Saturday, April 28, 2012

Not like dusting crops...

For several years now the U.S. military has been considering a new way to reduce costs while also providing a unique solution to the military’s need for close-air support, airborne surveillance, and counter-insurgency.  This solution is a modified single-prop private sector plane, one such as Embraer’s EMB-314 Super Tucano.  Brazil, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic all currently operate modified Super Tucanos for drug enforcement, counter-insurgency, and surveillance.

Several years ago, Air Tractor Inc. showcased their own version of a modified crop duster airplane, one very well armed and for the U.S. military to use in close-air support, airborne surveillance, and counter-insurgency missions.  This plane, called the AT-802U, is not only extremely cheap compared to other military specific solutions; from a distance it is also difficult to notice that it is anything other than a simple crop duster.  Additionally the AT-802U can use dirt roads and fields to land and take off from, giving it greater options in field operations that might not be possible for military aircraft.  The AT-802U has a complete set of armament options as well, lists the full armaments to include "four 500 or 1,000 pounds laser guided bombs and two GAU-19 multi-barrel 12.7mm guns with over 2,900 rounds, six Mini-Talon GPS-INS guided precision standoff attack weapons, four rocket pods loaded with 28 rockets, eight Hellfire missiles or a mixed load of four Hellfire and 16 DAGR laser guided rockets."

A friend of mine in the U.S. Air Force has informed me that the U.S. military is still seriously considering implementing planes such as the AT-802U in military applications.  Only time will reveal if the U.S. decides to start using planes such as the AT-802U or the modified Super Tucano in a wide range of applications as the designers of the planes would like.

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