The Penny Drops: Iraq Chooses its Training & COIN AircraftJan 22, 2013 13:28 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In counter-insurgency fights, slower aircraft are often better than front-line jet fighters. In April 2007, Flight International reported that the USAF’s Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) had issued a solicitation on behalf of the Iraqi Air Force [IqAF] to buy at least 8 counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft, with a dual role as intermediate to advanced single-engine turboprop trainers. The solicitation required a single-engine turboprop powered that is in “wide use,” powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 family engine, with an advanced suite of sensors and weapons including electro-optical sensors and guided weapons capability. Indeed, the solicitation went one step further, and narrowed the field to 4 candidates that can be difficult for a novice to tell apart.
The program’s planned timeline hit delays, and the training aircraft were technically split from the counter-insurgency buy. Formal requests were issued in 2008 for up to 56 aircraft, as Iraq sought a combination of trainer and armed COIN aircraft, using different variants of the same plane. The trainers have all arrived. The armed turboprop buy remains in limbo.
The COIN Contenders
Korea Aerospace’s KO-1 Woong Bee, the armed forward air control & light attack version of its KT-1 training aircraft. The KT-1 project began in 1988, and the first aircraft was delivered to South Korea’s air force in 2000. Turkey has also ordered the KT-1.
Pilatus PC-9M. The Swiss firm has created a widely-popular trainer turboprop. The design has been licensed by other firms (see below), and Pilatus has sold this aircraft to 14 countries beyond Switzerland – including 20 aircraft sold to Iraq from 1987. On the other hand, Swiss interference in Chad and blockage of an earlier M113 sale to Iraq’s Interior Ministry work very strongly against Pilatus in Iraq.
Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano/ ALX – see also Embraer’s pages. The Super Tucano is used in an armed role by Brazil as a patrol and border overwatch aircraft in the Amazon region (99 planes), with additional orders from Colombia (25), Chile (12), and the Dominican Republic (8); orders placed after Iraq’s Dec 10/08 DSCA request include Ecuador (24). Embraer’s older EMB-312 Tucano trainer aircraft is very popular, and has been bought by 17 countries, including Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
The Super Tucano has a reputation for being a bit ‘heavy’ as a training platform, as a tradeoff for being built from the ground up as an effective short-field light attack/ patrol/ counter-insurgency aircraft that can operate with little ground support. Unlike its fellow contenders, for instance, the aircraft carries 2 of FN’s M3P .50 caliber machine guns in the wings. In 2006, the USA successfully discouraged a $500 million sale of Super Tucanos to Venezuela, a decision that Embraer accepted in good grace. The firm had moved to sweeten the pot for that sale by promising to set up a Florida manufacturing facility; a reprise of that approach might help take some of the “Buy American” label off of…
Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6B Texan II; the firm also unveiled an AT-6B light attack/COIN version at Farnborough 2006, back when they were still Raytheon Aircraft. The T-6 is the result of iterative modifications to the Pilatus PC-9 design that left it with no common parts; it serves as the USAF’s and US Navy’s JPATS intermediate to advanced training aircraft. It is also used by Canada and Greece. Greece specified that its T-6Bs had to be capable of being armed, but the aircraft was not initially designed for an armed role. A company representative adds:
“Understand that the airplane is not intended for heavy combat. Its primary role would be counter insurgency and ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance) as a node within a network. It could provide data and intelligence calling in whatever assets were appropriate to deal with the situation it was encountering.”
Contracts and Key Events
2010 – 2013
Aircraft support request.
Work will be performed at is Tikrit Air Base, Iraq, and is expected to be complete by July 3/13. The AFLCMC/WLZI at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as the agent for their Foreign Military Sales client (FA8617-12-C-6194, PO 0006).
June 29/11: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Iraq’s formal request to buy follow-on support and maintenance for “multiple aircraft systems” that include its Cessna TC-208 trainers and armed AC-208s, Cessna 172s; and Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6A advanced trainers and King Air 350ER twin-engine light transports and surveillance planes.
Ground stations, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, repair and return, and other U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $675 million, but actual figures will depend on negotiated contracts. The amount strongly suggests a multi-year deal.
The prime contractors will be Hawker Beechcraft Corporation in Wichita, KS; Flight Safety International in Flushing, NY; Alliant Techsystems in Magna, UT; L-3 Communications in New York, NY; and Integration Innovation, Inc. in Huntsville, AL.
Aircraft support request
Sept 21/10: Delivery. Iraqi Air Force pilots take possession of 3 T-6A trainer aircraft in Amman, Jordan, and fly them to Tikrit, bringing their total T-6A inventory to 11 ( 4 in Dec. 2009, 4 in Feb. 2010, 3 in Sept. 2010). The last 4 of Iraq’s 15 contracted T-6As are expected to arrive in November 2010.
The timing of the latest 3 planes’ arrival coincided with the first graduation ceremony for 20 new Iraqi Air Force pilots (8 fixed-wing and 12 rotary-wing) at the Iraqi Air Force College in Tikrit, bringing the total number of Iraqi air force pilots trained to 102 – 55 fixed-wing and 47 rotary-wing. Pentagon DVIDS.
July 20/10: Delivery. Hawker Beechcraft announces [PDF] that it has delivered the first 8 T-6A military trainers ordered by the Iraqi Air Force, and says they’re on schedule to deliver 7 more by the end of the year.
July 19/10: Sub-contractors. Hawker Beechcraft Corporation picks CAE USA as its ground-based training systems provider for the AT-6. CAE USA will lead the design and development of a comprehensive ground-based training system, including aircrew and maintenance technician training systems, embedded aircraft simulation, courseware development, classroom and simulator instruction, and training support services. Under the teaming agreement, CAE USA will also support the AT-6 in global competition, and for an “expected sale” that is almost certainly Iraq. Hawker Beechcraft [PDF].
July 19/10: Hawker Beechcraft discusses milestones to date for the AT-6 program [PDF].
The first production representative test vehicle has completed more than 100 flights and logged nearly 200 hours since its first flight in July 2009. It is being used to define and prove the engine and flight envelope, and then it will be used to test the USAF LAAR bid configuration. Once it returns from the Farnborough Airshow in Britain, it will be re-engined with the 1600 shp PT-6A-68D, and modified to integrate the Gentex Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System.
The 2nd AT-6 PRTV aircraft is equipped with a more powerful, 1600 shp PT-6A-68D engine and an optimized Hartzell propeller, and has accumulated more than 50 hours. Later in July 2010, the 2nd aircraft will be modified and fitted with aerodynamic shapes designed to simulate the external modifications and weight changes associated with equipment on its external pylons. It will be fitted with appropriate avionics and equipment to meet the demand for potential future Foreign Military Sales.
April 12-23/10: JEFX. The AT-6 Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) production-ready test aircraft earns perfect marks during the USAFs Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX 2010) at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, which included a variety of counter-insurgency scenarios. The AT-6 will compete for the much-shrunken American LAAR order, and is also progressing through testing or the Iraqis. This entry in the Hawker Beechcraft release [PDF] was interesting:
“[The AT-6 and T-6C test aircraft used] only 15,640 pounds of fuel for both aircraft for the entire two-week period as compared to an F-16′s fuel use of 16,500 pounds and an A-10′s use of 9,000 pounds of fuel for each 3-hour on-station assignment.”
March 11/10: Infrastructure. The Iraqi Air Force College opens its doors at its new Tikrit facility. The first students begin their flight-screening program March 20 as part of a special T-6A pilot-training course, instructed by USAF Airmen assigned to the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron. Pentagon DVIDS.
2007 – 2009
DSCA request; Contracts for 15 T-6As.
Dec 16/09: 1st 4 T-6As. The Iraqi Air Force celebrates the arrival of 4 T-6A training aircraft, a ground breaking ceremony for a new air traffic control tower, and the handover of facilities for an air college in Tikrit. The aircraft are the first of 15 T-6As, under a $210 million joint U.S.-Iraq venture that also includes flight simulators and associated training. The first 8 aircraft, purchased by the Government of Iraq, will arrive at Tikrit by the end of January 2010. The last 7, purchased by the United States, are expected by the end of December 2010.
The new 9-floor air traffic control tower at Tikrit will incorporate an air traffic controller simulator in the base of the tower itself for on-site controller training. Construction is scheduled to finish in the latter half of 2010. Meanwhile, the USAF handed over 9 buildings to the Iraqis to be used as dormitories for student pilots at the new Iraqi air college, which will offer its first courses in January 2010. Eventually the entire college facility will be Iraqi operated and will have a capacity of up to 1,500 students in various levels of academic and flight training at any given time. MNF-I release.
Oct 20/09: AT-6. Hawker Beechcraft announces [PDF] that development flight testing of the first AT-6 demonstrator aircraft continues, with preliminary flight envelope investigations and initial integration of an EO/IR sensor completed. Production of a 2nd AT-6 demonstrator aircraft is moving forward at the company’s headquarters in Wichita, KS.
Sept 10/09: AT-6. Hawker Beechcraft announces [PDF] the successful first flight of its AT-6 prototype, and the program’s progression into the next phase of flight test. The next phase of flight testing will last through October 2009, during which the company will continue flight envelope expansion of the heavily instrumented AT-6 prototype, along with performance and handling assessments when various external sensors and weapons are mounted.
Aug 17/09: Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, KS received an $86.6 million million firm-fixed-price contract to provide Iraq 8 of its T-6A Texan II training aircraft, plus ground based training systems, aircraft spare parts, technical publications, and 2 years of contractor logistics support. At this time, $69.4 million has been committed. The 877th AESG/SYI at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8617-09-C-6175).
Despite the presence of 2 different announced contracts, Hawker Beechcraft says it has only been contracted for 8 Iraqi aircraft to date. A subsequent MNF-I release sheds more light on the program’s exact structure, which is in fact 15 aircraft.
Contract: 8 T-6As
Aug 12/09: Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, KS received a $170.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide 7 of its T-6A Texan II training aircraft for Iraq, plus ground based training systems, aircraft spare parts, technical publications, and 2 years of contractor logistics support. At this time $68.8 million has been obligated.
The planes will be used by the Iraqi Air Force, and the contract is managed by the 877th AESG/SYI at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8617-09-C-6175). See the Dec 10/08 DSCA request for more.
Order: 7 T-6As
Dec 10/08: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Iraq’s formal request to buy 36 AT-6B light attack aircraft. Iraq would become the first customer for this aircraft if a contract is concluded.
The request includes 6 spare PT-6 engines, 10 spare ALE-47 Counter-Measure Dispensing Systems and/or 10 spare AAR-60 Missile Launch Detection Systems, global positioning systems with CMA-4124 GNSSA card, plus tanker support, ferry services, personnel training and training equipment, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support equipment, and other forms of support. The estimated cost is $520 million, which will be finalized once a contract is signed.
T-6A: The US DSCA also announces [PDF] Iraq’s formal request to buy 20 T-6A Texan II mid-level trainer aircraft.
The request includes 20 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with CMA-4124 GNSSA card and embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System (INS) spares, plus ferry maintenance, tanker support, aircraft ferry services, site survey, unit level trainer, personnel training and training equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other forms of support. The estimated cost for the T-6A purchase is $210 million, which will be finalized once a contract is signed.
In both cases, the principal contractors will be:
- Hawker Beechcraft Corporation, Wichita, KS (T-6A)
- Pratt & Whitney Corporation in Quebec, Canada and Bridgeport, WVA (engine)
- Martin Baker in Middlesex, United Kingdom (ejection seat)
- Hartzel Propeller in Pique, Ohio
- Canadian Marconi in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (avionics)
- L-3 Vertex in Madison, Mississippi
Iraq’s T-6A order will almost certainly be fulfilled under the same terms as the US military’s own $3 billion contract for Lot XIV-XX production, issued in late 2007. The AT-6B order would represents Hawker Beechcraft’s first sale of its AT-6B version, and may or may not require its own contract vehicle.
DSCA Request: 20 T-6As, 36 AT-6Bs
April 24/07: Flight report. Flight International magazine has blog entry by a staffer who flew in a T-6B; the AT-6B variant will simply be a T-6B trainer with kevlar armor, and additional equipment as requested by the customer. It certainly sounds as if the company is expecting the Iraqi Air Force Order.
April 5/07: Solicitation. Flight International reports that the USAF’s Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) has issued a solicitation on behalf of the Iraqi Air Force [IqAF] to buy at least 8 counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft, with a dual role as intermediate to advanced single-engine turboprop trainers. The aircraft whould be delivered from November 2008 – April 2009, with options to buy additional aircraft in annual lots of 6.
- Hawker Beechcraft – Military Trainers
- USAF – T-6A Texan II
- Air Force Technology – T-6B Advanced Primary Trainer, USA
- Lockheed Martin – AT-6 Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (AT-6). They’re working with Hawker Beechcraft as the weapons & systems integrator.
- Lockheed Martin (Feb 17/11) – AT-6 Takes Light Attack Back to the Future
- DID – Bird Dogs for the Iraqi Air Force
- DID – Iraq Seeks Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters.
- DID – Command Tents and C3 for Iraq. The DRASH system, employed by the US military.
- Reuters (March 31/09) – Iraq starts policing borders with unmanned planes. Type undisclosed. “Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf said the drones would police all Iraq’s borders and their first mission took place two weeks ago.”
COIN Close Support
- DID – Task Force ODIN: In the Valleys of the Blind…. Describes a concept the US Army proved in Iraq, involving a mix of UAVs, light surveillance aircraft, attack helicopters, precision artillery, and excellent communications and electronics to tie them together. An Iraqi variant would have its own mix, but many of the pieces are falling into place…
- Defense Tech (July 23/09) – COIN Air Force on its Way – in the US, as well as Iraq. Its exact shape remains TBD.
- Defense News (March 13/09) – U.S. Eyes Super Tucano for SpecOps Work. The classified irregular warfare program called “Imminent Fury” has already leased, armed, and tested one Super Tucano, and needs about $44 million to get to Phase 2 and deploy 4 of them. Inter and intra-service bickering is holding it up.
- Airpower Journal (Spring 1991) – The Role of Tactical Air Power in Low-Intensity Conflict by Capt. Vance C. Bateman, USAF. Via the Internet’s Wayback Machine.
- AT-802U. By agricultural aircraft producer Air Tractor. It has a number of distinguishing capabilities, compared to other COIN aircraft contenders.
- AYRES V-1-A Vigilante as COIN Aircraft. Also referred to in some quarters as the T-65. Derived from the US Department of State’s Narcotics Eradication Delivery System aircraft, reportedly used in Burma, Thailand, Columbia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. They are based out of Patrick AFB in Florida.
- DID (Sept 26/07) – The Major’s Email: British Harrier Support in Afghanistan, Revisited. Addresses the inherent limitations of fast jet platforms for close air support.
- Defense of the Realm (Sept 23/07) – Jackpot! Covers a series of letters to The Sunday Telegraph, including one from from Group Captain Hastings (Ret.), who commanded the Sultan of Oman’s tactical air force in Dhofar Province in the latter stages of a war which, he writes, “had similarities with the current Afghan operations… Air strikes were flown against a ruthless and determined enemy equipped with surface-to-air-missiles, heavy machine guns and AK47s.” Their weapon of choice? A slow-flying BAE Strikemaster counter-insurgency aircraft, derived from an RAF trainer. The same fast/jet/slower plane effectiveness dynamic applied back then.
- DEW Line (May 2007) – The COIN Comeback Debate