Hawker Beechcraft proposes F-35 cannon for AT-6

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Hawker Beechcraft has revealed new details about its plans for the AT-6 light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) fighter, including the possibility of integrating a 25mm cannon.

A derivative of the General Dynamics GAU-12 Equalizer, a five-barrel cannon developed for the Lockheed Martin F-35, is among the weapons in consideration for the turboprop-powered aircraft, says Derek Hess, Hawker Beechcraft's director of AT-6 development programmes.

A French 20mm gun is another option under review to either replace or augment the .50cal gun pod that is integrated on the twin-seat fighter, Hess says.

Integrating either cannon is an indication of an ongoing debate about how such an aircraft could be operated in service by the US Air Force, which plans to award a contract next year for a LAAR fleet.

 
© Jamie Hunter/Aviacom

Hawker Beechcraft is teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the AT-6 to the USAF for the LAAR programme. Embraer is expected to also challenge with its EMB-314 Super Tucano.

While the AT-6 is equipped with wing-mounted .50cal gun pods, the Super Tucano has integrated .50cal guns stored in the wings.

Hawker Beechcraft considers the pod-mounted option as an advantage should the USAF decide to upgrade the LAAR's armament, as pods can be easily replaced.

However, if the LAAR aircraft is employed in close air support situations, it is not clear whether the .50cal gun will be adequate. The USAF operates the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger, a seven-barrel Gatling gun, on its Fairchild A-10 fleet.

The core role of the LAAR fleet is expected to be counter-insurgency, a mission also at odds with the short-range and relatively imprecise machine gun. For this mission, the AT-6 would employ a new class of precision-guided, small munitions that are lethal at long ranges, Hess says.