The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is thought to have selected the Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine and T-6C Texan II as its next-generation light attack aircraft and trainer, edging out the Pilatus PC-21, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Hürkus B and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KT-1 Wongbee to replace the Pilatus PC-9, and potentially even the Aero L-39ZA/ART.
The news surfaced after presentation slides in the RTAF’s annual symposium showcased its planned purchase and development roadmap, which highlighted 12 T-6 THs and 12 AT-6THs, which were labeled as A-6 TH. The ‘TH’ designation suggests a Thai variant with noticeable modifications. According to Thai reports, the requirements include the integration of the Diehl Defence Iris-T air to air missile, “smart weapons,” the installation of Link-T datalink, and an offset program to have the aircraft manufactured in the Kingdom. If successful, the AT-6 TH would be the first variant to be certified to carry air-to-air missiles.
The T-6 TH program includes airframe and avionics manufacturer Textron Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Thai manufacturer and system integrator Thai Aviation Industry, and RV Connex, with German munitions firm Diehl Defence.
Replacing the current 12 PC-9s is one of the main priorities of the RTAF, budgeted between 2020-2023 for THB5.2 billion ($164.3 million). A separate Light Attack Aircraft program is planned in two phases between 2021-2023 and 2022-2024. The first phase, likely for six aircraft, is worth THB4.5 billion. AIN understands that the RTAF has expressed an interest in a follow-on light attack aircraft that is similar to the trainer they have selected. The AT-6E Wolverine shares 85 percent parts commonality with the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II and would ease pilot transition as well as cost savings in spares between the two platforms.
AIN also understands that the AT-6 can be made available either via U.S. defense export regulations Direct Commercial Sales or Foreign Military Sales. If the deal is signed, Thailand would be the first international customer for the Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine.