Textron’s Scorpion twinjet, designed as a low-cost combat aircraft and revealed in 2013, is still seeking to lock on to an actual customer, though the company hopes that will change after the U.S. Air Force finishes certification of the jet. The Scorpion recently completed its first weapons firing tests in New Mexico.
Textron subsidiary Textron AirLand began pitching the $20 million jet (which costs about $3,000 per hour to operate) in 2013 as a lower-cost platform for intelligence and surveillance, but has yet to find a taker. The Scorpion has toured extensively to aviation and defense shows, but firm orders have not materialized. The company signed a cooperative agreement with the Air Force this year, under which the Air Force will assess the jet and certify it as airworthy (but not buy any, at least for now), a move that the company hopes will help increase the jet’s appeal.
The Scorpion is part of Textron’s wider effort to sell aircraft, including general aviation stalwarts like the Cessna Caravan and Beechcraft King Air, for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and light-attack missions around the world. The company has had some success selling Cessna Caravans fitted with weapons for light attack and counter-terrorism missions, recently landing a $24 million Air Force contract that builds on previous deals to deploy armed Caravans in the Middle East and Africa.
Textron AirLand announced the successful first weapons firing test Oct. 19, about a week after the Scorpion demonstrated its ability to fire rockets and guided missiles at White Sands Missile Range. The prototype Scorpion “performed flawlessly,” the company reported.
“The success of the first weapons capability exercise is a major milestone for the Scorpion program as we continue to demonstrate its mission flexibility and multi-role capabilities,” said Tom Hammoor, senior vice president of defense at Textron Aviation, in a news release. “We could not be more pleased with the results of this exercise, thanks to the collaboration between our Scorpion team, the (Naval Seas Systems Command) organization and the Holloman Air Force Base.”
Textron plans to complete the first production conforming Scorpion soon.