AT-6 Scores Hits with Laser-Guided Bombs

 - October 24, 2011, 8:50 AM
Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 launches weapon during U.S. Air National Guard operational assessment. (Photo: Hawker Beechcraft)

Hawker Beechcraft completed a series of weapons delivery tests from its AT-6 light attack and reconnaissance aircraft, dropping eight laser-guided bombs as part of an ongoing operational assessment by the U.S. Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center.

During two weeks of testing in late September and earlier this month at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona, company pilots dropped four 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II and four 250-pound GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombs as well as practice munitions. All eight weapons scored hits on their intended targets, Hawker Beechcraft said. The AT-6 also performed .50-caliber machine gun testing against a towed target.

A third phase of weapons testing this fall and winter will involve laser-guided rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles; a fourth phase will introduce the Raytheon Griffin and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles. “I can tell you that I don’t think the future of light attack is around weapons such as the GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bomb or a .50-caliber machine gun,” Derek Hess, Hawker Beechcraft director of AT-6 development programs, said during a briefing at the Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md. Instead, the light attack mission will emphasize “precision with low-collateral damage of weapons that are delivered with standoff” distance, he said.

Hawker Beechcraft, teamed with Lockheed Martin for mission systems integration, has offered the upgraded AT-6 derivative of the T-6 turboprop trainer for the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support (LAS) program, which involves 15 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and 20 for the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps. The contract award, originally planned for this summer, now is anticipated in November.

Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, teamed with Sierra Nevada Corporation, of Sparks, Nev., is offering the A-29 Super Tucano for the LAS requirement. The Embraer team contends the larger, purpose-built Super Tucano, with 133 weapons-load configurations and internally mounted .50-caliber machine guns, versus a “training aircraft with hard points,” is the superior choice for what would be a key victory and entre into the U.S. defense market for Embraer’s recently formed defense and security division.


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