TAL-HERO-HGP_1021-34CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

An evolving trend here is an increase in the number of aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and close air-support missions. By far the most visible and liked is the A-10C currently in U.S. Air Force service (not for long if you ask the USAF; forever, if you listen to Congress). With the planned withdrawal of the Thunderbolt II from active and reserve service, several countries are expressing interest in acquiring the plane for combat missions, particularly against irregular forces. Boeing has already requested export permission for the A-10C, but none has yet been granted.

Another company addressing the interest in close-air-support missions from Middle-Eastern countries is Lomax, which is offering the Archangel S2R-660, a crop duster converted into a special-mission aircraft designed to perform long-range ISR and standoff, precision-strike missions. The Archangel is designed for medium- and low-intensity conflicts and homeland security missions. It blends a tough, rugged, partly-armored platform with advanced mission systems and sensors to perform such missions.

A third competitor in this field is the new Scorpion, from Textron Airland. Although a new design, Scorpion already carried out such missions during the Vigilant Guard exercise in 2014, providing aerial reconnaissance and transmission of real-time, full-motion video and communications in support of other aircraft, ground stations and other emergency responders reacting to mock-threat scenarios. Beechcraft is also displaying the AT-6 trainer/light attack aircraft here.

Expanding the category of special-mission aircraft for low/medium-intensity warfare are the C130J (the variant displayed here is the WC-130J). Other types include ISR specialists such as the King Air B350ER, the Baron G58ISR and the Cessna Grand Caravan Ex turboprop, a tough airplane designed to operate from small, unpacked airstrips, in support of special operations.

Other military transport airplanes are also designed to carry out multiple missions in support of military and peacekeeping contingencies overseas. For example, the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) from Airbus Defense & Space can perform aerial refueling, as well as cargo, troop or medical transportation over long ranges, supporting operations overseas. Similar missions are supported by Boeing 767s converted into military Multi-Mission Tanker Transports (MMTT). These aircraft are similar to the new KC-46A tanker built by Boeing, but, in the MMTT case, they utilize commercial airframes available at significantly lower cost.

Among the helicopters shown here is the Cougar AS332, from Airbus Helicopters, that recently scored major successes in Poland and Mexico, selling more than 100 units. The Bell 407GX is also here, following its initial export sale to an undisclosed user in Africa.

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