Using state-of-the-art jet fighters for counterinsurgency close air support is expensive – cost-effective alternatives are needed. Samuel Beal looks at the capabilities developed and the role of more economical platforms in tomorrow’s battlespace.
As the Taliban toppled province after province in Afghanistan this summer, photographs plastered on social media of Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport encapsulated both the tragic and surreal nature of events unfolding. In one widely shared snapshot, Taliban fighters kitted with American assault rifles posed proudly with an abandoned A-29 Super Tucano of the Afghan Air Force (AAF). Few images captured so well the rout of the United States’ 20-year counterinsurgency mission, and its bold plans to equip Afghan forces with brawny yet ‘usable’ military platforms.