PHOTOS: New gunship flies to Paris Air Show debut


The Air Tractor AT-802U is now en route from Olney, Texas, to Le Bourget, France, to be unveiled at the Paris Air Show, said Lee Jackson, design engineer.

Featuring an armoured fuselage, a 10hr loiter time and the ability to haul more than 8,000lb of payload, unarmed AT-802Us have been operated by the US State Department in South America since 2002 eradicating drug crops, Jackson said.


Air Tractor is now offering the weaponized AT-802U Air Truck to the US Air Force and other militaries to serve as a a trainer/light attack fighter. After its international debut in Paris, the PT6A-67F-powered turboprop will return to Olney for a series of wepaons and sensor integration trials, he said.

The AT-802U must overcome its stigma as an old-fashioned tail-dragger, but Jackson sees its lack of a tricycle landing gear as an advatange in the irregular warfare role. For lighly trained pilots forced to make hard landings on remote strips, the two main gears offer a great advantage, he said.

The aircraft may find its true niche in an operational setting like Afghanistan, he said. It’s an interesting idea. The Afghans need a sturdy trainer and attack fighter. The ability to spray the Taliban’s poppy fields might also come in handy.

Photos and promotional materials courtesy of Air Tractor


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.


25 Responses to PHOTOS: New gunship flies to Paris Air Show debut

  1. Prometheus 6 June, 2009 at 1:38 am #

    What you see Ladies & gentles is the Future!

    We dont need all these expensive F-22A & JSFs, cut them & chancel them! Just gets as an unmanned variante of that and we are are good to go for the next 35 years!

  2. Puppethead 6 June, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    I’d like to see it with some IR shrouding for those exhausts, and while I understand the requirement for armour, that’s not exactly a clear-view canopy. Otherwise, looks like the Spad might be back. SOCOM interested?

  3. Royce 6 June, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    The chance of the USAF wanting its pilots flying low over the battlefield in a 110-140 kt airplane is small.

  4. airplanejim 6 June, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    “The chance of the USAF wanting its pilots flying low over the battlefield in a 110-140 kt airplane is small.”

    Humm! Any A-10 or Skyrader drivers want to comment on that observation?

  5. Royce 8 June, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    Hey, if there are A-10 pilots who want to transition ouf of their purpose designed ground attack aircraft and into a modified crop duster before flying low and slow over a battlefield, it would be great to get their input.

  6. lakotahope 8 June, 2009 at 2:19 am #

    The Airforce wouldn’t want their pilots to be down low knocking nests out of trees, but the Marine and Army pilots might give it a go…

  7. Danjo Dycle 8 June, 2009 at 3:56 am #

    Those two 3-barrel GAU-19 50-caliber miniguns on this aircraft?
    What a joke.
    From that platform, those rounds would be all over the place, rather than into the target.
    It would be better armed with single-barrel M3Ps (1000rpm, tighter shot group because of less mount vibration) instead of minguns (2000rpm, a lot of vibration and rounds scatter).
    Or better yet, for the combined recoil of the 50-cal miniguns, it’d be further to mount a pair of single, slow-firing (200 or 400rpm), podded 25mm Chain Guns with exploding shells.

    The 7-round rocket pods on such an aircraft are pointless: too imprecise for all the more are carried (Rambo movies are just Hollywood B.S. special effects).
    Unless you go the route of those new guided 70mm rockets,…but who’s got the designator for them?
    This isn’t a two-seater with one of those compact FLIR/camera/designator turrets under it.

    Pointless also the two “dumb” bombs underneath.
    If they’re 500pound class, might as well use JDAMs or Paveway LGBs (LGB needs laser designsator…).
    If less (200-400pounds), might as well use SDBs.
    Precision weapons is where it’s at now: dumb ordnance is pointless if you aren’t hitting what you aim at, and this thing is shown carrying too few of anything worthwhile.

    Is it even remotely any faster than VTOL-capable helicopter gunships?
    180mph according to Wiki entry:

    Too slow, too vulnerable even to 30-cal MG fire.
    Someone lucky with a 5.45 or 5.56mm might even hurt it.
    A lot of fuel with minimal armor protecting it means even incendiary small arms fire and tracers could light this thing up so easily.

    The COIN market isn’t so far proving as lucrative a niche market as some people had hoped.

    Nothing more to see here than a nice photo op for Air Tractor.

    Why would I buy this when an unmanned UAV means I don’t have to risk living pilots being shot down and captured, or even killed?

  8. Havok 8 June, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Thats a crop duster….this looks like a bogus article.

  9. Stephen Trimble 8 June, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Ha. You over-estimate my free time. This is legit. Honest.

  10. Phillip 9 June, 2009 at 1:42 am #

    “Too slow, too vulnerable even to 30-cal MG fire.”

    Yeah, that must be why “unarmed AT-802Us have been operated by the US State Department in South America since 2002 eradicating drug crops”. It is of my understanding that the AT-802U will be even better armored.

    The plane is just a prototype right now, there is no real armament on the plane. Those aren’t dumb bombs, they’re DUMMY bombs, it’s just a prototype. The GAU-19s aren’t real either, so there isn’t a point in complaining about the armament.

    Also, if you read the PDF:
    “The AT-802U is also configurable to carry more advanced equipment including the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II, DAGR laser-guided rockets, and Sniper
    XR surviellence and targeting pod systems.”

    It’s not targeted for the US Air Force.. think smaller.

  11. Matthew 10 June, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    Some seem to be mixing apples and oranges in their comments here. This Air Tractor is not an alternative to an A-10–there’s probably an order of magitude price difference there, if A-10s were still in production, which they’re not. It’s an alternative to converted trainers which have good low-speed handling but are vulnerable to ground fire, or too-fragile (and more expensive) helicopters. With the many smart, light weapons being developed for UAVs, a plane like the Air Tractor could be very effective in combat and in price.

  12. W Sanders 15 June, 2009 at 8:42 pm #

    Now every drug lord can afford their own air force! Not just the elite ones that can already afford Eastern Bloc surplus.

    Hopefully they’re just as easy to shoot down as they are to fly.

  13. shayhurs 16 June, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    Why does the song “Cows with Guns” come to mind….

  14. Greg 30 June, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    I seem to remember that prop driven coin aircraft did very well in Laos in a previous conflict.

    10 hour loiter may be useful for post strike mopping up duties

  15. Jack E. Hammond 9 July, 2009 at 9:18 am #


    Actually to be effective at a low cost Air Tractor needs to find or develop a method of attacking targets the same way it dust crops. The Germans and British both learned during WW1 with their trench attack planes that if they stayed low, it was hard for machine guns to target them. The British even developed basket like carriers for trench attacking that held standard grenades that were held in place by special wooden rings that broke on hitting the ground (ie the fuzes were set to one second instead of five). They were never used as the war ended. One method might be to mount a 40mm grenade launcher aimed at a 30 degree angle forward. Another might be where the two 500 lb bombs are two pods with grenades that are ejected when the pilot flies over the target. With practice they could get good at it. With the Fletcher FL-25 the designer found with napalm to release when the target went under his aircraft’s nose. The Rhodesians even developed a special bomb that bounced and exploded after hitting the ground and even containers that dropped heavy industrial ball bearings on ambush positions.

    As to the 70mm rockets. They are a lot more accurate than the Vietnam War days. And for some reason the fast movers had problems with accuracy, but the Huey gunship pilots did not. We may find that the Air Truck has a far better accuracy than today’s fast movers (one solution would be the Oerlikon 80mm sliding fin rocket or the Canadian developed highly accurate 70mm rocket).

    Either way the armed Air Truck can fill a nitch and relieve the burden the far more expensive and complex attack helicopter like the Apache does. For example perimeter patrol around air bases and truck convoy escort from a distant and radio relay.

    Finally, if anyone is familiar with Operation Anaconda in 2002. Imagine six armed AIR TRUCKs forward based at a primitive air strip on call. One of the gripes about the Apache during that battle was the time lag and loitering ability and with the jets some battles were just to close.

    Jack E. Hammond


  16. basic woodworking joints 8 February, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    In case you are searching that will enhance in your woodworking abilities, you may desire to discover a little woodworking classes inside your region. Even should you can’t have got whatever ability in order to begin by means of you can find a few courses you may find out all a person have to have to know regarding the paintings for woodworking. That courses which can be obtainable may teach you certain great facts in relation to making use of what different types for resources which can be utilized doing woodworking.

  17. Bootlegger 18 February, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Mr Sanders, how much time do you have in an 802 ? Uh uh, that is what I thought. They are not easy to fly and they are not easy to shoot down.

  18. 60 Driver 21 March, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    I was a UH-60 driver from 2001-2009 and have spent 2 tours in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan. The speeds that the AT-802 operate at are similar to helicopter airspeeds. The GAU-19 and 70mm rockets are not new technology as they are currently both fielded by the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and AH-64D Apache (Apache does not use GAU-19, but uses 70mm FFAR’s extensively) From both my own observations and those of my friends who fly them, there is no problem whatsoever in accurately engaging targets with these systems. That’s their daily bread-and-butter and they’re very good at what they do.

    The problem with smart weapons is that they need a heavy and complicated avionics suite to manage them. For those of you familiar with the A-10, they are not able to carry JDAM’s for this reason. It will not be until the modernized C model that they will have the avionics capability for them. Additionally, this is the reason that AH-64′s rarely carry AGM-114 Hellfires in Afghanistan. The weight penalty is too high for an already power-limited aircraft. The other problem with larger smart weapons is blast radius. “Danger close” for a JDAM is 2000 meters. That means everyone within a 1.2 mile radius of a JDAM detonation is at risk of being killed. I can rarely recall a situation in Afghanistan where that was acceptable. (It did happen, but not often.) More often, what we needed from CAS elements was precise fire in proximity to friendly troops and civilians. That was why we preferred rotary-wing support to that of A-10′s or worse: F-16′s. The only drawback was the short loiter time of an attack helicopter.

    The AT-802 would be a perfect fit for counter-insurgency work but I agree that it would be a Soldier or Marine who would most likely fly it. My prediction is that this system will not be fielded by the US military, but will find a robust market in the same developing nations that operate armed versions of the T-6 Texan and similar aircraft (Iraq, Greece, everyone in Africa, etc.) If we bought the AT-802, it would need a couple of years to test it and hang a bunch of useless crap off of it. The other problem is the fact that the A-10 has been so successful in the Middle East has been a minor embarrassment to proponents of the F-35 program. When it was determined that the F-35 was not as great of a ground attack aircraft as they promised it would be, they decided (again) not to retire the A-10. The whole doctrine involving the need for VTOL fighters died with the Cold War. If we bought this plane, I imagine a lot of congressmen would wonder why we even need an F-35 if we have an F-22, an A-10C and a fleet of cheap, low-maintenance Air Tractors that ground troops love.

  19. WriterLove 26 April, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    I really love movies I weren’t able to really live without…

  20. PassionWritimg 26 April, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I truly love movies I could not really live without…

  21. buy viagra 4 May, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    i thought so but i will and see if others think the same

  22. Spencer Seiz 24 July, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Electronics are the greatest things in the world. Be sure to patent any product idea or invention you come up with. So that noone copies any of your ideas.

  23. traktori 27 October, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    This Air Tractor is not an alternative to an A-10–there’s probably an order of magitude price difference there, if A-10s were still in production, which they’re not. It’s an alternative to converted trainers which have good low-speed handling but are vulnerable to ground fire, or too-fragile (and more expensive) helicopters.

  24. rotate proxy 12 November, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    TY for the helpful info! I wouldn’t have discovered this on my own!

  25. MC 21 November, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    I heard this plane had a crash landing during a demo at FT. Hunter Liggett in California???

Leave a Reply