Light Mobility Aircraft (LIMA)
In February 2012, the USAF announced that its FY13 budget proposal would end funding for both the Light Attack / Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) and the Light Mobility Aircraft (LIMA) programs.
The Light Mobility Aircraft (LIMA) was the result of a vision put forward by the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force that light mobility was needed to enhance Air Mobility Command's (AMC) role in irregular warfare. This requirement was particular clear with regards to building partnership capacity, with countries in which the United States had a strategic interest often operating similar types of aircraft. Building partnership capacity was a targeted effort to improve the collective capabilities and performance of the Department of Defense and its partners. The LIMA concept was based on the axiom that partner nations needed a light mobility aircraft that was affordable to them and also of the right "tech" (inexpensive, easily employed and maintained) for partner nations that were still developing their mobility systems. This would enable partners to build affordable and sustainable mobility systems of their own that were interoperable with the US system, making it easier for the United States to offer assistance.
The LIMA concept was envisioned as being smaller than a C-130, allowing partner nations to reach parts of their countries not readily reachable by larger aircraft. While the US Air Force and US Army were jointly buying at least 38 L-3 Communications/Alenia Aeronautica C-27Js, the LIMA requirements called for an aircraft in an even smaller class. Possible candidates in the LIMA class included the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350, Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, and EADS CASA C-212.
On 27 July 2009, the Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) Capabilities Integration Directorate (ASC/XRS) announced it was conducting a market research assessment of fixed-wing platforms available for passenger and cargo transport in support of irregular warfare operations. The ASC issued a Capability Request for Information (CRFI) to explore cost effective acquisition options to provide this fixed-wing Light Mobility Aircraft (LIMA) capability for Air Mobility Command (AMC) starting in FY11. This announcement was issued solely for information and planning purposes soliciting information from Department of Defense, other government agencies, US and/or foreign companies, who were capable of providing design/s, development, or prototype/s; conducting developmental and operational testing; or producing end items for LIMA proposed requirements. The CRFI did not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP in the future.
ASC was seeking information to determine the most cost-effective acquisition strategy to fulfill a need for approximately 60 LIMA fixed wing aircraft with deliveries expected to start in FY11 and an expected Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in FY12. All proposed systems would be FAA and ICAO certified. Existing AMC facilities would be used for aircraft storage and maintenance. Plans for contractor logistics maintenance support by IOC were to be provided. LIMA operations would integrate with traditional command and control concepts and organizations and existing joint tactics, techniques, and procedures for air transport operations. Air transport included the ability to conduct airlift of cargo and personnel, airdrop, airland, forward operating location re-supply, and medical/casualty evacuation.
The CRFI required that aircraft meet all of the following requirements:
- Properly certified for day/night visual flight rules / instrument flight rules (VFR/IFR) operations in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airspace.
- Overwater certifiable, in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 25 (ditching requirements).
- Fixed-wing with new airframe and engine or used (refurbished) airframe with "zero time" (refurbished) engine(s).
- Powerplant(s) capable of burning JP-8 or Jet-A fuel.
- Carry minimum of 6 passengers, plus crew.
- Takeoff and land with a minimum of 1,800-lbs passengers and cargo from unimproved austere landing surfaces (dirt, grass, gravel, etc.).
- Cargo door must allow loading / unloading of 36-inch warehouse skid and loading / unloading of litter patients. Aircraft must be able to operate from austere bases without any ground support other than fuel being available for re-fueling operations.
- 900 nautical mile (NM) range without using ferry tank(s). Additionally, the aircraft must be capable of internal ferry tank operations.
- Dual pilot duty stations, but certified for single pilot operation.
- Avionics: Category I IFR approach capable, dual Azimuth Direction Finding (ADF), dual Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni-directional Range (VOR)/Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Global Positioning System (GPS), weather radar, transponder that permits full utilization of the aircraft's on-board IFR flight capabilities to include IMC landings. Transponder must support/permit TCAS II V7 + operations. Equipment must be exportable by U.S. Department of State.
- Communications suite shall consist of internal crew intercom and the ability to communicate to Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities and operational agencies, both line of sight (LOS) and beyond line of sight (BLOS) via voice on: dual VHF Voice, High Frequency (HF), Ultra High Frequency (UHF) desired.
On 17 November 2010, Air Force officials released their criteria for basing of the MQ-1/9 ground control stations for an Air Force Reserve Command unit and criteria to determine basing locations for the LIMA aircraft. The basing criteria for the LIMA included mission requirements, training requirements, airspace, facilities and infrastructure, support capacity, environmental impacts, and cost. The release of the candidate bases for the LIMA was expected in December 2010. Based on the results of these efforts, Air Force officials expected to announce the alternatives/preferred locations for LIMA in the first quarter of 2011. After the release of the candidate bases, the formal environmental impact analysis process would begin, allowing communities around each candidate base to participate and provide input.
On 9 December 2010, the Air Force announced that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey and Travis AFB, California were candidate basing locations for LIMA. These locations were candidates to beddown a single squadron consisting of 12 aircraft and approximately 100 personnel. The LIMA mission supported building partnerships and training in appropriate environments. The selection of the candidate list was the result of a deliberate, measured and defendable process. The list of candidate bases was selected using previously announced basing criteria. Site surveys would be conducted and the formal environmental impact analysis process would begin, allowing communities around each candidate base to participate and provide input into the environmental analysis. Based on the results of these efforts, officials expected to announce the preferred alternative in February 2011. Once the formal National Environmental Policy Act process was completed and the FY11 authorizations and appropriations were passed for LIMA acquisition, the Air Force would make a final determination on basing.
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