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FARNBOROUGH: Scorpion to make show debut

The Textron AirLand Scorpion strike and surveillance aircraft is making its debut Farnborough appearance, having made the transatlantic trip from the USA at the beginning of July.

Sporting a new two-tone grey colour scheme, the aircraft is a clean sheet design, developed to offer a low cost alternative to other strike/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that are in the market. It left Wichita in Kansas on 1 July and touched down in the UK four days later, in order to participate at two UK air shows.

Scorpion landed at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, before a scheduled 2.5h flight to conclude with landing at Farnborough.

First flown in December 2013, the Scorpion has since undergone a flight test campaign to validate its performance. The aircraft is expected to fly some 300h in 2014, and once it returns to the USA it will have flown half of these. It had completed 68 flights and a total of 125h when in landed at RIAT.

Utilisation of sensors has begun, and an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical/infrared payload has been integrated onto the belly of the aircraft.

Once Scorpion returns to the USA, Textron AirLand is due to demonstrate the aircraft to Kansas National Guard using the MX-15, to show the platform's potential to support disaster relief operations. "We will be piping down video," says Dan Hinson, Textron Aviation's chief pilot, government and special mission aircraft.

The activity will be part of a US Northern Command exercise named Vigilant Guard, and once this has been carried out Scorpion could potentially be used by the US National Guard.

Scorpion will have an air-to-air refuelling capability, although this has not yet been tested. During the flight from the USA to the UK the aircraft travelled in bursts of approximately 2h in order to make refuelling stops, and was accompanied by a Cessna Sovereign+ business jet.

Textron AirLand has not yet performed weapons testing. A second aircraft also has not yet been developed, although the company is preparing to develop a sister airframe using feedback from the first development to enhance the performance. Its first prototype is powered by Honeywell TFE731 engines, and has demonstrated a top speed of 455kt (840km/h).

Meanwhile, Textron is using the show to reveal its work on a new air-launched rocket for potential carriage by the Scorpion.

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