STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Beechcraft Corporation (Textron Aviation) - USA
OPERATORS: United States (possible)
LENGTH: 33.33 feet (10.16 meters)
WIDTH: 34.12 feet (10.4 meters)
HEIGHT: 10.66 feet (3.25 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 5,886 pounds (2,670 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 9,998 pounds (4,535 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Turboprop engine of 1,600 shaft horsepower driving a four-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
SPEED (MAX): 510 miles-per-hour (820 kilometers-per-hour; 443 knots)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine Light Attack / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 6/21/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The light strike aircraft category continues to be a growing market around the globe as more advanced platforms grow increasingly out of reach for burgeoning air powers. Beechcraft Corporation, founded by Walter Beech in 1932 and based in Wichita, Kansas, found success with the introduction of their T-6 "Texan II" in 2001. Sales were strengthened by the adoption of the system under the United States Air Force (T-6A) and Navy (T-6B) branches. Additionally, the Canadian, Greek, Moroccan and Israeli air forces added their numbers to production which has since yielded over 630 units. The Texan II was born from the Pilatus PC-9 series of 1984 of which 250 were produced and sold around the world.
Adding to the T-6 lineage today is the AT-6, a turboprop-powered light strike/training platform intended to fulfill the increasing need by air powers to field a reliable and proven multi-role solution where jet-powered mounts are either too costly or considered overkill in certain theaters. The AT-6 is therefore marketed as an affordable alternative to the more expensive, technologically-advanced strike aircraft while covering a multi-faceted approach that includes Close Air Support (CAS), Forward Air Control (FAC), armed reconnaissance and other military-minded sorties. The design of the AT-6 is such that its two-seat configuration is also suitable for transitioning pilots to more advanced jet-powered mounts while covering aviation fundamentals and weapons delivery education through a more compact, low-cost end-product. The AT-6 shares some 85% commonality of parts with the original T-6 II platform, making it logistically-friendly for existing T-6 II supporters.
The AT-6 features a crew of two seated in tandem under a large, largely unobstructed canopy located at the center of the design. The engine - a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68D turboprop engine outputting at 1,600 horsepower - is mounted at the extreme front end of the slim fuselage driving a four-bladed propeller assembly. The downward-sloping nature of the nose assembly allows for excellent vision out of the cockpit and wings are low-set against the fuselage. Each straight appendage sits at the center of the fuselage length and is cleared to carry a variable stores set - primarily gun pods (12.7mm heavy machine gun), cannon pods (20mm automatic), rocket pods (unguided and laser-guided) and small conventional/laser-guided drop bombs (250lb/500lb) across its six (MIL-STD-1760) external hardpoints (four are plumbed for external fuel stores and seven total hardpoints are available). Unlike some other light strike aircraft designs the AT-6 supports laser-guided missiles. The empennage is relatively short, home to a single clipped vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage is of a tricycle arrangement and fully retractable. Range of this compact aircraft is listed at 2,895 kilometers (1,563 nautical miles).
The entire AT-6 weapons suite includes support for many US- and NATO-standard munitions: Mk 81 General-Purpose Bomb, Mk 82 General-Purpose Bomb, GBU-12 "Paveway II", GBU-49 "Enhanced Paveway II", GBU-58 "Paveway II", GBU-59 "Enhanced Paveway II" bombs. Missile support is limited to the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missile. As one of the few current aircraft to support laser-guided rockets, the AT-6 handles APKWS, TALON and GATR series 2.75" guided rocket types. Practice bombs can be used for weapons training.
Internally, the cockpit features three large multi-function displays (MFDs) that can be customized to suit pilot/co-pilot needs through the CMC Glass Cockpit and Flight Management System. A moving map display is listed as standard, a fighter aircraft-style HUD (Head-Up Display) is included and the cockpit is compatible with available night vision equipment. The mission systems suite is presented by defense powerhouse Lockheed Martin and based on the architecture developed for the A-10C (upgraded A-10 Thunderbolt II with "Precision Engagement" package). The pilot's helmet is integrated into the Scorpion Helmet-Mounted Cueing System which allows for marking of targets. Flight controls are of an F-16-style HOTAS (Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick) arrangement. Communications includes SATCOM and a protected voice and data link. The cockpit supplies full GPS navigation, GPS precision approach and digital terrain elevation data. Base defensive systems include a countermeasures package and missile (IR) warning indicator. The cockpit, fuel stores and engine compartment are protected through a light armor arrangement while each crewmember is granted a Martin Baker MKUS16LA 0/0 series ejection seat for worst-case scenarios.
Beechcraft markets the AT-6 for use in training (piloting and attack, joint exercise), irregular warfare (CAS, FAC, AR, strike coordination, armed interdiction, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)), homeland defense (patrol, low-level/low-speed interception, border security) and civilian-minded endeavors (Search & Rescue (SAR), disaster surveillance). Beyond its offensive-minded load out, the AT-6 can also be equipped with targeting and surveillance equipment to broaden its tactical value. Systems include the L-3 Wescam MX-15Di sensor (for ISR work), a full-color daytime camera system, a laser illuminator and a laser rangefinder.
Beechcraft maintains a long-running history in aviation including its military commitments covering an 80+ year history. To date, the concern has produced over 14,500 aircraft including 7,400 alone during World War 2 (1939-1945). Its decades of experience undoubtedly have shaped the refined AT-6.
October 2017 - The USAF has announced that a pair of AT-6 Wolverine attack aircraft will deploy to Iraq for an operational demonstration under "Combat Dragon III".
February 2018 - The AT-6 remains in contention for the USAF light attack requirement. It faces competition from the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano (detailed elsewhere on this site).
May 2018 - The Wolverine has entered a second round of testing with the USAF over Holloman AFB in New Mexico. It is competing against the Brazilian Super Tucano.
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General Assessment (BETA)
Rating: 80 (of 100)
The rating is an internal assessment derived from thirty factors pertaining to this entry.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (510mph).
Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units