Beechcraft hopes to sign up a launch customer for the AT-6 light-attack aircraft by year’s end, having flown the company-owned first production aircraft on Aug. 20.

“There are a couple of customers we are working with,” says Russ Bartlett, president of Beechcraft Defense Co., describing negotiations as “very mature.”

One customer is looking for around 24 AT-6s and the other a “similar or higher” number of aircraft, he says, adding Beechcraft is ready to begin deliveries 18 months from contract receipt.

The first production aircraft will be used for additional tests and demonstrations, but development of the AT-6 is “basically complete,” Bartlett says.

If a launch customer buys the aircraft through the government-to-government foreign military sales (FMS) system, he says, Beechcraft will complete military type certification through the U.S. Air Force.

“We have done all the testing, all the [weapon] configurations are cleared and the paperwork is complete,” he says. “We have prepared everything with the assumption of a U.S. government sale.”

The first production AT-6 joins two modified T-6 test aircraft, and was built on company funds to ensure the light-attack variant can be built on the same line without disrupting production of the T-6B/C trainer.

“We also wanted to have a production-specification aircraft for continued demonstrations, envelope expansion and additional smaller, smarter weapons,” Bartlett says.

Availability of the aircraft will also allow training for a launch customer to start almost immediately after contract signature, he says.

The first production AT-6 is in the same exportable configuration as the second test aircraft. The first test aircraft remains in the higher specification intended for sale to the U.S. government.

The AT-6 is powered by an uprated Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-68D turboprop, modified CMC Esterline Cockpit 4000, a derivative of Lockheed Martin’s mission system for the A-10C and an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared sensor.

Beechcraft lost to Sierra Nevada and the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano for the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support contract to supply 20 aircraft to Afghanistan. But there have been moves in Congress to kill funding for the program.