A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. The AT-6 is participating in the U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
Dated“Their A-1 Skyraider — the last tail-wheeled airplane in the Navy inventory — was the world’s biggest, most powerful prop-driven, single-seat combat aircraft, able to lift truly freakish weapons loads, greater than that of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress,” wrote historian Don Hollway for the magazine.
The Air Force’s ongoing interest in adding a fleet of light-attack aircraft to its arsenal is a reminder that, sometimes, slower and cheaper can be better.
Half a century ago, the Air Force’s legendary A-1E Skyraiders — affectionately known as Spads, after a wood-and-wire World War I fighter — proved their mettle in the skies over Vietnam, providing close-air support for American and Vietnamese troops on the ground.
“We were flying anachronisms, piloting Spads through a supersonic world, tasting the thunderstorms at 8,000 feet when an SR-71 [supersonic spy plane] was hitting three times the speed of sound above 70,000 feet,” former B-52 and A-1E pilot Capt. Richard Drury told Vietnam Magazine, a sister publication of Air Force Times.
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