US Special Operations plans to buy 75 light attack aircraft for Armed Overwatch

The US Special Operations Command plans on buying 75 fixed-wing aircraft for its just-announced Armed Overwatch programme.

The aircraft are intended for close air support of special operations troops, according to a notice announcing an upcoming industry day posted online 3 February.

“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling close air support, precision strike, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments,” says the notice.

The programme is similar to a faltering light attack experiment within the US Air Force (USAF), which aims to show light attack aircraft, specifically the Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada /Embraer A-29, could cheaply boost the air-to-ground attack capabilities of US allies and foreign partners. To further that experiment, the service announced in October 2019 that it planned to give Textron and Sierra Nevada orders for purchase of two to three light attack aircraft each.

The Armed Overwatch programme is closer to the USAF light attack experiment’s original goal of providing the US military with a cheaper alternative for air-to-ground attack missions, compared with expensive-to-fly fourth and fifth generation fighters such as the Boeing F-15E or Lockheed Martin F-35.