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Return of the Texan

April 7, 2010

The T-6A Texan II trainer is being updated for the USAF light attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft (LAAR) competition.

The original T-6 Texan was a well respected trainer aircraft from the last World War, with over 15,000 versions constructed for the USAAF, the RAF, Commonwealth air forces and so on. It’s modern version built by Hawker Beechcraft has its roots from a Swiss turboprop trainer, and introduced in 2000 with the USAF. Along with the Brazilian Super Tucano, another well-liked prop fighter, the builders of the Texan are joining in for the American  USAF’s Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) competition, sure to involve at least 100 aircraft. Here’s Guy Norris at the Ares blog:

Hawker Beechcraft has flown the first AT-6 Texan II production representative test vehicle (PRTV) powered by the 1,600 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68D engine – packing 500 shp more than the standard engine. The structurally beefed-up variant of the T-6A/B trainer is aimed at the USAF’s Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) role, the acquisition phase for which is expected to be launched this year.

And from the Company:

Now upgraded with a more powerful 1600 Shaft Horsepower Pratt and Whitney PT6A-68D engine, the AT-6 is a structurally strengthened derivative of the proven Beechcraft T-6 trainer. Adding to the FAA approved primary flight avionics system by CMC Esterline, Lockheed Martin leveraged A-10C precision engagement modification capabilities in integrating the mission avionics of the AT-6. The result is a plug-and-play mission system architecture that combines state-of-the-art data link, combat communications capabilities, extensive variety of weapons delivery modes and precision weapons tailored for the AT-6.


  • Length-10.16 meters
  • Wingspan-10.18 meters
  • Max takeoff weight-6500 lbs or 3000 kilograms
  • Max speed-316 knots
  • Range-850 miles or 1500 nm with drop tanks
  • Engine rating-1,600shp (1180 Kw)
  • Crew-1
  • Hardpoints-6
  • Armament-0.50 caliber machine gun pod
    Air to air AIM-9 Sidewinders
    Air to ground Hellfire and Maverick
    Paveway II / enhanced Paveway II / Paveway IV guided bombs
    Joint direct attack munition (JDAM) and small diameter bomb (SDB)
    2.75in rocket pods


19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2014 5:09 pm

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this webpage’s content all the time along with a cup of coffee.

  2. April 26, 2010 5:55 am

    The T-6 is actually a derivative of the PC-9 trainer manufactured by a company called Pilatus.
    I am currently in the process of comparing the T-6 and the Pilatus Pc21 as the two are competing for a contract from the Indian Air Force.
    I would greatly appreciate if someone could give me the pros and cons of the T-6 from a user perspective.

    Best Regards,

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 9, 2010 4:45 am

    Speaking of the P-51, I seem to remember them trying to sell a COIN version of the basic platform under a new name in the 1980s. A no sell but I bet they wish it was still on the market today!

    It was called “P-48 Enforcer“.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    April 8, 2010 5:57 pm

    Just you would have thought that 65 years of improvement in materials, manufacturing techniques, and aerodynamics would have yielded a more efficient airframe than one designed in 1941.

    Guns? Only a couple of .50 cal. on pylons.

    I understand one of the LAAR competitors is an updated P-51. The AT-6 better watch its six.

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    April 8, 2010 5:48 pm

    There is a lot of precedence. The old T-6 was used for FAC duties in Korea and the T-28 was used for light attack in Vietnam

  6. Hudson permalink
    April 8, 2010 5:43 pm

    The Pursuit-51D was indeed a helluva plane. With the B-17, it won the air war over Europe–because of its speed and range it was more useful that the heavier P-47, that did a great deal of damage to Nazi Germany.

    The P-51 lived on into the 1980s some where in the world. David Lindsay, of Cavalier Aircraft, offered the PA-48 Enforcer for the PAVE COIN role, but the USAF wasn’t interested at the time. The PA-48 was directly of P-51 lineage, and would have been more powerful than the Texan II.

    The Texan II looks like a trainer with rockets and bombs attached to it. “Light Armed Reconaissance” is about right for its job description. It won’t carry the “whole nine yards” of ammo that the Mustang carried. It will be more of a “slice and dice” attacker, a nimble tailback as opposed to a plunging fullback–with its smart munitions and networking electronics.

    Despite its tame looks, there will be no shortage of pilots eager to sit in the cockpit of the Texan II, if it wins the LAAR competition, and play real life retro warfare. It’s like all those retro movies with swords and knives mixed in with fancy firearms and some martial arts thrown in. Back to the future, flyboy. I’m feeling the heat already.

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    April 8, 2010 2:40 pm

    I was aware this is not the same T-6 North American (also manufacturer of the P-51) made so many of during WWII. But looking at the specs, on the same 1600 HP the max speed, range and and weapons carrying capacity are less than the P-51. It was a hell of an airplane.

  8. Chris Stefan permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:24 pm

    I’m pretty sure the Texan II is based on a Swiss turboprop trainer not an old WWII Texan airframe with a turboprop in place of the piston engine.

    That said the design goals for the plane were to provide a primary pilot trainer not to be the ultimate prop fighter. Still I wouldn’t be surprised if the modified T-6A exceeds the performance of the P-51 or Corsair in at least some areas. Power and thrust to weight ratios being the two most obvious.

  9. Chuck Hill permalink
    April 8, 2010 11:18 am

    After 65 years, it may have better avionics, lower maintenance, and smart weapons, but the airframe itself doesn’t equal the performance of the P-51 or Corsair.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 8, 2010 6:09 am

    “USD30M turboprop”

    I wouldn’t be surprised! Wiki said the basic T-6 prices at $6 million each.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 8, 2010 5:57 am

    Distiller, you’re right! I changed the horsepower but forgot about the kilos! Thanks!

  12. Distiller permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:56 am

    PS: 1600 shp is around 1180 kW, not 820 kW.

  13. Distiller permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:54 am

    All this PGM, NavCom, sensors, self protection stuff integration he’s talking about sounds awfully expensive. Go that way and end up with a USD30M turboprop.

  14. Hudson permalink
    April 8, 2010 1:31 am

    Here’s a bit of history.

    Training to become a B-17 pilot, my Old Man flew: PT-17, BT-13A, AT-6,9,10,17, C45F, and B-17B,C,D,E,F.

    All that flying could be hazardous. Once over Kansas, the bombardier released a 50lb black powder practice bomb aimed at a painted bulls-eye on the ground. It hit a barn, setting it on fire. The farmer ran out shaking his fist at the sky. Another flight, the bomber caught on fire and not all crew members got out safely.

    Part of gunnery training, in the Southwest, consisted of the pilot taking his gunners out in a Jeep, armed with Thompson submachine guns, chasing after jack rabbits.


  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 7, 2010 6:04 pm

    “That better be a typo Mike”

    I think thats right, though not for the trainer, naturally, pictured.

  16. Matt permalink
    April 7, 2010 5:42 pm

    Great trainer! They were just strating to replace T-34s at TRAWING SIX when I was a student.

    Not sure how well they would do in the field as a COIN aircraft. If I recall correctly, they were very susceptible to FOD — which would be a real problem at austere forward bases.

  17. Chuck Hill permalink
    April 7, 2010 5:02 pm

    I’m sure, the second guy is one of the advantages.

    Now, where is the tail hook and the folding wings? Operate off small carriers?

  18. Heretic permalink
    April 7, 2010 4:39 pm


    That better be a typo Mike.


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