The Air Force hinted at the purchase of up to six light-attack turboprop aircraft earlier this year, when it included $35 million in its budget request for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

HURLBURT FIELD — The U.S. Air Force has taken another step toward bringing a small number of new aircraft to Hurlburt Field as part of the service’s light-attack aircraft initiative.


The Air Force hinted at the purchase of up to six light-attack turboprop aircraft earlier this year, when it included $35 million in its budget request for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. However, the federal defense funding bill that would provide money for the purchase remains tied up in congressional wrangling.


In the meantime, though, the Air Force late last month issued its final requests for proposals on the new aircraft, indicating an interest in purchasing "a limited number" of both the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. Plans call for two or three of each of the aircraft to be purchased.


According to an Air Force news release, a contract for the Super Tucanos should be signed by the end of the year. A contract for the Wolverines is expected to be signed early next year.


It is the Super Tucanos that will be coming to Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). According to the Air Force, AFSOC will use the aircraft to develop an instructor pilot program for its combat aviation adviser mission. Combat aviation advisers work with foreign aviation forces in a variety of ways, including integrating them with ground-based special operations forces.


More specifically, according to Capt. Angelica Epperson, AFSOC public affairs officer, the command will develop its Super Tucano program "to meet increased partner nation requests for light-attack assistance."


The AT-6 Wolverine will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for continued testing and development of operational tactics and development of networks to digitally link light-attack aircraft with other aircraft.


The planned aircraft purchases are a continuation of a two-year Air Force light-attack experiment, aimed in part at partner nations that might not have the resources to purchase other combat aircraft.


In the news release, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein explained, "Our focus is on how a light-attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders."


Newly-named Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barnett supports the light-attack initiative. "I look forward to this next phase," she said in the release.


Air Force and Navy pilots already have flown both aircraft extensively, although AFSOC is not currently flying the Super Tucano, according to Epperson.