AT-6 Wolverine is based on the industry-proven design of the T-6 series aircraft offered by Beechcraft. Beechcraft Corporation, found success with the introduction of their T-6 “Texan II” in 2001.
So far, the US Air Force has only one aircraft directly supporting infantry on the battlefield, the A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as Warthog. However, this type of aircraft has repeatedly been extended to combat service and some of them will be removed from the US Air Force in 2022. So the US is actively seeking to replace its role and one of the options is to use light attack aircraft.
Light Attack aircraft, able to hover close to the ground and attack enemies in close proximity to US forces amid a fast-moving, dynamic combat situation, would quite likely be of substantial value in counterinsurgency-type fights as well as near-peer, force on force engagements.
The combat concept here, were the Air Force to engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority – before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers, fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range and even perform on-the-spot combat rescue missions when needed.
The Light Attack Aircraft is a United States Air Force program for a new light counter-insurgency, ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft. A-29 Super Tucano and Textron AT-6 Wolverine are two fierce competitors in this competition.
AT-6 Wolverine is a new light-attack aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft, a subsidiary of Textron Aviation. The aircraft is based on the industry-proven design of the T-6 series aircraft offered by Beechcraft. 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.
Inheriting the design of the famous T-6 series, the AT-6 Wolverine has a low-wing monoplane design that incorporates a relatively shorter tail configuration with a longitudinal vertical tail fin and low horizontal planes. The undercarriage is of a tricycle arrangement and fully retractable.
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 airframe is made of composite materials and integrates state-of-the-art technologies and an advanced fly-by-wire system. Designed to perform missions in adverse weather conditions.
The engine – a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68D turboprop engine is mounted at the extreme front end of the slim fuselage driving a four-bladed propeller assembly. It has a maximum power generation capacity of 1,600 horsepower.
The power-plant enables the aircraft to attain a maximum speed of Mach 0.67 when loaded with weapons. The maximum range of this compact aircraft is 3,195km without any mid-air supplies. The aircraft’s maximum payload carrying capacity is 1,864kg.
The AT-6 Wolverine has a maximum internal fuel storage capacity of 544kg and can be mounted with two external fuel tanks to hold 932kg of fuel. The maximum usable fuel load carried by the aircraft when fitted with four external fuel tanks is 1,319kg.
The AT-6 Wolverine features seven dedicated hard-points, three each on the two wings and one under the central fuselage section. Four of the seven weapon stations are compatible with MIL-STD-1760 standards.
The AT-6 Wolverine employs a broad range of weapons that no other light attack aircraft can match. It has demonstrated light attack capabilities and full compatibility with US and NATO Joint Terminal Attack Controller systems.
Capable of operating with a staggering array of weapons and external fuel carriage configurations, the AT-6 Wolverine gives the warfighter what they need when they need it, including the flexibility to tailor weapons configurations. In addition, the AT-6 Wolverine was the first fixed-wing aircraft to employ 2.75” laser-guided rockets successfully.
The hard-point under the centre fuselage is installed with the MX-15Di sensor suite. The remaining hard-points can be mounted with HMP-400 12.7mm guns, practice bombs, MK-81 and MK-82 general-purpose bombs, GBU-12 and GBU-58 Paveway II guided ammunition, GBU-49 and GBU-59 enhanced Paveway II guided weapons, inertia-aided munitions, flares, rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles.
The cockpit of the AT-6 is a beautifully designed with soft curves. It is enclosed by a large canopy, which provides clear view of the surroundings. It accommodates two crew members in tandem configuration. The light-attack aircraft features a mission-oriented and customised Cockpit 4000 avionics suite supplied by CMC Esterline.
Internally, the cockpit features three large multi-function displays that can be customized to pilot needs through the CMC Glass Cockpit and Flight Management System. A SparrowHawk head-up display, hands-on throttle and stick, engine indication and caution advisory system, stores management system, a virtual multi-mode radar and radar warning receiver training system, as well as a Lockheed Martin A-10C combat mission system.
The under-fuselage is fitted with sensors, which captures real-time data of surroundings. It integrates an advanced video tracker, a high-definition short-wave infrared camera, and an infrared image processor. The navigational requirements of the aircraft are handled by an onboard GPS system.
As well as being an initial trainer, the multirole AT-6 will be capable of performing missions including: net-centric ISR with the ability for precise geo-registration, streaming video and datalinks, light attack including combat search and rescue, close air support, forward air control and convoy escort, homeland defence, port security, counter-narcotics operations and civil missions such as disaster area reconnaissance, search and rescue and firefighting.
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With a variety of worthwhile equipment, the emerging aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.