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PARIS: Longsword light attack and surveilance aircraft makes its debut

The L-3/Air Tractor Longsword light attack/surveillance aircraft has made its public debut at the show, adorned with an array of weapons that could potentially be integrated on to the type.

Standing on the L-3 static next to the company’s Spydr II special mission aircraft, the modified AT-802L trades out the fertiliser/water capacity of the commercial variant to carry a Wescam MX-15 electro-optical/infrared sensor pod and a number of armaments under each wing and on the belly.

Four examples were delivered in a solely intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) configuration to an undisclosed launch customer in 2016, and the company is now seeking the next customer for the Longsword.

A sale of 12 examples to Kenya has been authorised by the US State Department, but negotiations remain at a government-to-government level, and

James Wise, business development manager for platforms integration at L-3 Technologies, tells Flight Daily News that a letter of agreement is still pending.

Wise notes that export is the primary market for the type, and the first delivery to a customer could be made within 18 months of a contract signing.

“We’re not targeting the NATO customers,” Wise says. “It’s a very simple airplane with some very sophisticated features.”

Longsword has a maximum take-off weight of 7,257kg (16,000lb), of which 6,300lb is payload, and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT657 engine that is also used on the Embraer Super Tucano. It has a wet wing and can fly for some 10h in an ISR configuration.

Meanwhile, the Spydr II – a modified version of the King Air 350-derived Spydr that was deployed by the US Air Force in Afghanistan – is still awaiting a launch customer.

L-3 has delivered 60 King Air-modified special mission aircraft to US and international forces – including 37 to the USAF under its Project Liberty, and a number to the US Army under its Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System programme – and introduced the second variant, with a roll on/roll off sensor capability, at the Farnborough air show in 2016.

The company says a US customer is the initial target market for the rapid-change payload version, although there are no official requirements at present.

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