Light attack AT-6 is ready for action
Hawker Beechcraft’s first AT-6 PRTV (production-representative test vehicle) has taken time out from its busy test schedule to make its international debut here at Farnborough. It arrives having completed an impressive demonstration of its light attack and armed reconnaissance capabilities during a two-week U.S. joint forces exercise.
The AT-6 has been developed from the T-6A/B/C Texan II for the close support and irregular warfare mission, with an eye on the U.S. light attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft (LAAR) requirement and exports. Lockheed Martin has integrated the mission system based on that installed in the A-10C upgrade. Key elements are L-3 Wescam targeting pod, hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls and advanced datalinks that can support video and other data transmission to the ground. Esterline CMC Electronics provides its integrated Cockpit 4000 avionics and navigation suite for the AT-6, as well as for the T-6B.
Hawker Beechcraft has flown two PRTVs, the first being fitted with the mission system. It has made more than 100 flights since first flying in July 2009 and has spent more than 200 hours in the air. In April it was deployed along with a T-6C to Nellis AFB, Nevada, sponsored by the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, to participate in the Joint Expeditionary Forces Experiment.
During the course of this exercise the two aircraft flew 24 times, posting 100 percent reliability rates and demonstrating key capabilities in a range of irregular warfare scenarios. Among them were digital close air support, interoperability with existing equipment, long-endurance, rough-field operations, rapid re-arming and dry refueling with Special Operations Command MC-130 tankers. During the two weeks the aircraft burned just 15,640 pounds of fuel; Hawker Beechcraft pointed out that an F-16 burns 16,500 pounds in a single three-hour on-station assignment.
After its return from Farnborough, the first PRTV is also to receive the uprated Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68D engine, and be integrated with the Gentex Scorpion helmet-mounted cueing system. The second PRTV initially flew without a mission system, but did feature the 1,600-shp PT6A-68D and optimized Hartzell propeller from the start. It now has more than 50 hours flying time, and is to be fitted later this month with aerodynamic fairings representative of the defensive aids suite. These aids will then be tested on the No. 1 aircraft, at which point it will become representative of anticipated U.S. Air Force LAAR requirements. In the meantime, the second aircraft will receive mission avionics and equipment appropriate to Foreign Military Sales.