Issue Briefs

OA-X: An Air Force Program Warfighters And Taxpayers Can Do Without (From Forbes)

OA-X: An Air Force Program Warfighters And Taxpayers Can Do Without (From Forbes)

Loren Thompson

August 8, 2017

After studying the concept for over a decade, the Air Force this summer will host a flight demonstration to determine whether off-the-shelf light attack aircraft have anything useful to offer in the way of future capabilities.  Officials are thinking mainly of low-cost, slow-moving turboprops equipped for close air support.  The idea doesn’t make much sense.  First, turboprops won’t survive operation in most places worth going.  Second, the Air Force already has a host of other aircraft available for the mission that is more capable.  Third, rather than saving money, OA-X (as it is called) will cost the Air Force money it doesn’t have for the next decade or so.  Fourth, even in uncontested air space, jets offer numerous performance advantages over turboprops in performing close air support.  Finally, the global war on terror seems to be winding down, while the threat of high-end combat with near-peers is growing.  I have written a commentary for Forbes here.


Loren-Thompson_avatar-300x300Loren B. Thompson is Senior Adviser of GPI , Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Thompson holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.

The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy of GPI.