The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) announced that Air Force has received its first Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine light attack aircraft entered the Air Force fleet. The two AT-6 aircraft destined for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Light Attack Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, are part of an Air Force program called the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AEROnet. In March 2020, the Air Force authorized a budget of some $70.2 million to purchase and maintain the two AT-6 aircraft, and train the pilots to fly them. The AT-6E designation for the Wolverine appears to comprise the AT-6/AT-6B/AT-6B light attack configuration of the baseline T-6 Texan II trainer, plus satellite communications and other undisclosed USAF equipment.
AT-6B Wolverine is an armed version of the T-6B for primary weapons training or light attack roles. It has the same digital cockpit, but upgraded to include datalink and integrated electro-optical sensors along with several weapons configurations. Engine power is increased to 1,600 shp (1193 kW) with the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-68D engine, and the structure is reinforced. The AT-6 equips operators worldwide with an unparalleled value and 85 percent parts commonality with the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II. The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is a single-engine turboprop aircraft built by the Raytheon Aircraft Company. A trainer aircraft based on the Pilatus PC-9, the T-6 has replaced the U.S. Air Force’s Cessna T-37B Tweet and the U.S. T-34C Turbo Mentor.
The AT-6 is a modified version of the two-seat, single-engine turboprop T-6 Texan II trainer used by both the U.S. Air Force and Navy for primary flight training. An affordable solution, the AT-6 cost per flying hour is less than $1,000 and its small maintenance footprint underscores the aircraft’s cost-effectiveness, deployability and sustainability. The new type of U.S. Air Force combat aircraft will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years. In those conflicts, a light attack option such as the AT-6 could offer America’s armed forces a low cost and lethal option for supporting special operations units, as well as America’s allies and partners, in small-scale, low-tech combat.