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US Air Force test flights focus on off-the-shelf options | Local News

Over a U.S. Air Force base in the New Mexico desert, pilots on Wednesday tested some off-the-shelf options as the military looks for its next light-attack aircraft.

Test flights for the experiment known as the OA-X initiative are being conducted at Holloman Air Force Base. Air Force Secretary and former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson was on hand along with other top officials as pilots put the planes through their paces.

The scenarios are designed to emulate combat missions and other flights such as search and rescue and reconnaissance.

The Air Force earlier this year invited the aviation and aerospace industry to put forth data on readily available planes that would meet the service’s needs for a small, low-cost aircraft that could support missions on the ground while being easily maintained. The top candidates were then invited to Holloman to show off their capabilities.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a supporter of the experiment, said Wednesday the event is aimed at helping the military procure the tools it needs more quickly, efficiently and affordably.

“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the U.S. military advantage – and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement.

Air Force officials have said they do not consider the test flights as a competition since the event won’t necessarily result in any decisions about which planes to acquire.

Some have suggested that a new light-attack plane could partly replace the A-10, which had been marked for retirement by the Obama administration. Air Force officials have disputed those claims and the latest defense spending proposals call for keeping the nation’s 283 A-10s flying for…

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