Scorpion Jet Makes International Debut

** Scorpion**

Textron AirLand's new military jet prototype, the twin-engine Scorpion, is breezing through the development phase and is now ready to make its international debut. With more than 105 hours of flight-testing on its prototype, the Wichita, Kansas-based company plans to send the Scorpion on its way on a multi-day, 4,700-nm flight from Wichita to RAF Fairford-Gloucestershire today. The prototype will be shown off to potential customers attending the Farnborough International Airshow and The Royal International Air Tattoo, both set to take place in the United Kingdom in the middle of this month.

Textron AirLand president Bill Anderson said the airplane is flying "extremely well," has exhibited great reliability and has exceeded the targeted 450-knot top speed, showing speeds as fast as 455 knots TAS. He is confident that the light jet can make it across the Atlantic; however, to minimize the exposure to overwater legs, the Scorpion's flight path will proceed over Greenland and Iceland.

The Scorpion is designed with a variety of missions in mind, such as maritime patrol; close air support; border security; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)/strike missions and bombing missions, with attach points for air-to-air missiles, guns and bombs. The basic design provides protection from small arms fire, but Anderson said there is plenty of space in the cockpit for additional armor, should a customer feel the need.

Textron AirLand was confident enough in its idea that it launched the program without a customer. With a price tag of $20 million and an operating cost below $3,000 per hour (numbers that may seem high to piston pilots but are a fraction of the cost of an F-16 or F-18), as well as good performance numbers and versatility, Anderson said the program has seen a lot of interest both domestically and internationally. While no contracts have been signed, there are several customers that have gone past initial discussions. "We have changed from talking about if we get an order to when we get an order," Anderson said.

Details of the location of a potential production facility will be nailed down once a contract is in hand, Anderson said. But with the incorporation of Beechcraft and its facilities into the Textron family, there should be plenty of real estate to work with.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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