Air Tractor partnering with L3 Technologies for AT802U
Having seen its relationship with IOMAX disolve, Air Tractor has now partnered with L3 Technologies to take the AT802U to the next level. Counter-insurgency is the name of its game and the aircraft has now been rebranded as the AT802L LONGSWORD.
Fitted onto the hardpoints under both wings are a HELLFIRE precision attack missile, LAZU-19 rocket launchers capable of firing 2.75in laser guided rockets, 500lb GBU-12 laser guided bombs, and Dillon 30 calibre gunpods on both wings. While two Mk 82 500 lb general purpose bombs have been positioned on the two of the three centre pylons. Also fitted is a MX-15D HD EO/IR turret with laser designator.
Since being displayed at Marrakesh airshow in April 2016 in Morocco, the LONGSWORD has been upgraded with a new glass cockpit, certified by the FAA. Meanwhile the Thales SCORPION Helmet Mounted Display allows the pilot enhanced situational awareness by having a better field of view than the MX-15D can provide on the cockpit display. He or she can use the repeater to slave the HMD, while the WSO can zoom in or zoom out to verify the target. control of the system. The WSO’s rear seat cockpit has seen a 17in multifunction display integrated.
“We have also strengthened the wings, with production of the first ones already complete,” Air Tractor President, Jim Hirsch, told the MONS. “This will extend the aircraft’s fatigue life to 11,700 hours – around 20 years – a considerable enhancement compared to the previous version.”
L3’s Pat Penland, VP Transport Programs, added: “The new wings will be a feature of the next production aircraft that are destined for the Kenyan Air Force. We expect to complete the contract formalities within months. They are keen because they fulfil a need they desperately want.”
The Kenyan Air Force is set to acquire 12 armed LONGSWORDs and two Air Tractor AT 504s, a smaller version of the AT802L with a side by side cockpit, which will be used for training. The first set could be delivered within 18 months.
“We have also upgraded the rear cockpit with a 17in display and new stronger wings are being built. First set would be delivered in 18 months, but if they wanted them earlier we can provide the combat capability sooner. A, L3 ForceX Widow mission management system has been added, similar to a US special mission configuration,” James Wise, an ex-AC-130 pilot now working for L3, told MONS. “This allows the LONGSWORD to be even better equipped to confront pirates, smugglers and terrorists.”
“We are integrating a three-axis digital autopilot, which will be fully certifiable by late-August. It provides more stability in the air, over the original aircraft with a analogue autopilot,” Penland concludes.