LONDON – Textron Aviation on the 25th of July announced its Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine has achieved its military-approved badge or officially: Military Type Certification (MTC) from the United States Air Force, which means that the aircraft could be sold worldwide.
The new Textron machine is a multi-mission capable aircraft system which is designed to meet certain specific missions during wartime and peacetime. With this badge of approval, why would these aircraft be suitable for use in South East Asia?
South East Asia is home to countries plagued with insurgencies, border contestations and local skirmishes, prominent, in Thailand, Indonesia and The Philippines.
With the Beechcraft AT-6E being a light aircraft, and its small size, the cost of operating these machines is relatively low to smaller jet aircraft like the Korean-made T-50, which is operated by the Air Forces of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines respectively.
Getting to know the Beechcraft AT-6E
The Beechcraft AT-6E is manufactured by Textron Aviation and is designed for a multi-mission role. It is a light attack aircraft, that is used for counter-insurgency and combating violent extremist organizations (C-VEO).
Moreover, the machine has a strong score on operational reliability, manoeuvring, altitude and attack profile advantages, which has set a standard for other aircraft in its class.
Unsurprisingly, The United States Air Force was the first operator of the AT-6, with a contract awarded in 2020 for two AT-6Es.
Its First Real Customer – The Royal Thai Air Force
In November 2021the Thai Air Force inked for 8 Beechcraft AT-6E, meaning that Thailand will be the first customer for the aircraft overseas.
Their new fleet of AT-6s will be based in the northern part of the country, at their 41st Wing light attack operations at Chiang Mai Air Base.
The eight RTAF Beechcraft AT-6TH Wolverines are slated for a 2024 delivery to the air force. The aircraft itself will replace the older generation of light attack aircraft of the Czech-made L-39.
The Thai Air Force is undergoing a modern upgrade of its inventory, with the military currently reviewing the purchase of F-35s and the (UCAV) Loyal Wingman, and upgrading its 11 Saab Gripen JAS-39 C/D.
The AT-6Es perfectly fit the composition of the jet inventory of the air force as Thailand faces threats both domestic and internationally. In an international sense, the country is bothered by Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, with the majority of ‘light skirmishes’ from Myanmar and rare occasions from Cambodia.
Recently, a Mig-29 from the Burmese Air Force accidentally crossed into Thai Air Space, prompting the Thai authorities to scramble two F-16s.
Thailand’s most likely threats are perceived as ‘skirmishes’ and clashes involving disputes over territorial integrity. One is, on the Thai-Cambodian border, over a temple that is situated along disputed land.
Two sides have had stand-offs, but are rare today. The Beechcraft AT-6E offers the Thai Air Force flexibility, with the aircraft’s size being small and light, allowing it to perform patrol missions along the border.
With the border being poorly ‘designed’ or outlined, the technology equipped in the aircraft boasts a Next Gen ISR, the industry’s best precision strike capability, the ability to maintain pressure on targets, and reliable networked battlespace communications and video linking to all stakeholders available at any time and anywhere.
This translates to a collaborative working environment for Thai authorities to monitor the situation, while communicating with the pilot.
Threats in Indonesia and The Philippines are identified as domestic threats. In the Southern Part of the Philippines, especially in the region of Marawi.
In Indonesia, rebellion groups are active in the Papua region, in the western part of the country.
The Beechcraft AT-6E with its performance and capabilities also allows the Air Forces of the two nations to operate at a lower cost, and perform reconnaissance flights with flexibility and the ability to engage when necessary. With these two countries sharing similar geographies, of islands and mountains, the AT-6E with its low-speed flying can meander through these obstacles flawlessly.
The aircraft operates is a low operating cost which is suitable for the budgets of many South East Asian nations, and also developing countries worldwide.
Its flexibility, simplicity, efficiency and reliability make the aircraft attractive for ad-hoc day-to-day operations and will respond to the perceptive threats within the region effectively.