Combat Dragon II
Imminent Fury was a Navy-sponsored joint capability technology demonstration. It took a commercially available small aircraft, the EMB-314 Super Tucano, modified it, and tested it. The EMB-314 Super Tucano, with a flyaway cost of $9 million, had been selected over the OV-10 Bronco aircraft. This aircraft was subsequently marketed by the manufacturer Embraer as the AT-29 and as part of the Light Air Support program, assigned the US military designation A-29.
The Imminent Fury program originated in 2007. The Secretary of the Navy was said to have been touring the Middle East, and during a stop asked deployed special operations forces what was it that they needed, but did not currently have access to. The response were rough characteristics of a light attack airplane with a specialized configuration and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. This subsequently evolved into Imminent Fury. In 2008, a single EMB-314 Super Tucano was acquired as part of the program.
The Navy completed phase one, testing at Fallon Naval Air Station, California, in January 2009. The US Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC) proposed Air Force participation in phase 2, a 6-month combat evaluation in Afghanistan involving 4 aircraft and scheduled for 2010. This would give the Air Force an opportunity to validate tactics, techniques, and procedures that had been developed and tested in exercises it had conducted in 2009, plus explore the capabilities defined in Air Combat Command's Observation/Attack-X (OA-X) Enabling Concept. By mid-summer 2009, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force, Navy, and US Special Operations Command were drafting a memorandum of agreement covering Imminent Fury. The Air Force and Navy would share costs equally with the Air Force providing 6 pilots, 12 support personnel, and around $22 million. ACC began seeking volunteers in September 2009, with an eye toward starting training in March 2010. The Memorandum of Agreement between the US Navy, USAF, and SOCOM was subsequently signed.
An August 2009 US Central Command Request for Forces for 4 aircraft to support special operations forces conducting operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban senior leadership in Afghanistan was not filled and remained open as of May 2010. In 2009, complaints had been leveled by members of congress against the Imminent Fury joint capability technology demonstration for selecting a foreign type in lieu of the AT-6B, which had been developed as part of funding between 2007 and 2009 to explore operation capabilities of the T-6B Texan II aircraft as part of the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) program.
On 20 May 2010, General Stanley A. McChrystal, then Commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A) wrote to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff through the Commander of US Central Command to request that the Joint Staff fully support the urgent Phase II combat validation of the Imminent Fury technology demonstration. General McChrystal said in the memorandum that he welcomed the joint validation of the expeditionary capability, which would provide a full spectrum of support to special operations forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal added that providing expeditionary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support that could find, fix, and finish targets would fully enhance the vital irregular warfare efforts then being performed by ISAF and USFOR-A.
Congressional opposition to the use of the foreign Super Tucano aircraft over the AT-6B Texan II combined with the relief of General McChrystal in June 2010 following remarks published in an article in Rolling Stone magazine led to the end of the Imminent Fury program. In the 2011 Omnibus budget, the US Navy request funds required to support Combat Dragon II, defined as a Limited Objective Experiment/ Joint Combat Validation to determine whether, if properly employed, turboprop-driven light attack aircraft could increase the synergy and improve the coordination between the Aviation Combat Element and the Ground Combat Element. This would result in expanded capacity and increased effectiveness of airpower in an information warfare environment, while reducing costs and preserving for future employment of high-end/special aviation resources performing similar missions. This was said to be CENTCOM requirement. The request under Combat Dragon II (appearing to be named to reference the Combat Dragon evaluation of the A-37 Dragonfly in Vietnam) mirrored that for Imminent Fury Phase II. Congress subsequently said that the request did not appear to be justified, vetted, or approved in any way, and appeared to serve a single aircraft manufacturer rather than an operational requirement. Funding was subsequently denied.
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