Air Force officials have always said that a light attack armed reconnaissance aircraft would be instrumental in building partnership nations’ capabilities, but until recently discussions on future requirements also addressed an organic capability, industry officials said at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Monday. “Most of the discussions early on revolved around both (an organic and partnership building capability), but discussions as of late have been about this building partnership capabilities,” said Derek Hess, director of AT-6 development programs for Hawker Beechcraft. The AT-6 is a structurally enhanced Beechcraft T-6A/B airframe with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68D engine, and a Lockheed Martin A-10C Mission System that is integrated with the T-6B primary flight avionics system. It also has the same sensor suite as the MC-12W with a laser designator/range finder. “When our airplane wakes up in the morning, it believes it’s an A-10. We call this simple integration,” Hess said. The Air Force released a request for information for a light attack armed reconnaissance aircraft to support irregular warfare operations last year, but it has yet to issue a request for proposals. (See also The Light Attack Aircraft in the Air Force Magazine archives)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.