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Textron offers Scorpion and AT-6 for OA-X effort

Textron Aviation is promoting both the Scorpion jet and Beechcraft AT-6 turboprop to the US Air Force for its OA-X light attack demonstration effort.

Speaking on a first quarter earnings call on 19 April, Scott Donnelly, chief executive of parent company Textron, confirmed that it had responded to the service with both models.

"We think both aircraft, whilst they’re different aircraft in terms of the performance envelope, can both fit within the realm of what kinds of capabilities the air force is looking to see demonstrated," he says.

Donnelly anticipates a decision from the service in May on whether one or both aircraft will be invited to participate in a flight-test phase, due to take place in August or September this year at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.

The USAF has no programme of record for a light-attack type, but is keen to see if the capabilities offered could provide a more cost-effective solution against certain targets than expensive fourth- or fifth-generation fighters.

Donnelly says a second production-conforming Scorpion got airborne "earlier this week", adding to an example that first flew in December 2016.

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Textron AirLand

With a third flight-test vehicle currently in final assembly, Donnelly says the expanded fleet could allow it to devote two aircraft to the OA-X campaign and a third to the certification effort.

He says there is already "a fair bit of work" being carried out to prepare the Scorpion's mission systems for OA-X "which is very specific to what we know the air force is going to want to see demonstrated".

The aircraft need to be ready before August, he adds, "because the program will require flight training for some of the air force pilots".

In addition, conversations are continuing with potential export customers, with a series of demonstration flights now being scheduled for "one of the more important" prospects, says Donnelly.

"As you can imagine, the foreign customers are also very interested in this US Air Force programme because they like to see what the US Air Force is doing," he says.

Developed by the Textron AirLand joint venture, the Scorpion is intended as a low-cost ground attack or surveillance platform.

Powered by twin Honeywell TFE731 engines, it has already conducted a number of tests, including a series of weapons firings in October 2016.

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