L3Harris and Air Tractor launch Sky Warden ISR aircraft

L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor have teamed up to produce the AT-802U Sky Warden, which they describe to be an affordable, production-ready aircraft designed for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions in extreme combat environments.

This new ISR variant was announced by L3Harris on May 6. The Sky Warden is based on Air Tractor’s rugged and capable AT-802, which boasts the largest payload capacity of any single-engine turboprop aircraft available on the export market. The AT-802 was initially designed as an agricultural aircraft but has since been further developed to undertake firefighting and military roles.

The Sky Warden hosts L3Harris’ family of communications, sensors and airborne ISR solutions. The platform is backed by the company’s experience in extensive turnkey ISR operations. The firm says the multi-mission platform provides operators with agility and flexibility to identify, track and react to counter threats.

AT-802U Sky Warden [L3Harris]
An artist's impression of the new AT-802U Sky Warden multi-mission ISR aircraft. Air Tractor, the original equipment manufacturer, has teamed up with L3Harris Technologies to produce the aircraft. L3Harris

It merges the capabilities of larger ISR and armed aircraft into one resilient package. The AT-802U is also capable of taking off and landing from unimproved airstrips – allowing the aircraft to be deployed and co-located with special mission operators.

Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor Inc, said: “Air Tractor aircraft were developed precisely to operate in austere environments with limited infrastructure. Our aircraft are built to offer unparalleled flexibility, essential ingredients for special mission operators.”

Luke Savoie, president of Aviation Services at L3Harris, added: “Our mission systems, platforms, direct operators and sustainment teams have supported more than 1.3 million combat hours of special operations ISR and attack missions in the past ten years. Combining that experience with Air Tractor, one of the largest turboprop aircraft OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the world, enables our team to design and provide a mature platform capable of operating anywhere in the world and provides the tools needed to support any mission.”

The Sky Warden’s name commemorates two best-in-class, multi-mission combat platforms that have a history of support special operations. It merges the deep history of the Vietnam-era Douglas A-1E Skyraider with the present-day Pilatus U-28A Draco (PC-12), which uses the callsign ‘Warden’ during combat operations. The AT-802U combines their heritage and capabilities, providing a single aircraft capable of multiple mission roles, says L3Harris.