Textron’s Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine has achieved Military Type Certification (MCT) from the U.S. Air Force, a certification benchmark that will enable continued international sales of the light attack turboprop, according to the manufacturer.
The two-seater, purpose-built, armed-reconnaissance variant of the T-6 Texan II trainer is designed and built by Textron Aviation Defense (NYSE: TXT) in Wichita, Kansas, and is currently being evaluated by the Air Force for its utility in permissive environments.
“Achieving Military Type Certification for the AT-6E is the culmination of a multi-year process and a significant accomplishment for our team, opening the door for allies around the world to welcome the AT-6 into their fleets,” Thomas Hammoor, president and CEO of Textron Aviation Defense LLC, said following the certification announcement July 25.
In 2017, the Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment (OA-X) program began assessing the utility of “off-the-shelf” aircraft options as a force multiplier for the service’s existing fleet for use in missions not deemed efficient for the deployment of more operationally expensive aircraft, such as fighter jets.
“Per-hour operating costs for light attack aircraft are typically about 2 [percent] to- 4 [percent] those of advanced fighters,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
The experiment’s first phase assessed the utility of the AT-6B, as well as the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29, Air Tractor/L3 OA-802 turboprops, and the Textron Scorpion jet. A subsequent phase of the experiment narrowed down aircraft to the AT-6 and the A-29. In 2019, the Air Force opted to buy a small number of both aircraft.
In 2020, Textron delivered two AT-6 aircraft to the Air Force. The aircraft are now based at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, for testing and development of operational tactics.
Last November, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) became the international launch customer for the aircraft when it purchased eight AT-6TH Wolverine variants for the 41st Wing light attack operations at Chiang Mai Air Base.
The aircraft are set to be delivered in 2024, according to Textron.
RTAF intends to deploy the aircraft “to conduct a broad array of missions in support of its border security and its anti-smuggling, counter-narcotics, and anti-human trafficking operations,” Hammoor said at the time.
The $143 million AT-6TH contract, which includes ground support equipment, spare parts, and training, is part of a larger push to modernize Thailand’s military.
In October 2020, RTAF awarded a $162 million contract for a dozen T-6TH Texan II training aircraft. The trainers are expected to arrive at the Royal Thai Air Force Flying Training School by early 2023.