The secretary of the U.S. Air Force has stressed that the OA-X light attack initiative “is not a procurement, it's an experiment” as participants such as Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and Textron wish for a return on investment.

Speaking at an Air Force Association Forum in Washington on June 5, Heather Wilson said although the experiment could inform future acquisition plans and decisions, there is no guarantee the service will end up buying a light attack fleet.

This clarity from the top comes amid heavy investment by the SNC and Textron-led industry teams, who are preparing their respective A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6 Wolverine and Scorpion Jet aircraft for the OA-X flying experiment. These light attack candidates will be flown in mock combat profiles by government pilots at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, in August.

Textron has invested in four Scorpion aircraft without any confirmed launch customer, including one prototype and three production-confirming models. There are already more than 120 armed versions of the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II trainer turboprop in operation around the globe, although the company has not secured a launch customer for the latest AT-6 Wolverine.

SNC and Embraer produce the latter’s Super Tucano in Jacksonville, Florida, for Afghanistan and Lebanon but need more orders to keep the line going. The design and features of international A-29s are limited by U.S. export regulations, but SNC is now working overtime to install the latest avionics and sensors on one or more aircraft to support the experiment.