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  • COIN Then and Now - LARA vs LAAR
    Posted by Graham Warwick 4:23 PM on Sep 22, 2009

    What difference does 35 years make? Maybe not that much. In late 1963, as the Vietnam War was escalating, a tri-service requirement was issued for the Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LARA). The competition was won by the North American Rockwell NA-300, better known as the OV-10 Bronco. Now Boeing, which acquired Rockwell in 1996, is offering an updated OV-10(X) for the US Air Force's emerging Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) requirement.

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    Credit: Boeing

    Have the requirements changed much over the 35-plus years that separate LARA from LAAR? Could the OV-10 once more be the right aircraft for the right time? Maybe.

    The LARA specification called for a twin-engined, two-crew aircraft that could carry 2,400lb of cargo, six troops or stretchers internally, in addition to a range of internal and external weapons. The aircraft had to take off within 800ft, reach at least 300kt, be launchable from an aircraft carrier and convertible to an amphibious configuration.

    On the surface, that doesn't sound too much like the LAAR specification spelled out in the Air Force's July request for information, which basically outlines the requirement for a tandem-seat advanced-trainer/light-attack aircraft able to operate from a 6,000ft semi-prepared runway, reach 180kt and fly for 5 hours carrying an EO/IR sensor, datalinks and weapons.

    But Boeing sees a virtue in the new-build OV-10(X)'s ability to do much more than the LAAR mission. The Air Force also issued an RFI for the Light Mobility Aircraft (LiMA), a loose specification that could be met by anything from a Cessna Caravan to a used Casa C-212. But the LiMA mission could also be met by the OV-10(X), Boeing says, with its ability to carry 3,200lb of payload - from supplies to stretchers - in its 110 cu-ft cargo bay.

    Add the notional requirements for 100 LAARs and 60 LiMAs together, plus potential interest in a COIN aircraft from other nations, and you could be talking a sizeable program. Boeing acknowledges it has one problem - the OV-10 is not in production - but says it can recreate the line in time to meet the Air Force's plan to start procurement in FY2012. Its intent is to stay as close to the original OV-10D NOGS version as possible, but with new cockpit avionics, mission system and upgraded engines.

    On paper, the OV-10(X) looks like potent competition for the Hawker Beechcraft/Lockheed Martin AT-6 and Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano. It's just a pity we can't dust off some of the original LARA contenders:

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    Convair 48 Charger (1000aircraftphotos.com, Visschedijk collection)

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    Lockheed CL-760 mockup (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

    Tags: ar99, LAAR, OV-10

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