Secret Program Works to Field SEAL Plane

Nasty

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July 21, 2009
Military.com|by Christian Lowe


In a move that harkens back to the days of recycled World War II torpedo bombers sheep-dipped as close air support planes, the Navy intends to field a limited number of turbo-prop attack planes outfitted with the most modern surveillance, tracking and weapons systems to help special ops forces keep track of bad guys and, in a pinch, put warheads on foreheads.

Call it an AH-1 Skyraider on steroids – a “Back to the Future”-resurrection of a kind of plane last seen pounding enemy positions with rockets, guns and bombs over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s.

Code named “Imminent Fury,” the classified, year-long program has so far produced one fully-outfitted plane and is set to field four more to directly support SEALs and other operators on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

According to a source close to the program who declined to be named, the Navy has leased an EMB-314 Super Tucano for the job. Made by the Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, it is now being tested on desert ranges in California and the service’s top test facility at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md. The Navy loaded it up with sensors and weapons systems that “would make an F-16 pilot blush,” the source said.

With top end electro-optical and infrared sensors, laser and GPS-guided bombs, rockets, twin .50 cal. machine guns, encrypted radios – and even the capability to tie in UAV surveillance feeds – the Super Tucano outfitted for the SEALs is a ground-pounder’s angel from above.

Military.com contacted the Navy for comment on this story, but despite a detailed public briefing on the program in March by a high-ranking program official, the service declined to elaborate on the program other than to say in a written statement: “Imminent Fury is a classified Navy initiative to address urgent warfighter needs. Initial developmental testing has been promising and the Navy is currently conducting discussions with our Joint partners on various courses of action as this initiative moves forward.”

News of the Imminent Fury program comes as commanders in Afghanistan wrestle with the persistent problem of civilian casualties resulting from errant or mistaken bomb strikes – typically from aircraft high above the battlefield.

A recent investigation report on a high-profile friendly-fire incident in Farah province showed that high-altitude B-1 bombers had little ability to discriminate enemy from civilians during several bombings in support of Marine spec ops forces under Taliban assault.

Many argue that low-altitude aircraft that can fly for long periods over combat zones loaded with various weapons are needed to avoid such incidents. For advocates of the Imminent Fury program, the Super Tucano – with its five-hour endurance – fits the bill for a so-called “counter insurgency aircraft.”

“The SEALs said ‘we want a persistent capability at low cost, small footprint and turbo-prop aircraft to do armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,’ ” the source close to the program said. “Everyone who gets briefed on this program has been blown away.”

Over the past year, both Navy and Air Force pilots have flown the leased Super Tucano in tests. According to the source, the single-engine, two-pilot plane has successfully dropped both laser and GPS guided bombs, as well as a wide range of guided and unguided rockets.

According to statistics from an Embraer brochure, the EMB-314 has a maximum speed of nearly 370 mph and a maximum ceiling of 35,000 feet. The plane can take off and land in just under 3,000 feet and can carry a maximum load of nearly 3,500 pounds.

The initial cadre of four SEAL-supporting Super Tucanos will be flown by Navy pilots activated as individual augmentees, and multiple sources close to the program report that aviators are clamoring to get involved with the program.

But it is still unclear whether Imminent Fury will get off the ground since funding for the program is in doubt. Sources say there is no money earmarked for the program in the 2010 budget but that the service “is hoping for some reprogramming authority” to move funds from other accounts to buy the four planes requested by the SEALs.
 

SAWMAN

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Hmm. Sounds interesting. My first thought was why turbo prop, specifically? I'm guessing it allows greater loiter time, or slower air speeds. Anybody particularly dialed in on that info?
I'd like to learn more, to see why it's enough better than the Warthog to justify the cost. Apparently, it is, but I'd like to learn more.
I've always had a particular appreciation for those who fly low to support those on the ground.
Back to the prop planes again, huh? I guess you never can tell. Whatever works...or puts "warheads on foreheads" as the article put it.
 

Blue

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I hope they end up getting these planes, low flying prop planes are better built for the missions (Ground support) that our aviators are flying now, not to mention they're cheaper to run then Jets.
 

Vat_69

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Turbo props give you greater loiter time and fuel efficiency, hence the USN/USAF JUPT aircraft going from a jet trainer- T-37, to a turbo prop- T-6 A TII. Turbo props are quieter and burn less fuel without sacraficing performance. With the advanced turbo props these days you have the ability to get direct power inputs with very little delay whereas some jet aircraft required spool up time for throttle inputs. makes a huge difference in performance especially when flying low and slow. Still not sure why the USN particularly, decided to go with the Super Tucano when the T-6 Texan II is a known and funded quantity with virtually identical performance capabilities. Oh and it's made in AMERICA.... still both aircraft are relatively cheap and easy to maintain.
 

SAWMAN

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Turbo props give you greater loiter time and fuel efficiency, hence the USN/USAF JUPT aircraft going from a jet trainer- T-37, to a turbo prop- T-6 A TII. Turbo props are quieter and burn less fuel without sacraficing performance. With the advanced turbo props these days you have the ability to get direct power inputs with very little delay whereas some jet aircraft required spool up time for throttle inputs. makes a huge difference in performance especially when flying low and slow. Still not sure why the USN particularly, decided to go with the Super Tucano when the T-6 Texan II is a known and funded quantity with virtually identical performance capabilities. Oh and it's made in AMERICA.... still both aircraft are relatively cheap and easy to maintain.

Aha. Thanks for the good scoop!
 

talonlm

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I understand there is a USAF program looking into the same thing using the T-6, so it makes good governmental sense that the Navy is doing the same thing but looking at a different aircraft for the job. I'll see what I can find on it when I get home. Damned servers block almost everything here.

On a side note, I wonder if there is an intention to carrier-qualify the Tucano?
 

DA SWO

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Turbo props give you greater loiter time and fuel efficiency, hence the USN/USAF JUPT aircraft going from a jet trainer- T-37, to a turbo prop- T-6 A TII. Turbo props are quieter and burn less fuel without sacraficing performance. With the advanced turbo props these days you have the ability to get direct power inputs with very little delay whereas some jet aircraft required spool up time for throttle inputs. makes a huge difference in performance especially when flying low and slow. Still not sure why the USN particularly, decided to go with the Super Tucano when the T-6 Texan II is a known and funded quantity with virtually identical performance capabilities. Oh and it's made in AMERICA.... still both aircraft are relatively cheap and easy to maintain.

The youtube link shows what the super-t can do.
I don't believe the T-6 has been tested/cleared for weapons release, so a super-t could get to the warfighter quicker.
I am curious why the Navy brass gave a briefing for a program that is highly classified (according to the story). Why not keep your mouths shut?
 

Vat_69

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The youtube link shows what the super-t can do.
I don't believe the T-6 has been tested/cleared for weapons release, so a super-t could get to the warfighter quicker.
I am curious why the Navy brass gave a briefing for a program that is highly classified (according to the story). Why not keep your mouths shut?

You mean like this?
 

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DA SWO

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You mean like this?

Is that a DoD photo, or a manufacters photo?
Is there a small diameter bomb aboard?
Does that plane have the operational optics aboard?
US Comm suite aboard?

It's easy to post a pic of your plane loaded to the gills with bombs/ammo, somthing else to actually use it.

BTW- My experience with the Colombian Air Force is they operated with a much smaller load then your photo shows. I suspect actual ops in Afghanistan would be similar (temps/elevations) to the COLAF.

Bottom line-They gave a brief, and now won't comment because it's "Highly Classified"; they should have kept their yaps shut.
 

AWP

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Man, before the Net you had to use dead drops and the like to pass secrets, now all you need is an email account and vBulletin.
 
A

arizonaguide

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I wonder if the Super-T is better armored/reinforced for close support work.
Either way...I WANT ONE! :cool:
 

AWP

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You can build a Tucano, you can't build a new Hog, and the Tucano is a fraction of the cost of a Hog. So while a new A-10C may be more capable, you can get new Tucanos into the fight a lot sooner and for far less money than you can a new A-10C (which they don't even make anymore and the AF is actually retiring A-10's with many hours on the airframes).
 
A

arizonaguide

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Gotta love that HUGE bubble canopy!!!

superT.jpg

Super Tucano
Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-68A turboprop, 969 kW
Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-68/3 turboprop, 1,600shp
NOTE: The PT6 family are particularly well known for their extremely high reliability, with MTBO's on the order of 9000 hours in some models.
In US military use, they are designated as T74 or T101.
Propeller Hartzell five blade, constant speed, reversible pitch propeller.

Performance:
Range over 1,500km
Endurance 6hrs 30mins
Cruising Speed 530km/h
Maximum Speed 560km/h (320 knots, 368 mph).
Manoeuvrability +7G and –3.5G
Maximum Take-off Weight, Clean
3,160kg
Maximum Take-off Weight Utility
4,918kg
Rate of Climb
4,750ft/min

Weapons:
Hardpoints 5
Maximum External Load
1,500kg
Guns
Two wing-mounted 12.7mm machine guns
Other Weapons
General-purpose bombs and guided air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles
FLIR AN/AAQ-22 SAFIRE

Skyraider Lite For SOCOM

March 16, 2009: The U.S. Navy (the Irregular Warfare Office) at the behest of SOCOM, has spent the last testing the feasibility of using the Brazilian Super Tucano warplane to support U.S. special warfare operations. The Super Tucano is a five ton, single engine, single seat aircraft. It is basically a prop driven trainer that can be equipped for combat missions. The aircraft can carry up to 1.5 tons of weapons, including 12.7mm machine-guns, bombs and missiles. The aircraft cruises at about 500 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about 6.5 hours per sortie.

Colombia is already using Super Tucanos for counter-insurgency work, which is where American SOCOM operators saw it up close. They liked what they saw, and persuaded SOCOM to lease one and try it out. For some older SOCOM operators, the Brazilian aircraft is yet another attempt to revive the legendary Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider. This was the most popular ground support aircraft during the 1960s. Developed at the end of World War II, the A-1 was an 11 ton, single seat, propeller driven aircraft that carried 3.5 tons of bombs and four 20mm autocannon. Cruising speed was 475 kilometers an hour, and the average sortie was about four hours. Ever since World War II, ground troops have been agitating for another A-1. The A-10 came close, but did not have the persistence (long time over the combat area) of the A-1.

The Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano costs $9 million each, and come in one or two seat versions. SOCOM wants the two seater, with guy in the back running sensors. The bubble canopy provides excellent visibility. This, coupled with its slow speed (versus jets), makes it an excellent ground attack aircraft. The SOCOM aircraft could be equipped to fire Hellfire missiles and drop smart bombs. SOCOM wants to lease four Super Tucanos as soon as possible.

Several countries use Super Tucanos for internal security and border patrol (mainly looking for drug smugglers). So far, 144 Super Turcanos have been ordered (including 25 by Colombia and 63 by the Brazilian Air Force) since it entered service six years ago. The aircraft is an upgraded version of the older Tucano, which entered service 26 years ago. There are about 650 of these in service in 15 air forces.
 
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