Air Force “light attack” test aircraft crashes on bomb range, killing pilot

Enlarge / An Embraer A-29 Super Tucano similar to the one that crashed. (credit: Embraer / US Air Force)

On June 22, an A-29 Super Tucano participating in the US Air Force's Light Attack Experiment (OA-X) program crashed while flying over the Red Rio Bombing Range—part of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. US Navy Lt. Christopher Carey Short, from Canandaigua, New York, died in the crash. Another pilot ejected and suffered only minor injuries.

The Super Tucano, a joint entry into the OA-X program by Brazil's Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation, is one of two aircraft designs being tested as part of the second phase of OA-X by pilots attached to the Air Force's 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base. The goal of the testing is to determine whether the aircraft matches the Air Force's needs for flying close air support and reconnaissance missions for combat and counterinsurgency in "uncontested environments" (that is, operational areas where the enemy lacks air defenses). Such a niche is currently occupied by the A-10 and other more advanced aircraft.

Test flights

The flight over the Red Rio range was one of multiple scenario test missions, including close air support, combat search and rescue, and "armed overwatch" (combat reconnaissance). Both the A-29 and the other aircraft being flown in the OA-X tests—the Textron Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine—are turboprop aircraft based on similar versions of Pratt & Whitney's PT6A-68 engine.

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