AT-6 Takes Light Attack Back to the Future

Lockheed Martin, Hawker Beechcraft work together to develop a cost-effective surveillance and light attack aircraft

 

file Lockheed Martin and Hawker Beechcraft are marketing the AT-6 as the world’s premiere turboprop surveillance and light attack aircraft to the U.S. and around the world. Photo courtesy Hawker Beechcraft.

What happens when you cross a modern turboprop trainer aircraft reminiscent of a World War II fighter with the latest high tech systems from today’s most advanced fighter jets?

The result is a viable solution to the U.S. Air Force’s and partner nations’ needs for a cost-effective surveillance and light attack aircraft that can support ground troops and other missions. Today, the A-10 provides battlefield surveillance and Close Air Support to friendly troops.  In Afghanistan, however, the U.S. Air Force realized the A-10 was expending valuable flying hours in uncontested airspace operations, so the service came up with an alternative idea.

And Lockheed Martin is helping teammate Hawker-Beechcraft turn that idea into reality.

Working with the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center in Arizona and other industry partners, the team has converted two Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan trainers into AT 6s – sophisticated surveillance aircraft with light attack capability.

For its part, Lockheed Martin MS2 is incorporating the A-10C Thunderbolt II’s precision engagement mission systems into the AT-6. The mission computers, situational awareness data links, helmet-mounted cueing technology and other systems provide the AT-6 with state-of-the-art surveillance and attack capability—essentially making it the A-10’s “little brother”.

Last year, under an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Air National Guard, the first AT-6 testbed participated in the US Air Force's Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 10-3, flown from Nellis AFB, Nevada. The company's avionics testbed aircraft, AT-1, flew nine sorties, several of which were conducted while operating in tandem with A-10s. A T-6 demonstrator made an additional 15 flights in support of the effort.An operational assessment in late September was similarly successful. 

"It's easy to handle," said Major Jesse Smith of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron in an October 14 U.S. Air Force web article.  "They took some of the systems and avionics from the A-10, so that made it easier for me… It's not the answer for everything, but if you look at what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's a good concept that can save money."

Lockheed Martin and Hawker Beechcraft are marketing the AT-6 as the world’s premiere turboprop surveillance and light attack aircraft to the U.S., countries where the U.S. is building partnership capacity and other international air forces. The team is featuring the AT-6 at this week’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando.