AT-6 Wolverine is a light-attack and armed reconnaissance aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft, a brand of Textron Aviation. The aircraft is based on the industry-proven design of the T-6 series aircraft offered by Beechcraft.
The aircraft is specifically designed to address the light-attack requirements of armed and air forces worldwide. It can perform manned intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), training, light precision attack, civil support, counter insurgency (COIN), airborne interdiction and intelligence, maritime patrol, and internal defence missions.
Wolverine took part in Ample Strike 2015, an air-to-land integration exercise organised by Nato in the Czech Republic in November 2015. The aircraft exhibited its artillery and firing capabilities by accomplishing seven operational missions and 35 successful engagements during the exercise.
It is currently undergoing operational testing with the US Air Force, along with the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, under the Light-Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) programme, which is also known as Light Air Support (LAS) or the OA-X programme.
The LAAR programme is aimed at identifying a suitable replacement for the USAF’s A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft fleet.
The US Air Force signed a contract worth $70.2m with Textron Aviation in March 2020 to supply two AT-6 Wolverine aircraft and to provide pilot training, engineering services, and contractor support for maintenance and parts for up to four years.
AT-6 Wolverine design and features
AT-6 Wolverine features a low-wing monoplane design incorporating a relatively shorter tail configuration with a single vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes.
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 aircraft is fitted with retractable tricycle landing gear.
The aircraft has a length of 10.16m, height of 3.25m, wingspan of 10.4m and wing area of 16.60m².
The basic weight of the aircraft is 2,671kg, while the maximum take-off/landing weight is 4,536kg.
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.
Cockpit and avionics
The cockpit 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.
The glass cockpit features two high-definition displays, a SparrowHawk head-up display (HUD), hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS), engine indication and caution advisory system, stores management system, a virtual multi-mode radar and radar warning receiver (RWR) training system, as well as a Lockheed Martin A-10C combat mission system.
AT-6 Wolverine’s under-fuselage is mounted with WESCAM’s MX-15Di sensor suite, which captures real-time data of surroundings and gathers information from onboard sensors. It integrates an advanced video tracker (AVT), a high-definition short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera, and an infrared (IR) image processor.
A laser designator, illuminator, and range finder also feature in the aircraft.
The navigational requirements of the aircraft are handled by an onboard GPS system.
Armament aboard AT-6 Wolverine
AT-6 Wolverine features state-of-the-art 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 hard-point under the centre fuselage is installed with the MX-15Di sensor suite. The remaining hard-points can be mounted with HMP-400 0.50 calibre 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, laser-guided rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles.
It can house over 66 standard load configurations, as well as non-standard asymmetrical configurations, which adds versatility to its mission readiness. It has more than 13 general and precision ammunitions for air support or light attack purposes.
It is the first fixed-wing aircraft to successfully 2.75in laser-guided rockets.
Engine and performance
The light attack aircraft is powered by an advanced PT6A-68D turboprop diesel engine supplied by Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC). The engine drives a four-bladed propeller fitted at the extreme front end of the aircraft. It has a maximum power generation capacity of 1,177kW (1,600shp).
The power-plant enables the aircraft to attain a maximum speed of Mach 0.67 when loaded with weapons. AT-6 Wolverine can travel up to a maximum range of 3,195km without any mid-air supplies. The aircraft’s maximum payload carrying capacity is 1,864kg.