The US Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) – a component of US Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR’s) Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) – has welcomed two newly acquired AT-6E Wolverine light attack aircraft to NAS Patuxent River in Maryland.
The first of the two Wolverines arrived at NAS Patuxent River on September 1, when AT-6E (20-1102) was delivered to the USNTPS. The second aircraft followed on September 5, when AT-6E (20-1101) arrived at the Maryland base from Beechcraft’s facility in Wichita, Kansas. These two Wolverines were previously operated by the USAF and used for developmental purposes by the 81st Fighter Squadron ‘Panthers’ at Moody AFB, Georgia, before the unit was deactivated in 2022.
The school’s inventory already includes six turboprop-driven T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft and the additional capabilities offered by the AT-6E will augment the USNTPS’s fixed-wing and systems syllabus. The USNTPS is home to the widest variety of aircraft in the US Navy, with no less than 12 fixed- and rotary-wing types assigned to it.
Beechcraft initially delivered the AT-6Es to the USAF in February 2021 and, following military certification testing, the aircraft entered operational service in January 2022. With no further plans for the Wolverines, the aircraft were placed into storage at Beechcraft’s facility in Wichita after testing associated with the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network (AERONet) datalink concluded in June 2022. While Textron Aviation Defense had hoped that the AT-6E would be selected by US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to fulfil its requirement for an Armed Overwatch aircraft, the command awarded the contract to L3Harris Technologies for its AT-802U Sky Warden in August 2022.