Textron Joins Light Attack With a Jet

RSS
It's been a while since a company unveiled a self-funded, purpose-built aircraft at a defense show. Funding in the Pentagon is tight, and new defense programs are scarce. 

Some companies are taking a risk-averse strategy on spending IRAD to focus on mods and upgrades rather than an entirely new project. 

Textron, however, has teamed with a small company called AirLand, for a joint venture to fly by year-end an entirely new light-attack aircraft called Scorpion. See Av Week's sneak peak at the aircraft, which is being rolled out at a press conference at noon today at the annual Air Force Assn. conference Sept. 16. 

Scorpion is a twin-engine aircraft designed to carry 3,000 lb. of payload -- weapons or ISR collecting equipment -- in an internal bay. It also has six hard points.

Textron's timing with Scorpion could be brilliant or a flop. With a plan to achieve a $3,000 per hour operating cost, the company is trying to carve out a new low in the USAF's "high-low" combat aircraft mix with an option far below the procurement and operating cost of the F-35. A decade ago, the service envisioned the mix to consist of the twin-engine F-22 at the high end with F-35 being bought in numbers at the low end. But, the all-stealth plan is proving to be more costly than the service can afford. The F-35 operating cost is estimated to be nearly $25,000 as of this spring. 

Textron's CEO Scott Donnelly says that despite the risk -- and lack of an actual requirement from the U.S. Air Force -- he's confident there is a place for Scorpion in the USAF fleet or, potentially, the fleets of foreign allies. 

"There is a market space right now," he tells Av Week. "One of the challenges we have today in the Defense Department is we see budgets coming down [and] that is exactly why this is the right time to do this.”    

The company is targeting nations that need a fast mover -- faster than the Super Tucano or AT-6 -- for CAS and air sovereignty missions. For USAF, Donnelly and AirLand investor former USAF secretary F. Whitten Peters suggest a Scorpion aircraft could be used for such missions as stateside interdiction and combat air patrols. Likewise, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the heavy use of more expensive systems such as the F-16 and F-15 did not require their high-end abilities to withstand G forces or fly faster than the speed of sound. In Afghanistan, they have been often flying in circles providing overwatch for ground troops, a mission Peters suggest could have been done for $1 billion per year less annually owing only to fuel-cost savings.

Go to Textron's ScorpionJet site for photos and videos.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Ares?

Aviation Week's defense blog

From The Archives

Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.

 

Jan 31, 2016
blog

Tupolev 104: Harsh Proof Of Rapid Soviet Progress (1956) 18

Since little detail was available of the Russian design and built Tupolev 104, a profile was compiled for Aviation Week, based entirely on observations from photographs, experts such as engineers knowledgeable in typical Russian aircraft design and of its landing at London Airport....More
Blog Archive
Penton Corporate

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×