Sunday, April 20, 2014

RETROFITTED: Armed Crop Dusters to Potentially Join Yemeni Air Force

While still in its infancy since North and South Yemen unified in 1990, Yemen does in fact have an air force.
The air fleet consists of a motley crew of both eastern and western aircraft, most of which have been donated.  As for comprehensive numbers for the Yemeni Air Force, that remains unconfirmed, however the serviceability of the aircraft is low.

Since the United States has been actively carrying out counterinsurgency operations via the use of its drones, it has sought ways to further incorporate its Yemeni counterpart.  With this new proposal, the US is looking to provide small missile bearing planes to the Yemeni Air Force.  In addition, the proposal suggests similarly arming them with Hellfire missiles like Reapers.  These retrofitted cropdusters would be four bomb and missile prop planes manned by two pilots.  They are marketed mainly as platforms for COIN operations, however they are well suited for a number of other military or civil security missions including border security, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and counter-piracy.

It would allow Yemen to increase its role in targeted strikes against insurgents, specifically Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  Allowing Yemen to directly handle its domestic threats, falls right in line with the Obama Administration's emerging "small foot-print" approach.  Also, if the Yemeni AF succeeds in procuring these aircrafts for the Yemen Precision Strike Program, it can take over the US drone role, giving the US deniability in future operations.  In a similar variation, the Colombian Air Force have used AT-29B Super Tucano turboprop planes armed with laser-guided bombs to successfully quell FARC rebels.  Moreover, the US has plans in work to supply Afghan Security Forces with another variation more appropriate for their type of domestic missions.

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