[Editor’s note: this report provides an update from the content posted at https://www.monch.com/ mpg/news/special-forces/5469-sofic-at-802u-s-back.html].
Delegates to this conference will see Air Tractor’s AT-802U strike/ISR turboprop airplane on static display at booth #96. The aircraft’s loadout includes an RF emitter targeting system and precision-guided 2.75in rockets, a Raytheon MTS-A Multi-Spectral Targeting System (electro-optical/ infrared - EO/IR) – laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities integrated in a single sensor package, Dillon Aero .50 cal. gun pod, FN Herstal .50 cal. gun pod, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control AGM-114 HELLFIRE missile, 2.75in precision rockets and GBU-12s. Asked about preferred suppliers for the AT-802U, Tom Menker, Air Tractor spokesperson, responded: “While we do have a recommended entry point, we rely on customer input for their preferred configuration.”
As SOFIC convened, AT-802Us are flown by the air forces of Jordan, Egypt and UAE.
Air Tractor’s presence at 2019 SOFIC is further well-timed, given the recent, unofficial discussions that indicate US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) may become the lead organisation for the next round of the “Light Attack Experiment.” While Air Combat Command (ACC) has heretofore led this early Air Force acquisition effort, “this may lead to a significant shift in terms of objectives and type of aircraft they'd like to observe and how they'd use it. ACC's objectives were focused upon fighter pilot training and absorption,” Mr Menker observed and added: “Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), we assume, would likely shift their objectives to foreign internal defence and combat operations in austere locations that lack significant airfield infrastructure; the same places terror groups are thriving today. The AT-802U is much more relevant to these types of objectives. Our allies can afford it, operate it, and maintain it. Also, AFSOC can configure it with modern sensors and munitions to fix, track, and defeat terrorists in places that had been safe havens.”
The veteran community spokesperson built the business case for acquiring AT-820U, offering: “The AT-802U's endurance and payload are unmatched. Its low cost per flying hour, and straightforward maintenance practices match partner nation capacity. Add to that, the aircraft is designed to operate in austere locations every day, not by exception.”
Asked about the business development and sales strategies for AT-802Us, Mr Menker, replied: “Air Tractor remains focused on nations that are involved alongside the US in counterterrorism operations. Many of these nations would benefit greatly from employing airpower against terror threats, but most cannot afford cost prohibitive solutions used by the US military. The AT-802U is a cost-effective resource that would allow these nations exclusive use of the air domain to the detriment of terrorists. The AT-802U represents a concept that allows nations to address their security needs effectively and affordably.”