The Air Force on Friday released a series of documents detailing its plans for a light-attack aircraft experiment this summer that could field a rapid acquisition program to buy around 300 light-attack jets to supplement the service's fighter fleet.
The capability assessment will be managed by the Air Force's office of strategic development planning and experimentation (SDPE). According to an invitation to participate posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website March 17, the service may use rapid acquisition authorities provided through the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to buy the jets.
"Because of the rapid time lines associated with these authorities, SDPE is conducting this capability assessment as part of its market research to determine whether any non-developmental, light-attack aircraft are available to meet these needs and within the aggressive time lines of these authorities," the document states. "As such, the results of this experimentation campaign will inform future requirements and acquisition decisions, which may or may not lead to one or more defense acquisition programs."
The service will choose up to four respondents to bring one or two non-developmental aircraft to a four-to-six-week assessment at Holloman Air Force Base, NM. Air Force crews will fly the jets to demonstrate basic performance as well as the aircraft's weapons, sensors, communications systems and ability to operate in austere conditions. The assessment could lead to other experiments, demonstrations or prototype efforts, the document states.
Notional requirements for participating jets include the ability to perform light-attack missions and targeting and reconnaissance functions. The aircraft must also be able to support an operations tempo of 900 flight hours per year for 10 years and have a 90 percent mission capable rate for day and night missions. Qualifying jets need to be able to take off using a maximum runway length of 6,000 feet and must have a number of tactical communication and range and endurance capabilities.
The current plan is to conduct 13 mission sorties, one ground event and three other events that could be accomplished as dedicated sorties or worked into planned mission sorties. Sorties include medium-altitude close-air support, an austere field demo and precision-munition basic surface attack. The service is still determining which weapons will be employed as part of the capability assessments, but current candidates include: GBU-12 or GBU inert, BDU-33, RR-170, .50 caliber ammunition, Mk-82 HD, M-206 flares, 70mm Hydra and Mk-81/82.
Among the information the service is requesting from industry is an explanation of the integration and development cost and timeline. The service also asks companies to describe whether production lots could be structured in 40- to 50-jet lots to be delivered within six years of a production decision.
The service doesn't state when it will select participants -- responses to the initial invitation are due April 7 -- nor does it detail how much funding will be provided.