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Beechcraft AT-6 Joint Airborne Weapons System

On July 18, 2006, Raytheon Aircraft Company unveiled the Beechcraft AT-6 Joint Airborne Weapons System, a multi-mission, multi-role version of the highly successful T-6A/B designed for the surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, global war on terrorism, homeland security and training operations for the twenty-first century.

The Beechcraft AT-6 incorporates the very best of proven training methods and close air support capability to meet light attack and armed reconnaissance requirements. AT-6 capabilities cover a wide-mission spectrum that includes training, manned Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and light precision attack, while at the same time offering non-traditional capabilities for homeland defense and civil support missions.

Now upgraded with a more powerful 1600 Shaft Horsepower Pratt and Whitney PT6A-68D engine, the AT-6 is a structurally strengthened derivative of the proven Beechcraft T-6 trainer. Adding to the FAA approved primary flight avionics system by CMC Esterline, Lockheed Martin leveraged A-10C precision engagement modification capabilities in integrating the mission avionics of the AT-6. The result is a plug-and-play mission system architecture that combines state-of-the-art data link, combat communications capabilities, extensive variety of weapons delivery modes and precision weapons tailored for the AT-6.

Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) announced 09 September 2009 the successful first flight of its AT-6 prototype and the programs progression into the next phase of flight test. The AT-6 prototype is a structurally strengthened derivative of the highly successful U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy T-6A/B trainer the worlds most proven military trainer aircraft that will offer the U.S. Air Force and partner nations a robust airpower solution that meets a wide spectrum of needs at a fraction of the cost of other platforms.

We are very optimistic about the role the AT-6 will play for the warfighter both in the U.S. and in partner air forces around the world, said Bill Boisture, HBC chairman and CEO. This is going to be a great airplane and I am pleased with the rapid pace we are moving through our planned test program. We are almost three weeks ahead of schedule. We believe the AT-6 offers the broadest range capabilities available in the market and that is why we continue to invest in its future today.

The AT-6 is designed to be able to quickly transition pilots between basic flight training missions and complex NetCentric light attack and armed reconnaissance missions. The next phase of flight testing will last through October, during which the company will continue flight envelope expansion of the heavily instrumented AT-6 prototype, along with performance and handling qualities assessments with various external store configurations.

The Hawker Beechcraft T-6 derivative fleet passed the one million flight hour mark and 500th delivery with aircraft currently being flown by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Hellenic Air Force of Greece, NATO Flying Training in Canada and the Israeli Air Force. T-6 trainers for the Iraqi Air Force were in production in Wichita, Kan., and were slated for delivery to Iraq beginning later in 2009. On April 5, 2010, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation and Pratt & Whitney Canada announced the successful first flight of the second Beechcraft AT-6 production representative test vehicle (PRTV).

Raytheon Company was seeking in 2011 to integrate the combat-proven Griffin missile onto the Hawker AT-6 light attack aircraft. Griffin weighs 44 pounds with its launch tube, is 43 inches long and is an air- and ground-launched, precision-guided missile designed for rapid integration onto rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft and ground-launch applications. "Integrating Griffin on the AT-6 aircraft gives the warfighter a cost-effective solution to provide persistent surveillance and low-collateral damage in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations," said Harry Schulte, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Air Warfare Systems. "The integration of precision weapons onto versatile light-attack, reconnaissance platforms enables customers to take off-the-shelf capabilities and rapidly field a solution that meets their needs." Griffin enables the warfighter to engage targets via a user-friendly graphic interface and guide the weapon to the target using GPS coordinates or laser designation. To maximize lethality, the user can choose to engage the target with height of burst, point detonation or fuze delay. The Griffin missile is in production and integrated on the C-130 Harvest Hawk. Griffin A is an aft-eject missile.

Hawker Beechcrafts AT-6 Military Standard 1760 bus compatibility allows outfitting the aircraft with a myriad of US precision-guided bombs, rockets, and missiles. The IW arena, which depends upon winning the support of the relevant population and limiting collateral damage, demands precision targeting. the light attack aircraft has demonstrated impressive numbers for deployment range and on-station loiter. The AT-6, for instance, boasts a no-wind deployment range of 1,725 nautical miles (nm) while landing with a fuel reserve exceeding 45 minutes. In addition the AT-6 has calculated an AGM-114 Hellfire standard configuration load with a 400 nm combat radius and loiter time of two hours on-station. Reducing the combat radius, say to 200 nm, doubles the on-station loiter time available. In essence this capability equates to continuous A-10 or F-16 ISR/CAS coverage without having to rendezvous with a tanker for aerial refueling. The presence of light attack aircraft for the entire coverage period would benefit ground troops tremendously.

On July 9, 2012, Hawker Beechcraft Defense Company entered low-rate initial production of its Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft at the companys facilities in Wichita, Kan.

The Air Forces Light Air Support (LAS) contract, awarded to Embraer on 27 February 2013, involved 20 planes worth $427 million, including spares and services. That was a typical light attack aircraft contract, in the smallest aviation industry segment. In a good year its worth $1.5 billion in jet and turboprop deliveries worldwide, less than a tenth the value of the world market for supersonic fighters. Beechcraft immediately announced that it would file a protest with the Government Accountability Office, and Congressman Mike Pompeo and Kansas senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, announced support for the companys protest. This protest could conceivably stop the LAS contract for a second time; the first award, also to Embraer, was halted a year earlier after legal action by Hawker Beechcraft (as the company was then known).

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