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AT-6C under test


USAF test pilots in Arizona are currently evaluating the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6C Texan II.

October 15: Test pilots in Arizona are currently evaluating the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6C Texan II in the light attack role in the US Air Force’s search for an affordable combat aircraft.

Two Texans are being evaluated over the Barry M. Goldwater Range by the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) based at nearby Tucson International Airport. “Right now we are paying a high cost to fly an F-16 in terms of fuel and wear and tear for missions that don’t require the full capabilities of the airplane,” said Lt Colonel Keith Colmer, who leads AATC’s light attack programme. “With fourth generation fighters nearing the end of their service life, a light attack platform could take on these kinds of missions and lighten the load.”

“We took existing technology from the A-10 and F-16 and inserted it in the AT-6,” he said. The attack equipment comprises mission computers, situational awareness data links, radios, helmet-mounted cueing systems, hands-on stick and throttles, threat countermeasures and armament pylons under the wings. “Pilots are coming back after flying it excited about light attack,” continued Colmer. “They’re enjoying the sorties and the aircraft’s capabilities. Almost everyone has a list of things they would like to change, but that’s what we expected. Now we’ll take their input and make it a better aircraft.”

The AATC believes that the AT-6 could be operated for just $600 per hour instead of $15,000 to $17,000 for an A-10 or F-16. It says that the AT-6 is not intended to replace jets, but could undertake a number of roles otherwise done with the larger aircraft.

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