Definitely sounds about right to me. However, I think the light attack mission really calls for three seperate aircraft concepts. The first is clearly an A-29 (or similar aircraft) for all the reason mentioned, particularly for prolonged counter insurgencies, and other lower threat and longer term deployments specificially where we can “gift” the aircraft to foreign friendly governments (most likely the pupets that we installed) after we’ve stayed as long as political expediency allows. The idea being they are cheap enough both to give away (they cost a tiny fraction of what a modern fighter costs) and they are cheap enough for poor foreign government to actually maintain with a reasonable amount of mission readiness. And finally if the gov’t falls after we leave they don’t pose any real national security risk the way gifting advanced fourth gen or dare I say fifth gen aircraft might. See Iranian F-14’s.
The second class of light attack aircraft is really armed modern trainers. I would consider these more 2nd or 3rd week of war weapons where, the threat isn’t exactly exterminated but the integrated air defense system has been degraded… where you would proabbly require a higher level of performance than an A-29 (or an a-10 for that matter)… where mobile Sams are still active… The performance would mirror what a viper might conduct today. The reason this option is appealing is that it doesn’t require additional aircraft to be purchased (merely repurposed) and it doesn’t require the standing up of additional squadrons or maintainence crews… As the aircraft are already in inventory with maintainers and every pilot in the airforce would already have significant air time on the airframe meaning. Effectively after air defenses are degraded sufficiently the majority of a squadron can fly their F-35’s home and return in AT/X’s and thereby saving the wings of our top tier 5th gen aircraft with similar weapons capability though significantly less high end capability.
Finally, the Marines really need a light attack aircraft that can operate from their existing fleet of LHA… mainly to escort V-22 on longer range insertion missions. I’m skeptical of the concept of unmanned VSTOL drones being able to actual conduct this mission (though they are certainly well suited for other mission)… I would argue that the FVL program (at least the armed variant) offers the most promise of those options currently considered… but I’m still highly skeptical of the cost benefit of an immensley expensive tilt-rotor loitering over hostile enviornments.. and I’m equally skeptical that a fast flying F-35B can really conduct this escort mission with any degree of practicality given the fact that it most likely would be required to perform other mission for the ARG given its tremendous utility and capability and the somewhat limited numbers it is likely to be deployed in.
I believe the best option is proably to figure out a way to navalize, launch and recover A-29’s from an LHA. A-29’s pretty closely mimic the size and performance of World War II class aircraft and they managed the feet back in the 1940’s with ships that weren’t any bigger. They also have the approprate range and speed to escort Ospreys and loiter for long enough to actually perform CAS for a meaningful period of time with a meaningful payload. I’m not an engineer and I don’t know the complexity involved in adding some sort of limited (detachable) arresting capble to an LHA, but it is probably cheaper in the longrun than buying armed tiltrotors or flying the wings off of F-35B’s conducting this vital but limited mission. Having some limited arresting capability would also clearly be beneficial in having drones which the marines would clearly benefit from. The advantage of drones is that they are practically disposable and you can put them in dangerous places where you wouldn’t put live pilots, but if the cost groes all out of proportion (there is no way that a vstol tilt rotor drone wouldn’t be preposterously expensive compared to a navalized reaper or predator drone) the value proposition is completely disrupted to the point where it’s hard to imagine how on earth it would be worth it.