Sierra Nevada Sues the USAF: Super Tucano Showing Up in Afghanistan?

The Super Tucano FARC Killer Landing in Difficult Terrain (Credit:

6/12/12: By Ed Timperlake

In the same week that Second Line of Defense’s own Murielle Delaporte returned from Afghanistan with the dead and wounded from a recent Taliban terrorist attack on the French forces, a lawsuit was filed against the Secretary of the US Air Force.

How are these two things connected?

The Super Tucano FARC Killer Landing in Difficult Terrain (Credit:
The Super Tucano FARC Killer Landing in Difficult Terrain. Credit Photo: Embraer.

Delaporte underscored the importance of air support for and by the Afghan security and defense forces.  The lawsuit reminds us of the inability of the USAF to deliver such support in times of combat.

As I wrote on April 10, 2010,

One of the most respected and experienced Marine Combat Generals just made a very important point directly to the US Senate. General James Mattis, Commander United States Joint Forces, told the US Senate in testimony on March 9, 2010:

In Afghanistan, US airpower represents one of our joint force’s greatest asymmetric advantages over the enemy. The employment of air-based joint fires, used properly, will wreak havoc on enemy forces. In the fluid environment of a counter-insurgency fight, the decision to employ these joint air-based fires will come from leaders who understand that to be effective these fires must be employed rapidly and precisely against the enemy while avoiding civilian casualties.

Effective employment often requires persistent observation, integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and shortened approval procedures. Our airpower is unmatched in the world, however today’s approach of loitering multi-million dollar aircraft and using a system-of-systems procedure for the approval and employment of airpower is not the most effective use of aviation fires in this irregular fight.

A Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) aircraft capability has the potential to shift air support from a reactive threat response, to a more proactive approach that reduces sensor-to-shooter timelines, with immediate and accurate fires, providing surveillance and reconnaissance throughout a mission, while providing communication and navigation support to troops on the ground. Additionally, a LAAR capability can provide a means to build partner capacity with effective, relevant air support. This year Joint Forces Command will closely follow a project called Imminent Fury where the Navy and Air Force will employ a LAAR capability to reinforce our asymmetric advantage over the enemy.

Apparently in a new definition of rapid fielding, the USAF in a time period similar to Pearl Harbor to Normandy cannot field the Light Support Aircraft called for by the combatant commanders.

Frustrated with lack of transparency – something which President Obama promised to the country – the Sierra Nevada Corporation – the partner of Embraer in the Light Air Support competition – has sued the USAF.

The importance of getting effective air assets in the hands of the Afghans to facilitate transition, assist in logistics withdrawal and to provide for a strong basis for partnership is underscored by the 2nd MAW forward Commander, now the CG for 2nd MAW itself underscored:

General Walters:  Our role will be to support the Afghan security forces.  You’re going to have to support those guys, and they’re going to be much more distributed.  You’re not going to have the battalions out there that you support people on the FABs.  It’s going to have to be from a central location.  And the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) is going to have to be good, and it’s going to have to be there quickly.

In the end, we have to be able to prove to the Afghan security forces that if something happens, this platoon is good enough until we get someone in there.

If you ever need more than a platoon’s worth of trigger pullers in a district center, the V22s is how you’re going to get there quickly and decisively enough to matter.

The Afghan National Army and Afghan Security Forces understand from their perspective, how important air is.  We have made them big consumers.

They know that the air is there for them; they’ll go out and operate.  I’ve had more than one brigade commander tell me that if it wasn’t for the medevac, it wasn’t for the resupply, and if it wasn’t for the aviation fires, he didn’t think he could get the battalions out operating like they do.  Because they’ve learned that if they get hurt, we’ll fix them.  They know if they run out of bullets, we’ll get them bullets.  And if they’re hungry or thirsty, we’ll get them food and water.

In other words, as the French and the Marine Corps remind us, we need to get appropriate air support useable by the Afghans by themselves in country.

For some (but not all) earlier articles on Second Line of Defense or the Second Line of Defense Forum on this strategic fumble please see the following:“smoking-hole”/“decision”/