Fixed Wing Green?

Demise of the Key West

Jimmy Wu at Defense Tech:

The Secretary of Defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, dropped in at our FOB in Iraq on Saturday, and I got to ask him some questions. On the subject of the Key West Agreement — the one that splits the skies between the Army, Air Force, and Navy — Mr. Rumsfeld said that people in the Pentagon do not operate under “antiquated agreements.” So I guess that means the Key West Agreement is no longer in force. It’s open season for Army Aviation!

But what, exactly, is the current status of this? I cannot imagine that any real change has occurred, and I cannot imagine that any real change will be forthcoming. With current military commitments and those in the foreseeable future so “ground heavy”, it’s unlikely that anyone will be willing to allow the Army to take on additional roles, particularly roles that would not only be heavily-utilized but roles that would lessen the role for the other services.

I’m not saying that this is right. I’m just saying that’s how it is. There’s a lot of defense budget money being tossed around these days, and no else is going to want the Army to add light attack aircraft to its inventory. The move would just reduce the justification for Air Force budget requests, for instance.

I, for one, would welcome fixed-wing light attack aircraft back into the force. Whichever force. But, as Wu points out, something along the lines of the OV-10 could come in very handy in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

In fact, why not start production of a new OV-10 with some slated for the Army (or Air Force or whoever) and some for the new Iraqi Air Force? I’ve got to think that not only would this sort of plane come in handy, but that there would be a decent export market for it. I know there are alternatives to an updated OV-10, of course. I’d be open to them as well.


  1. How about disestablishing the USAF all together? Airpower has never been shown to be anything other than a support to either naval or ground operations. Having a separate service seems encourage a mindset of ‘separateness’ instead of what is needed between air and ground operations.

  2. Quiet, Bill, or we’ll get an outbreak of antidisestablishmentarianism from amongst Air Force personnel! Yes, I only wrote that comment so I could use that word 😉

  3. You do not need to restart the OV-10 lines. You just need to pull them out of mothballs. The real issue is Hi-Techitist’ everyone wants the ‘fantastic’ machine that makes everything else pale in comparison. The problem is that you end up paying 5 times the cost for a machine whose capability can be equaled or exceeded in part by ‘low tech’ machines. Take the silly idea that you can replace an A-10 with JSF…. or a battleship with a DD(X)… (I just had to get that zinger in)

  4. In WW2, we didn’t have the most expensive fighters, or the fighters that could turn the best, or the fighters that could climb the fastest. We had the fighters that protected their pilots and had plenty of firepower. We had them by the hundreds of thousands. They rolled out of tire, washing machine, and car plants by the thousands. So what did we learn from that lesson? Now we have these wimpy birds that if you sneeze on them just right you’ll put them out of comission, like Precious. And do we have hundreds of thousands of them, heck no! We have tens, TENS. 5 years after we couldn’t intercept even one hijacked, Mach 0.8 capable, huge, commercial airplane we have tens of the first new fighter to come along in 30 years. But wait, it must be tough as nails then, right? Hell no. It’s got a wimpy stealth coating that could be damaged with a grain of sand and a composite structure that can hardly take a bullet. Any country that takes all its lessons from the losers is bound to become one. Maybe we could outsource F-22 production to China. That’d get the costs down. Why not, were outsourcing everything else there. After all, they’re our friends.

  5. Yes, and let’s give the Navy over to the Army, as well. In the long run they’re just supporting the ground-pounders, right? Service cultures are irrelevant! Then we can lump the definitely-not-Army components (ballistic missiles, fast attack subs, intel sats) together as a specialized branch of the Coast Guard. Not that I’m against the idea, but I’m unclear as to the role imagined for these un-mothballed Broncos. (A much-loved aircrat with much better prospects in an arena with no Shilkas.) CAS? The preferred means of moving firepower from air to ground is the SDB, and I can see the utility of a huge fleet of cheap aircraft loitering continuously over the battlefield at all times to drop the things; but you might as well do the job with UAV squadrons, which we already have. You can ensure a similar amount of coverage, and therefore response time, with a smaller fleet of high-speed/high-performance aircraft; F-16s for instance. Which we already have. So what job do folks have in mind? FAC duty? Armed recon? Those both make some sort of sense, at least.