The phrase “well-travelled” can be easily used, but in the case of one Paris air show debutant, it is more than apt.
Arriving at Le Bourget after a long-range transfer from Wichita, Kansas via stops in the USA, Canada, Iceland and the UK, the Textron AirLand Scorpion is an aircraft in high demand.
Indeed, the aircraft’s third Atlantic crossing – following a return visit made to the UK last year – comes little over a month after the multi-role design was put through its paces for a potential customer in Latin America.
“We flew six experienced combat pilots, and they were very impressed,” says Textron AirLand president Bill Anderson of the latter visit, which was made to a nation not identified by the company. However, local social media postings indicate that the Scorpion was in Colombia.
For its first showing at Le Bourget, the Scorpion is carrying just some of the array of weapons and sensors offered with the twin-engined type. This includes a twin- payload configuration combining an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical/infrared sensor and Thales iMaster synthetic aperture radar.
“We have delegations visiting,” Anderson confirms, adding: “most everybody likes the aeroplane.”
Once Paris is over, the aircraft will be staying in Europe until it has attended the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK in mid-July. Prior to this, test pilot Dan Hinson will be taking the jet to undisclosed European nations to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities. Anderson confirms that this will also involve performing demonstrations for the UK Royal Navy, for applications ranging from maritime patrol to adversary training.
Sales discussions also are ongoing with several potential buyers. Anderson says three nations are “beyond initial interest”, while one – in the Pacific region – is poised to issue a request for proposals.
Anderson says work on a first production-representative Scorpion will start “in the fall”, with the aircraft to fly early next year. “We could start delivering airplanes in 2016 if we know soon,” he adds.
More than 400 flight hours have now been accumulated with the demonstrator, and Anderson says its high level of availability has impressed everyone. “The good news is it’s hugely reliable,” he says, citing a rate of more than 98%. “This is an airplane that just keeps on flying.”
Weapons testing with the versatile platform are also expected to get under way later this year.