Paris Air Show

Armed agplane ready for ISR duty

 - June 15, 2009, 7:32 AM

Making its debut at Paris this year is the Air Truck AT-802U, an armed utility version of the popular Air Tractor AT-802. The AT-802 and its predecessors are widely used for agricultural duties, and are also employed by the U.S. State Department for drug eradication duties in Latin America. Now, Air Tractor Inc. has transformed its agplane into a counterinsurgency attacker and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) platform for use in asymmetric warfare scenarios.

Current operations have revealed a need for a flexible armed ISR asset that can loiter for hours in direct support of ground forces, preferably with low operating costs. Having such a platform overhead provides an instant intervention capability against pop-up threats, as well as giving ground forces a significant on-station command and control capability.

From its agplane origins, the AT-802U inherits a crashworthy airframe that is fully capable of operations from minimally prepared strips, with an engine equipped to handle high-dust environments. The 1,600-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F allows the AT-802U to haul up to 8,000 pounds of fuel and stores.

For ISR missions, the Air Truck can loiter for hours over an area of operations. Perched high on the fuselage, the pilot has a commanding view around the aircraft to augment the capabilities of the sensor system.

Endurance can extend beyond 10 hours. The forward payload space can be configured for a fuel tank, and drop tanks can be carried underwing. The AT-802U has a Wulfsberg Flexcomm tactical modular FM/AM comms system that allows the pilot to talk securely with virtually all ground-based radios. The infrared turret system is compatible with the ROVER downlink, allowing video imagery to be streamed in real time to a ground-based joint terminal attack controller. An AAR-47/ALE-47 countermeasures suite is installed.

For counterinsurgency and armed ISR missions, the AT-802U can carry a variety of weapons, including M260 rocket launchers, GAU-19/A three-barreled 12.7-mm Gatling guns and Mk 82 500-pound bombs. Precision-guided weapons such as Hellfire II and DAGR laser-guided rockets could also be carried, with targeting and surveillance provided by pods such as Lockheed Martin’s Sniper XR.