bit,” Bunch told reporters.

“So the loss of Lt. Short is a critical setback for America, writ large. That is a big hit to all of us. Having said that, we were trying a different approach, we believe we’ve collected the data using the approach and I would see us using approaches similar to this in the future.” 

The experiment was intended to inform officials on moving forward with the potential OA-X program, a fast-tracked buy of a cheaper aircraft to be used in counterterrorism operations. The light aircraft would be used in place of more expensive planes such as the F/A-18 or F-35 for overseas missions in the Middle East.

The cause of the A-29 crash is still under investigation.

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