Textron Aviation Defense’s Beechcraft division in Wichita has handed over the 1,000th example of the T-6 Texan II, the company announced on October 12. The achievement followed soon after global fleet had surpassed the five million flight-hour milestone. The 1,000th aircraft is a T-6C, one of five for the Colombian air force’s Escuadrón de Combate 116 at Palanquero.
“It’s an honor to celebrate the 1,000th delivery of a truly legendary aircraft,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO of Textron Aviation. “The world’s most advanced global air forces and pilots trust us to deliver a great aircraft that enables them to make the world a better, more secure place. Our world-class workforce goes above and beyond to design, manufacture, deliver and support the world’s premier military flight trainer. It is an honor that partner nations continue to put their confidence in the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II as the gold standard in training capabilities.”
With the internal designation of Model 3000, the T-6 is an Americanized version of the Pilatus PC-9. Beechcraft—at the time owned by Raytheon—modified the aircraft as the PC-9 Mk II to meet the requirements for the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System competition. It was declared the winner in 1995, leading to a large-scale purchase to replace the Cessna T-37s of the U.S. Air Force and the Beech T-34C Turbo-Mentors of the U.S. Navy. The first example of the T-6A Texan II took to the skies on July 15, 1998, and the aircraft entered service with the U.S. Air Force in late 2000.
Beechcraft has produced five trainer versions. The initial T-6A was followed by the T-6B for the Navy with a digital “glass” cockpit, which was further enhanced as the T-6C, primarily for export. A small number of the T-6D—a hybrid of the T-6B and C—was procured by the U.S. Army. The CT-156 Harvard II is a version similar to the T-6A for the NATO Flying Training in Canada. A number of armed versions have also been produced, including the T-6A NTA for Greece, AT-6B demonstrator and the T-6C+, which is the current armed export version. The AT-6E Wolverine derivative is a more sophisticated dedicated light attack/armed ISR version, which has been sold to Thailand alongside T-6Cs as the AT-6TH, and to the U.S. Air Force for trials.
In addition to the above-mentioned forces, the T/AT-6 has been bought by Argentina, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Tunisia, and the UK, for a total of 13 countries. In June 2021 it was announced that Vietnam was looking at acquiring the type to improve its pilot training program.