Close air support (CAS) aircraft offer an exceptional advantage in battle. The capabilities of carrying armament and integrating new technology make these aircraft a critical part of any mission or fleet. As we’ll discover, close air support aircraft didn’t start with the highly technical systems that we know today, but instead developed over decades of ongoing warfare and aviation modernization. 

In this article, we’ll focus on:

  1. Early close air support aircraft modernization
  2. Current technological advancements in CAS aircraft
  3. Procurement and close air support aircraft

Being at the forefront of CAS modernization starts by working with effective suppliers and top-notch procurement strategies. At Greenwood Aerospace, our exceptional procurement services provide the government supply chain with all manner of aircraft parts and accessories. Our services enable the critical advancement of close air support aircraft and ensure that federal aviation programs are mission ready. Our forty years in the industry make us a leader in aerospace procurement. Let’s look closer at how procurement facilitated the early development of CAS aircraft.

Air Training in 1955 by the U.S. Air Force, in Beechcraft T-34s
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Early Close Air Support Aircraft (CAS) Modernization

When the First World War erupted across Europe, aircraft played a significant role in warfare. From ground support missions to dogfights, the need for aviation advancement became crucial during World War I and II.

The aviation industry saw huge developments throughout the early twentieth century. Federal forces introduced aviation requirements and government contracts to support the global defense industry that was rapidly evolving. 

We’ll identify the key developments in CAS aircraft from World War I to the present, including:

  1. How the need for close air support aircraft developed
  2. How CAS aircraft advanced with the help of procurement
  3. How technology became integrated into close air support

Close air support aircraft became a top priority for global armed forces after the explosive start of the First World War. Aviation was a new tool for advancement in tactical warfare and there was much to be learned by both the Allies and the Axis powers in the use of aircraft.

World War I Aircraft

During the First World War, trench warfare and ground efforts expanded exponentially and created a great need for aircraft advancement. At this time, aircraft were being used for operational assistance and reconnaissance and surveillance missions, however, close air support aircraft became a clear way to advance in battle and were quickly prioritized within the aviation industry. 

A number of standardizations were introduced during World War I to meet military specifications and facilitate the development of close air support. As a result, aircraft were equipped with machine guns, bomb racks, and other features for engaging ground targets.

The economic growth that procurement saw from the introduction of close air support aircraft was huge. Procurement programs were created to entice manufacturers into developing new technologies that would assist the war effort. 

Factories were also developed to facilitate the development of close air support aircraft, the first being The British Royal Air Factory established in 1916 where the RE8 was manufactured. In the United States, the Republic Aviation Corporation’s plant in Farmingdale, New York, was the first domestic location for the production of close air support aircraft and was erected in 1931.

World War II Aircraft

Between the First and Second World Wars, the development of close air support aircraft continued on. Extensive research was undertaken in the design of close air support aircraft so heavier armament could be carried and enhanced air support could be provided to ground forces. As a result, manufacturing capabilities increased to meet military demand.

New factories continued to be established and old factories were repurposed to enable mass production. Procurement facilitated the coordination between the military’s needs and the industrial capacity to produce close air support aircraft. 

A newer advancement that procurement introduced during World War II was aircraft leasing, which was established through the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. This provided significant military assistance to the allies and ensured advanced technologies were widely available.

The U.S. military authorized close air support aircraft development as a top priority for prime contractors, and ensured resources were allocated accordingly to achieve their goal of creating a strong air presence. Government procurement ensured essential resources reached every aspect of the manufacturing process during World War II to advance developments and build a robust fleet of close air support aircraft.

Aircraft Post-World War

After the Second World War, collaborative programs developed between nations to continue close air support aircraft research. Procurement assisted in global efforts by managing and coordinating the acquisition of evolving aircraft parts and integrating components from multiple suppliers. 

Military partnerships also continued after the World Wars. New conflicts like the Vietnam War prompted governments to ensure the ongoing advancement of close air support aircraft and aerospace technologies. Suppliers received funding, technological guidance, and contracts to sustain their work. 

As a result, aircraft developed astronomically, and created a broad range of ways to incorporate close air support capabilities. Some key aircraft that utilize close air support capabilities include:

  • Beechcraft T-6 Texan II: The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is a turboprop aircraft used by various air forces for primary flight training. This aircraft can also be equipped with weapons and used for close air support missions.
  • Embraer A-29 Super Tucano: The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano is another turboprop aircraft designed for light attack and counterinsurgency missions. The A-29 bridges the gap between a helicopter's operating limitations and a fighter jet's cost. It is widely used for close air support by various air forces, including the Afghan Air Force and the Nigerian Air Force.
  • Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules: While primarily a tactical transport aircraft, the C-130 Hercules has been adapted for close air support missions in some configurations. Variants such as the AC-130 gunship have been specifically designed for ground attack and close air support roles.
  • Air Tractor AT-802: The Air Tractor AT-802 is a purpose-built agricultural aircraft that has been modified for close air support and counterinsurgency missions. It can be equipped with various weapon systems and has been used in conflict zones for ground attack missions.

As aircraft designers and manufacturers continue to enable close air support capabilities where possible, the reliance on strong procurement systems that support this modernization has reached paramount importance.

Continuing developments in procurement in the last century have seen a significant increase in aircraft acquisition and defense contracting. The large-scale competitive bidding system for contracts has seen numerous iterations. Procurement ensures funds and research are consistently being used to develop close air support aircraft and secure the sale of U.S. military aircraft worldwide.

A Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk during takeoff
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Technological Advancements for Close Air Support Aircraft

Close air support aircraft continue to see development through the growth of new technologies and defense capabilities. The key areas of advancement we’ll focus on include:

  • Government procurement’s role in advancing CAS aircraft
  • Artificial intelligence and other technological advancements
  • Distribution developments and global outreach

The advancement of CAS aircraft plays an important role in global security initiatives and government aviation programs. So many military branches, allied forces, and federal missions rely on effective aircraft to keep operations running smoothly. The aerospace supply chain and government procurement play a crucial role in keeping close air support aircraft accessible to global aviation programs. Let’s dive into why procurement is so important for CAS aircraft.

Government Procurement for CAS Aircraft

As warfare has evolved so has the need for technological advancement. To ensure reliable systems and advancement, close air support aircraft developments rely on the robust procurement system of the U.S. government to equip manufacturers and deliver solutions. 

Procurement facilitates the acquisition of cutting-edge technologies and ensures that close air support aircraft meet evolving operational requirements that encompass the following capabilities:

  • Advanced avionics
  • Precision-guided munitions
  • Sensory systems
  • Networking capabilities

Throughout its lifecycle, a CAS aircraft undergoes continuous upgrades and modernization. This ensures the integration of new weapons systems and enhanced capabilities so aircraft remain effective in an evolving threat landscape. 

Procurement extends beyond the supply of equipment and also enables the acquisition and leasing of aircraft. The contract lifecycle management of a close air support aircraft is an essential part of aircraft sustainment. Maintenance, logistics support, spare parts procurement, and more, are all accounted for as part of this management.

The ongoing procurement of sustainment services helps maintain the operational readiness of a CAS aircraft. Maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) is growing around the world and keeping aircraft available for essential missions.

Utilizing Artificial Intelligence for Close Air Support Aircraft

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer significant resources and insight for close air support aircraft missions. In terms of mission planning and optimization, AI algorithms are programmed to plan by considering factors like target priority, threat levels, fuel efficiency, and time constraints. This automates a lot of labor-intensive planning as AI systems can generate optimized mission plans that maximize operational effectiveness and ensure readiness while minimizing risks.

AI also enables close air support aircraft to make autonomous decisions in complex environments. Algorithms can be trained using vast amounts of data to:

  1. Recognize and classify targets
  2. Assess threats
  3. Select an appropriate course of action

This information assists pilots and operators in rapidly analyzing and responding to dynamic battlefield situations.

Predictive maintenance is also used for CAS aircraft to predict needs in advance. Predictive maintenance systems analyze sensor data and performance parameters to identify potential equipment failures or maintenance requirements in close air support aircraft. This helps to ensure aircraft availability, reduce downtime, and optimize maintenance schedules

Distribution Advancements

Defense contractors play a crucial role in supporting close air support aircraft advancement and distribution. Collaborative partnerships between research institutions and industry partners allow for shared knowledge, technology transfer, and global sales. These partnerships leverage distribution networks and the expertise of industry leaders to access extraordinary technologies and production capabilities. 

With digital communication facilitating real-time connection, collaborative design work, and document sharing, data can now be seamlessly exchanged to accelerate the research and development process of CAS aircraft.

Research institutions, aerospace suppliers, and government agencies work together faster, advancing modern logistics and supply systems to further enable the distribution of essential components, materials, and aircraft.

Four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons in the sky
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Close Air Support Aircraft and Procurement

To ensure the advancement of close air support aircraft, the government supply chain relies on effective aerospace suppliers to fulfill its procurement needs. 

Greenwood Aerospace is a trusted aerospace supplier that covers a wide range of services. We offer extensive industry knowledge and support to government contracting, military contractors, and private defense contractors. Let’s dive into the extensive range of procurement services Greenwood Aerospace has to offer.

Greenwood Aerospace’s Procurement Services

At Greenwood Aerospace, we’ve mastered supplier sourcing and supply chain management. Our network of suppliers enables us to rapidly procure the parts you need at the right price. Our core procurement competencies include:

Aircraft Parts and Accessories

As a national supplier of aircraft parts and accessories, we have compiled an extensive stock of proprietary and aftermarket aviation parts. If we don’t have what you need on-site in our Ponca City, Oklahoma, warehouse, our expert procurement team will source exactly what you’re looking for through our expansive network. We leverage our purchasing history to get you the right price for the parts you need.

Aircraft Sustainment

At Greenwood Aerospace, we understand a successful flight program needs more than operational facilities and expert aircraft procurement which is why we provide top-of-the-line aircraft sustainment through parts and logistics support. The aircraft we service include:

Fixed-Wing Acquisition and Support

We execute complex aircraft procurement transactions through our experienced team of acquisition and support coordinators. We assist government, military, and aerospace contractors to fulfill their needs in every phase of fixed-wing aircraft acquisition.

Government Procurement

We serve a wide range of government agencies in aircraft procurement, parts procurement services, ground support, and more. Our primary goal is rapid, effective procurement of aerospace parts and aircraft to keep government aviation programs on track. 

Military Aircraft Parts

As an ITAR-registered military aircraft parts supplier, we offer immediate solutions to all your military aircraft part procurement needs. Our services assist in minimizing defense supply chain management challenges and maintaining smooth procurement and distribution timelines for all military aircraft parts needs

Greenwood Parts Intelligence (GPIQ)

Our proprietary program, Greenwood Parts Intelligence (GPIQ), focuses on market intelligence. GPIQ simplifies and improves labor-intensive activities, making the supply chain process more effective. Using predictive analytics, we forecast future demands and manage supplier risk. More accurate forecasts result in a more efficient government supply chain with fewer costs for all involved. We see GPIQ as a strategic partner in procurement that serves in providing long-term management and cost-effective solutions.

Expert Logistics Services

Our range of logistics services keeps complex operations running smoothly. Our extensive industry knowledge ensures your products move at the right time, to the right place, and stay within budget. Greenwood Aerospace’s key logistics services include:

Greenwood Aerospace and Aircraft Support

We coordinate with your team to source, negotiate, and procure essential parts to assist you in executing effective operations. Work with a trusted industry leader in aerospace procurement to get the aircraft support and knowledge you need.

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