September 18, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6A Texan began life as a trainer, but has reversed its letters to become the AT-6 bad boy of the ground attack fleet. A successful third round of testing shows that the former student plays well with existing weapons systems including .50-caliber guns, bombs, and rockets. The company hopes its successes on the testing ranges boost chances of winning a U.S. Air Force contract, and continues to attract nations hungry for economical defense systems.
The contract will provide counterinsurgency aircraft for the Afghan air force.
Hawker faces the Embraer Tucano that won the contest before the Air Force examined its paperwork and decided the competition needed to be redone.
The single-engine turboprop completed Phase III of a weapons assessment at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida involving 265 bombs and rockets plus 3,000 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition. It now becomes the first fixed-wing aircraft to launch the GATR, TALON, and APKWS 2.75-inch laser guided rockets, a company statement said. It achieved a direct hit with the AGM-114 Hellfire II P+ air-to-surface missile, the statement said.
Embraer officials have countered in the past that their Tucano single-engine turboprop attack aircraft is in production and deployed on the battlefield.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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