Souped-up trainers, a crop duster and an experimental jet

Mark Ayton spoke with US Air Force personnel responsible for planning and staging this summer’s light attack experiment held at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico


Textron’s AT-6 Wolverine N630LA in a shelter at Holloman, quite possibly once used by F-15C Eagles assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing until 1992 and F-117 Nighthawks between 1992 and 2004.
Ethan Wagner/US Air Force

The US Department of Defense’s procurement system needs lifesaving heart surgery: there can be little doubt about that. Current major weapon system programmes for the US Air Force, like the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II and the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker are two, unfortunate, but shining examples. Somebody, somewhere in the gargantuan US Department of Defense has, perhaps, finally realised the costs of its current system to the United States, not just staggering in monetary terms but also those associated with slips in combat capability and ultimately mission success. So, what does this scenario have to do with a US Air Force experiment, staged this summer in New Mexico involving two souped-up trainers, a crop duster and an experimental jet?

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