Textron AirLand flew the prototype Scorpion light attack and reconnaissance platform for the first time on 12 December 2013, the project management of the Bell Textron / AirLand Systems co-operation confirmed.
Piloted by ex-US Navy aviator Dan Hinson the aircraft with registration N531TA took took off from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, for a flight that lasted 80 minutes.
The project is said to be supported by the US Air National Guard, which might buy the Scorpion as a low-price air asset. The jet is officially designed “to perform lower-threat battlefield and homeland security missions”.
According to Textron AirLand the Scorpion will cost less than 20 million US dollars and can be flown for about 3,000 bucks per hour. For the US Air Force’s main close air support aircraft, the A-10 Warthog, that price tag is about 13,000 but the A-10 has a very high survivability rate. A more regular F-16 flies for about US$ 16,000.
Textron AirLand continues testing the aircraft. A project spokesman said the first Scorpion could be delivered to a customer as early as the beginning of 2015.
Source: Textron Inc. with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger
The last three F-15 Eagles departed the 120th Fighter Wing of the USAF Montana Air National Guard at Great Falls, making the flying unit wingless until the introduction of the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft in 2014.
Currently Montana ANG air and ground crews are training on the C-130 at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. The transfer from fighter unit to transport unit will have a big impact on the guard unit.
The 120th Fighter Wing originated in 1947 as the 186th Fighter Squadron, flying F-51’s and saw combat in Korea in 1951 – 1952. In 1953, the 186th was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the F-86 Sabre Jet. From 1958 to 1996 the unit was on a 5-day runway scramble alert, all the time, by flying the Sabre, the F-102 Delta Dagger (introduction 1966), the F-106 Delta Dart (intr. 1972) and the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon (intr. 1987).
The last couple of years have been a bit rough for the unit. Within a 15 year span the 120th Fighter Wing moved from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D to the F-15C/D Eagle and will now receive the C-130, making the fighter unit loose its combat status. The less flashy transport and support task is now its future.
The former Montana F-15 Eagles are now used by the 194th Fighter Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard. This unit, based at Fresno, CA, previously flew F-16s for a long time. As the unit is reponsible for air defence over California, it had been pushing for F-15 Eagles instead of F-16 for many years
Source: USAF with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger & Elmer van Hest
It is not everyday one stumbles upon something so strange, yet cool as the Scorpion lightweight strike and reconnaissance aircraft that American Textron Inc based in Providence, Rhode Island, has secretly developed with the US Air National Guard as the aimed customer.
The prototype, being marketed as “a versatile Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft platform” will fly before this year ends, a company spokesperson writes. Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly: “We began development of the Scorpion in January 2012 with the objective to design, build and fly the world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft capable of performing lower-threat battlefield and homeland security missions. We relied on commercial best practices to develop a tactical jet platform with flexibility and capabilities found only in far more costly aircraft.”
Textron hopes to sell the Scorpion for the US Air National Guard and nations friendly to the US that have increasingly smaller budgets. “The Scorpion’s design is well matched to the Air National Guard’s missions such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics and air defense operations”, the company spokesperson states. “While Scorpion’s lower acquisition price is an advantage, an equally important benefit is the lower cost of operation over the aircraft’s full life-cycle. Combining ease of maintenance and globally-available commercial components, the Scorpion can significantly lower the customer’s total cost of ownership.”
The Scorpion looks mostly like a fusion of the Saab Gripen and a twin-tale version of the Korean T-50, with the wings of a Cessna. And actually we think it looks pretty cool for a simple jet.
The aircraft will have six hard points on the wings for external stores up to 6,000 lbs, plus an internal payload bay for up to 3,000 lbs. The all-composite aircraft has a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 47 feet. With a maximum speed of 450 knots the aircraft should manage to operate up to 45,000 feet and fly 2,400 nautical miles (4445 km) before it needs to refuel.
It sounds like a big contradiction: stealth bombers with nuclear weapons not to attack the enemy, but to defend the territory of the United States. But that is what they more or less have become since the first and only Air National Guard (ANG) wing flying with the B-2 Spirit is now certified to conduct nuclear missions.
The 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, concluded a six year transition from an F-15 Eagle fighter unit to a B-2 strategic bomber outfit with a nuclear consent in the first week of August 2013. It marked the first time in history of the Guard that a bomb wing has been certified in the delivery of nuclear weapons. That goes all the way back to 1636 when regional home militias of the young United States were organised in what is officially since 1903 the National Guard, with the ANG being the air component of the United States’ homeland defences.
In 2008, the wing had fewer than 60 members stationed at Whiteman AFB, when they conducted the first all-Guard B-2 sortie, which included both the launch and operation of the aircraft. Today, nearly all 800 members are based at Whiteman AFB, with completely integrated maintenance crews and almost three times the number of qualified pilots. The 131st Bomb Wing is associated with the active US Air Force 509th Bomb Wing, thereby sharing expensive resources such as the B-2 bombers themselves.
The first so-called ‘combat total force integration mission’ the wings conducted came in March 2011, when three B-2s flew over Libya, dropping 45 joint direct attack munitions to destroy hardened aircraft shelters and thereby according to a press release “crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s air forces and helping enforce the United Nations’ no-fly zone”. The six aircrew members who flew that mission included both active duty and Guard pilots, demonstrating the first real-world combat mission the B-2 conducted since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.