In the first phase, US Air Force officials seek to procure, under the OA-X program, a light-attack jet to support the A-10. The Air Force hopes to get its first 20 aircraft as early as in 2017, with additional orders in 2018, FlightGlobal reported, citing Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute. Due to the urgency of the order, the jet will be chosen from already existing aircraft, including the Beechcraft AT-6 and the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
In the following phase, the Air Force expects the acquisition of the A-X2, the intended replacement for the A-10, which could be either an existing or a new jet, to operate in medium-threat environments.
“Part of the declaration of the initial combat capability is that the F-35 can do the CAS missions that would designate it as required as part of IOC, not the full up CAS, but what’s called the limited CAS.”
According to James, options that suggest buying a single aircraft to replace the aging A-10 in CAS operations are also being discussed.
However, she noted on Wednesday, according to Defense News, that the launch of a new program would mean the shutdown of an older one: “If something goes in, something else has to fall out."
He also noted that a low-end A-10 replacement for CAS missions would be inefficient in the face of a changing threat landscape.
"When I look at a permissive close-air-support environment airplane five, seven, 10 years from now, I'm not sure what that environment's going to look like," he remarked.