Will Rogers Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Oklahoma has been selected by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall as the sole candidate location for the AT-802U Sky Warden Total Force Integration Formal Training Unit (FTU).
The move was announced by the US Air Force (USAF) on December 9 and will see Will Rogers ANGB bid farewell to its Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty fleet as it is replaced by 28 Sky Wardens. It will also see the base’s resident MC-12 FTU convert to the AT-802U Total Force Integration FTU. In addition to the 28 AT-802Us, Air Force Special Operations Command’s (AFSOC’s) recently reactivated 310th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) will relocate to the Oklahoma base from Cannon Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, to create an active association with the Liberty-equipped 185th SOS, which will remain at Will Rogers ANGB.
Before a final basing decision is made, an initial site survey of the candidate location – which will assess operational requirements and the potential impact to existing missions, housing, infrastructure and manpower – is scheduled to take place in spring 2023. Following this, the Department of the Air Force will conduct environmental impact analysis at the base, which is expected to be completed by autumn 2023.
On July 31, 2022, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) revealed that the Air Tractor AT-802U Sky Warden had been selected as the winner of its highly billed Armed Overwatch programme, which came as a relatively surprising move to many defence industry commentators. SOCOM awarded L3 Communications Integrated Systems a contract – worth an approximate total of $3bn – for the procurement of up to 75 AT-802U multi-mission aircraft, along with relevant training and mission planning systems; support equipment; spares and logistics support services.
At the time of the announcement, initial funding of $170m was awarded to L3 Communications. An initial batch of six new-build aircraft will be delivered to the USAF under Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1. SOCOM added that Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the Sky Warden should be achieved in Fiscal Year 2026 (FY26), with Full Operating Capability (FOC) set to follow in FY29.
Air Tractor’s AT-802U Sky Warden is a multi-mission platform that is capable of performing close air support (CAS); armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strike operations in support of geographically isolated special operations forces.
The USAF will not be the first air arm to operate the platform. After being extensively modified, weaponised and tested by Florida-based Iomax USA, 24 AT-802i Archangels were delivered in total to the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEAF&AD), where the type entered active service in 2015. Of the 24 aircraft delivered, six were subsequently donated to the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) in late 2013 and a further 12 examples have been given to the Egyptian Air Force.