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