The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to dish out millions for a Marine light attack aircraft and the Corps’ futuristic sea drone, known as the MUX.
The Air Force is still in pursuit of a light attack aircraft. Two aircraft, Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, are currently undergoing three months of demonstrations, which kicked off in May at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
So, what will the Corps choose?
“The Marine Corps is monitoring the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” Marine spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told Marine Corps Times in an email. “The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill ― nothing has been appropriated to this program yet.”
Light attack aircraft are seen as a cost-effective means to deliver close-air support in more permissive environments like Iraq and Afghanistan. The A-29 Super Tucano is already fielded by the Afghan air force.
Military officials in the past have come under criticism for using expensive aircraft to destroy low key targets.
For instance, on Nov. 20, 2017, an F-22 Raptor was used for the first time in Afghanistan, to destroy a narcotics lab. Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the F-22 was selected because of its ability to carry the small diameter bomb.
As for the MUX, the Corps submitted a request for information in March that spelled out some details the Marine Corps wants in its new futuristic drone.
The Corps is looking for a drone to compliment the long distances of some of its other aircraft like the MV-22. According to the March RFI, the Marines want the MUX to be able to fly 700 nautical miles and carry a 9,500-pound payload.
The Corps wants its future sea drone to have strike capabilities, surveillance and electronic warfare.
Military.com first reported that the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to give $100 million for a Marine light attack aircraft.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.