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On 16 March Textron Aviation Defense announced finalisation of a $70.2 million (€62.9 million) Other Transaction Authority agreement with the USAF Life Cycle Management Center for two Beechcraft AT-6 WOLVERINE aircraft, pilot training, engineering services and up to four years of contractor support for maintenance and spares. The work includes activities in support of military type certification.

The AT-6 is a vital element of the National Defense Strategy to build ally and partner capacity, capability and interoperability — and does so at a fraction of the cost of other combat aircraft. We’re eager to deliver the aircraft to the Air Force in support of Air Combat Command’s (ACC) development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” commented Brett Pierson, Vice President of Defense Strategy and Sales.

This acquisition enables the USAF to leverage a commercial off-the-shelf, non-developmental integrated weapons system to equip a multi-national coalition with a common system that meets a wide array of training and operational requirements. An affordable solution, the AT-6 cost per flying hour is less than $1,000 and its small maintenance footprint — as demonstrated during both phases of the Light Attack experiment — underscores the aircraft’s cost-effectiveness, deployability and sustainability.

Our focus is on how a light attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David L Goldfein in a statement published on the issuance of the request for proposal. “Continuing this experiment, using the authorities Congress has provided, gives us the opportunity to put a small number of aircraft through the paces and work with partner nations on ways in which smaller, affordable aircraft like these can support their air forces.”

ACC will experiment with the AT-6 to further examine the ways in which a common architecture and intelligence-sharing network will connect platforms, sensors and weapons and deliver a digital network for light attack aircraft.

The US Air Force and Navy flew the AT-6 during the Light Attack experiment, putting its combat-proven A-10 mission computer, Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor, Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network (AERONet) and other capabilities to work, employing a substantial amount of ordnance, demonstrating aircrew re-fueling and re-arming at the Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) and conducting other activities in support of experiment objectives. The AT-6 met all of the experiment’s standards and proved itself as a high performance, austere field-capable aircraft that delivers unparalleled mission capability, deployability and sustainability,” Pierson added.

The USAF will continue to evaluate the AT-6 WOLVERINE as a candidate for supporting US allies and partners who were earlier targets for support in the Light Attack aircraft programme. (Photo: Textron Aviation)

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