HURLBURT FIELD — The headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) could be getting three new aircraft as part of an ongoing Air Force evaluation of a potential light-attack aircraft program.

Broadly, the program is designed to get expanded warfighting capabilities into the field more quickly, and to provide an affordable means for U.S. partner nations to operate with American military forces. 

According to the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office, Gen. David Goldfein, the service's chief of staff, confirmed recently to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the Air Force wants to purchase six aircraft for the program. Proposed funding for the $35 million purchase is included in the Air Force's budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, according to media reports.

Because the funding is not yet assured, AFSOC offered only limited comment on the program.

"Air Force Special Operations Command is interested in Air Force’s Light Attack initiative and the potential opportunities this new capability would provide the command," AFSOC spokesman Matthew Durham said in an email, adding that because the aircraft purchase is still only a proposal, "we cannot speculate holistically on the future of the Light Attack program and AFSOC’s role. ... AFSOC stands ready to support the Air Force’s efforts and provide our expertise in building partner air forces’ strength and lethality."

If the funding is approved, the purchase will comprise three Sierra Nevada Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos and three Textron AT-6B Wolverines. The Super Tucanos would come to Hurlburt Field, with the Wolverines going to Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base.

Both planes were identified by the Air Force last year as meeting the light-attack program's requirements for an "off-the-shelf" aircraft that could be modified to fit the Air Force's needs, as opposed to pursuing development of an entirely new aircraft.

As the light-attack aircraft program moves forward, the two turboprop aircraft will become part of an initiative that will include other manned airplanes and helicopters, along with unmanned aircraft. The program is aimed at developing a mix of aircraft, weapons and sensors that will allow the United States and its allies to operate with a common system. The Super Tucano and the Wolverine are priced at a level that would allow smaller nations to  become a part of that common system.

In addition to the Air Force and U.S. allies and partners, the light-attack aircraft development program will include the U.S. Marine Corps and various industrial partners, according to the Air Force Public Affairs Office.

The Air Force began working with both Textron and Embraer last year, submitting a request for proposals on aircraft to both companies.

At the time, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said, "We're where we're at today because both Congress and our industry partners understood the need to find ways to get capabilities to our warfighters faster.”

Also last year, Goldfein stressed the need to look at the program through the eyes of U.S. allies. Having an aircraft that can be operated by the U.S. and its partners "will enhance our collective ability to compete, deter and win across all domains."