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Dubai Air Show: First Fighter Aircraft Deal Signed Between US Aviation Firm & Royal Thai Air Force

Royal Thai Air Force (Thailand) has become the first foreign customer of the American AT-6 Wolverine light-attack aircraft, according to reports.

The Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine is a multi-mission aircraft operated by the US Air Force and the Navy. Aerospace company Textron Aviation has bagged a $143 million contract from the Thai Royal Air Force for the AT-6 Wolverine aircraft at the Dubai Air Show 2021.

The AT-6 is a light-attack and reconnaissance aircraft, designed and manufactured by Beechcraft, a brand owned by Textron Aviation. This aircraft has been modeled on the industry-proven design of the T-6 series aircraft, offered by Beechcraft.

The AT-6 was designed in a way that it can meet a wide variety of requirements. The AT-6 Wolverine is commanded by a “world-class” Lockheed Martin A-10C mission computer with CMC Esterline glass cockpit and flight management systems.

The AT-6 Wolverine.
The AT-6 Wolverine. (via Twitter)

The aircraft features the most powerful allied-compatible ISR and targeting suite available with an L3 Wescam MX-15D multi-sensor suite, which provides color and IR cameras, laser designator, laser illuminator, and laser rangefinder, according to Beechcraft.

The Wolverine is capable of performing manned intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), training, light precision attack, civil support, counterinsurgency (COIN), airborne interdiction and intelligence, maritime patrol, and internal defense missions.

It participated in Ample Strike 2015, which was an air-to-land integration exercise held by NATO in the Czech Republic in November 2014, according to Airforce Technology.

In March 2020, the US Air Force had signed a $70.2 million contract with Textron Aviation for procuring two AT-6 Wolverine aircraft and also for providing pilot training, engineering services, and contractor support for maintenance and parts for a span of four years.

The AT-6 is 10.16 m long and has a height of 3.25m, wingspan of 10.4m and wing area of 16.60m². Its basic weight is 2,671 kg and a maximum take-off/landing weight of 4,536kg.

First International Buyer 

Latest reports reveal that the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has awarded Textron Aviation a contract worth $143 million for acquiring eight Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine aircraft, ground support equipment, spare parts, training along with other equipment.

This deal makes Thailand the first international buyer of the AT-6. Under this contract, the work for manufacturing these aircraft will be done at the company’s facility in Wichita, Kansas, Defense News reported.

The $143 million contract will provide an integrated system in support of the 41st Wing light attack operations at Chiang Mai Air Base, according to The Aviationist.

The USAF received its first AT-6 aircraft in February this year for supporting low-cost communication and data sharing architecture among its allies and partners under the Airborne Extensible Relay Over the Horizon Network (AEROnet) program.

Thomas Hammoor, CEO of Textron Aviation Defense, and Royal Thai Air Force Air Marshal Pongsawat Jantasarn during the signing of the contract for 12 Beechcraft AT-6TH aircraft.

The AT-6 continues to be under evaluation with the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), The Aviationist report added.

The aircraft operated by the US Air Force is designated as the AT-6E while the aircraft for the Royal Thai Air Force is going to be designated as the Beechcraft AT-6TH.

“We are honored the Royal Thai Air Force has competitively selected the Beechcraft AT-6 to conduct a broad array of missions in support of its border security and its anti-smuggling, counter-narcotics and anti-human trafficking operations,” Textron Aviation Defense President and CEO Thomas Hammoor said.

“The RTAF is a key U.S. security ally and operator of one of the most advanced air forces in Asia Pacific. Its extensive market research and stringent procurement process sought the alignment of best cost, schedule, and performance to replace its existing fleet of aging Aero L-39 Albatros aircraft and advance the capabilities of its fleet with the latest technology”, Hammoor said in a statement.

AT-6 Wolverine

The contract for the AT-6TH aircraft for Thailand is going to support the country’s modernization priorities as well as the mutual defense cooperation agreement between the US and Thailand, a company statement said.

“AT-6 will take part in the continued light-attack experiment, which facilitates working with other nations to highlight the interoperability through a capability to network communications — the AERONet”, Fouad Kasri, Textron Aviation Defense’s regional sales vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, told Defense News, as he referred to the U.S. Air Force-designed data link meant for providing battlefield situational awareness.

“Since Link 16 is used by the U.S. government and it is not exportable, other countries are looking for exporting [the] AeroNet to get a 360-[degree] view of the battlespace, and to increase the interoperability between nations”, he added.

The training of Thai maintenance professionals by Textron Aviation Defense will begin in 2023 in Thailand. Pilots will be trained in Wichita in 2024, according to the company’s statement. The AT-6 fleet is going to join the Royal Thai Air Force in 2024.

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