Textron Aviation Defense’s Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine has achieved Military Type Certification from the US Air Force.
The achievement, announced by the US manufacturer on July 25, clears the way for continued global sales of the light attack aircraft through the US government-sponsored foreign military sales programme or the direct commercial sales process. Thomas Hammoor, president and CEO of Textron Aviation Defense LLC, said: “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. We are grateful to our employees throughout the organization for the work they have done to achieve this vital milestone, and we remain committed to equipping warfighters and peacekeepers worldwide with the most capable combat-rated integrated weapons system in this category – the Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine.”
The USAF was the launch customer for the AT-6, Textron announcing on March 16, 2020, that it had been awarded a USAF contract for two AT-6E Wolverines. Delivery of the first USAF aircraft was announced on February 17, 2021. US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) ordered a single prototype AT-6E under a contract announced on May 14, 2021, for a competitive demonstration as part of SOCOM's Armed Overwatch programme. If successful, the winning contractor could receive orders for an eventual total of 75 aircraft. The Royal Thai Air Force is the international launch customer, awarding a contract in 2021 for eight Beechcraft AT-6TH Wolverines. They are scheduled for delivery in 2024 for operation by the 41st Wing at Chiang Mai Air Base for light attack operations.
Over a five-month period, the USAF’s Air Combat Command had been using its first two AT-6Es at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, as part of a collaboration between 81st Fighter Squadron (FS) pilots and partner nation personnel to further mature and co-develop tactics, techniques and procedures. This effort was in support of countering violent extremist organizations while simultaneously demonstrating the capabilities of the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network (AERONet), an exportable and affordable data link. The 23rd Wing Public Affairs department announced on June 27 that the project had been completed on June 14.
The 81st FS pilots, who were on loan to the 23rd Wing, flew the AT-6Es alongside partner nation personnel from Colombia, Nigeria, Thailand and Tunisia. To effectively master the three nodes of AERONet, each country sent two pilots, plus support personnel and Forward Air Controllers to learn the software in command and control, airborne systems and dismounted use communications. The partner nation pilots operated AERONet from the rear seat of the AT-6E. Learning the secure combat system allows the pilots to track enemy movements while also maintaining communication with C2 and partner nation forces.