Special operations forces aviation on a shoestring budget: an effectiveness analysis of light and medium fixed wing aircraft
Weeks, III., Martin W.
Winter, Walter M.
Sepp, Kalev I.
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If properly selected, low-cost commercially available off-the-shelf light- and medium-fixed-wing aircraft are sufficient to effectively accomplish special operations aviation mission sets in support of special operations ground forces. As the nature of combat continues to shift away from traditional state-on-state wars to more irregular conflicts, the skills possessed by special operations forces (SOF) will become key to a nations success in achieving its national security aims. While numerous allied nations possess skilled and ready ground SOF components, relatively few possess special operations aviation capabilities. This lack is largely due to the prohibitively high costs of acquiring and maintaining such specialized niche aircraft. This study employs a qualitative analysis of candidate aircraftexamining acquisition costs, cost per flying hour, aircraft specifications, and scoring against a derived list of hallmark qualities of SOF aircraft to assess candidate aircraft utility. After evaluating candidate aircraft, it was determined that all four light-fixed- wing and all three medium-fixed-wing candidate aircraft are fine choices for executing SOF support. The Britten-Norman BN2T-4S Defender outscored the other candidates, possessing the most hallmark qualities. However, the Pilatus PC-6 Porter was the most economically efficient light-fixed-wing platform, costing $2M less than the Defender over a typical aircraft lifespan. In the medium-fixed-wing category, the Alenia Aermacchi C-27J is the clear standout in overall performance and utility. More important than these aircraft recommendations, it is imperative that preference be based on which aircraft capabilities a nation values most, given its specified budget.
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