This year's Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando was understandably downbeat. Fewer US Air Force officials and their industry counterparts showed up due to the current fiscal climate. But some contractors did show off their hardware. Their efforts paid-off, because while fewer service officials attended, many top USAF officers did make the journey to Florida.
Beechcraft was one contractor that did make an effort to show-off their wares. Together with partner CAE, the company showed-off a sim for its AT-6 Texan II turbo-prop trainer/light attack plane. Beechcraft hopes to sell the Afghan air force 20 of the machines under the Light Air Support tender, which is being administered by the USAF. The service was originally going to announce the winner of the contract today, but that's now been pushed off until the February 27. Beechcraft's AT-6 is facing off against Sierra Nevada/Embraer's A-29 Super Tucano.
This sim, according to CAE's engineers, replicates the cockpit of the AT-6 almost perfectly. Most of the components are direct copies of the real aircraft's systems except that they are not flight rated. The computer flight model is close, but not quite correct, the engineers told me--there is a bit of Dutch roll and adverse yaw that's not present in the real thing. It's actually quite noticeable when "flying" the sim as I saw when I flew it. In the video below, one CAE's engineers was kind enough to fly a quick demo for the DEW Line.
Staying on the topic of sims, BAE Systems also showed-off some of the high fidelity graphics capabilities they expect will be part of their T-X jet trainer pitch. That's of course assuming the USAF can afford to pay for the T-X in this brutal fiscal environment. We'll see.
Moving onto engines, Pratt & Whitney had their top executives present. I sat down with Bennett Croswell to talk about his company's efforts to develop a new variable cycle engine for the Air Force Research Laboratory's Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) program. More on that Monday probably.